Blue Lake Expansion

This website has been developed for participants and others interested in the proposed expansion of the City and Borough of Sitka’s Blue Lake hydroelectric project [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) No. 2230].  The proposed Project expansion will require an amendment to the existing FERC license.  The FERC amendment application process involves extensive consideration of the environmental, engineering and economic aspects of the expansion, resulting in a complex consultation and application process.

 In this site, the Blue Lake Expansion will be referenced as “Expansion”; the FERC license amendment process will be referenced “Amendment”; the City and Borough of Sitka will be referenced “City”, and the Blue Lake Project will be referenced “Project”.

  At this site, you will be able to locate information such as:

  • Background and rationale for the Expansion and need for license Amendment;
  • Detailed descriptions of existing and proposed Project features;
  • Descriptions of the applicable FERC regulations and requirements governing license amendments;
  • Documentation of the required public participation and stakeholder consultation processes.  

Also available in the website will be dates of upcoming meetings, meeting summaries, and a list of Amendment process milestones and related documents, including informational papers, study plans, study results and amendment application materials, among others.

HOW TO USE THIS WEBSITE

This website has been designed to facilitate access both to status of the overall Amendment process related to the Expansion, and to individual Amendment-related documents. Throughout the website are links, highlighted in blue, which provide direct access to various documents or topics.

Website Text Links

Within the text of the various topics are links, highlighted in blue, to documents, schedules and other material related to that topic. All addressable documents are files in pdf format. The pdf files may be downloaded, but are encrypted to prevent their modification or conversion to other file types.

BACKGROUND and RATIONALE FOR BLUE LAKE EXPANSION

Blue Lake Project History

The City & Borough of Sitka owns two hydroelectric projects licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): the Blue Lake Project (FERC No. 2230) and the Green Lake Project (FERC No. 2818). The Blue Lake Project was originally licensed in March, 1958, with a fifty-year license term. The Green Lake Project was originally licensed in April, 1979, also with a fifty-year license term. Essentially all of Sitka’s electrical energy comes from these two projects.


The license for the Blue Lake Project expired on March 31, 2008. Under FERC regulations, the City conducted an extensive process to obtain a new license for the Project (See City website cityofsitka.com/department pages/electric/relicensing).  The relicensing was successful and the new license was issued in July, 2007, to become effective on April 1, 2008.  The new license contained Articles reflecting environmental measures which would be done after the new license became effective.

Need for Expansion

The City, in filing its Notice of Intent (NOI) to seek an amendment for the existing Blue Lake Project FERC license, also submitted a Background and Rationale Document explaining the general electric energy need for additional renewable electrical generation capacity, and the rationale for expanding the Blue Lake Project at this time.  The reader should review this document in detail, if possible. 


Generally, recent fuel oil cost escalation in Sitka has driven an unforeseen rise in electrical demand because home and business owners have found that electrical energy for heating has become cheaper than oil heating.  Concurrently, recent additions of new fish processing businesses in Sitka significantly increased electrical demand.  These load increases have caused the City to seek additional renewable generation because of the high and ever increasing costs of diesel generation.  The energy need is real and immediate and continued reliance on diesel generation to address the need would add unacceptable costs to Sitka’s enviably low energy costs.  The Blue Lake Expansion, as explained in detail in the background and rationale document, is thought to be the most favorable response to the situation.

Existing Blue Lake Project Description

The Project is located approximately 5 miles east of the City of Sitka, Alaska on Sawmill Creek (formerly the Medvetche River). The Project consists of ten major features: the dam; a submerged intake structure; a power conduit; three powerhouses; a switchyard and a primary and two secondary transmission lines, described in more detail in the Blue Lake Project Description presented in documents related to relicensing.

Proposed Expansion Element

Generally, the Blue Lake Expansion has two major elements:  1) addition of a third generating turbine near the existing Blue Lake Powerhouse; and 2) raising the existing Project dam by as much as 83 feet.  Together, these two actions would provide 34 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electrical each year, an amount roughly equivalent to 27% of the existing electrical system's annual energy.

LICENSE AMENDMENT PROCESS

Under FERC regulations, changes to an existing hydroelectric project might require an amendment to the project’s FERC license.  The FERC regulations distinguish among various degrees of proposed change, primarily with respect to whether the installed electrical generation capacity will be changed.  Generally, if there are no proposals to change capacity, or if the proposed capacity change does not exceed 15% of existing installed nameplate capacity, a “non capacity-related” amendment is required.  For proposals involving an increase of more than 15% of existing nameplate capacity, a “capacity-related amendment” is required.  Pre-filing requirements for a non capacity-related amendment are generally less extensive than those for a capacity-related amendment.  The Blue Lake Project Expansion clearly meets the criteria to trigger a capacity-related amendment process. 

Generally, this process involves consultation with Stakeholders (state and federal resource agencies, the public and non-governmental organizations and special interest groups), development of study plans and conducting of studies, preparation and review of the draft amendment application and submission of a final application, reflecting the recommendations of the Stakeholders, to the FERC.  Of particular note in the capacity-related amendment requirements is the need for “Three Stage Consultation”, as described below.

Three-Stage Consultation Process

The FERC requires that applicants for capacity-related amendments conduct a Three-Stage Consultation Process through which the applicant consults with Stakeholders,  including the public, state and federal resource agencies, Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and others who wish to participate. 

Stage 1

The applicant prepares and distributes an Initial Consultation Document (ICD) describing the existing project and proposals for modifications of project features or operations.  This document is sent to Stakeholders prior to a public meeting convened to present the description of the proposed action, affected environment and proposed mitigation measures as they are known at the time of the meeting. 

The Applicant requests review of the ICD and the proceedings of the meeting, including study specifications from Stakeholders, particularly resource agencies.  Review comments were submitted by the USDA Forest Service and the USDA Forest Service Hydropower teamFinal minutes for the ICD meeting were issued September 4, 2008. There was also a meeting held with the USFS (Meeting minutes) and a comment from the USFS was received with a response from the City after. Study planning follows, resulting in a set of plans to gather information on such resources as fish, wildlife/ vegetation, cultural resources, geology and soils, water resources, and scenic, aesthetic and recreational resources, among others.  Approval of all study plans marks the end of Stage I.

Stage II

Studies are conducted over specified time periods and geographic areas and study reports distributed to Stakeholders.  If necessary relative to the scale of the action, the applicant may conduct Scoping, the process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in which Stakeholders comment on environmental issues to be addressed in the NEPA document, usually an Environmental Assessment (EA).  A draft Amendment Application, including a Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment (PDEA), is prepared and distributed for review with a 90-day comment period.  After incorporation of comments and preliminary negotiation of terms and conditions for the amended license, the Final Amendment Application, is prepared.

Stage III

Stage III is marked by submittal of the Final Amendment Application to the FERC, and is the final act of an applicant in the Three-Stage Consultation Process.  After Amendment Application submittal, the FERC reviews the Application and begins its own independent review leading to development of final terms and conditions and issuance of the Order Amending License.

AMENDMENT APPLICATION SCHEDULE

Generally, the timeline for the Amendment Application is as follows:

Activity or Milestone

Timeframe

Notice of Intent to Seek Amendment

March, 2008

Initial Consultation Document and Meetings March, April, 2008
Study Planning and Field Studies Spring-Fall, 2008
Scoping Process September-October, 2008
Submit Draft Amendment Application March, 2010
Submit Final Amendment Application March, 2010
FERC Activity on Amendment Application Nov 2010-Feb 2011
FERC Order Issuing License Amendment May 2012
Advertise Construction July 2012
Construction Start, Blue Lake Expansion November 2012
Commissioning Dec 2015

The FERC Amendment application schedule requirements are shown in the detailed schedule diagrams which depict the FERC process.

CONTACTING THE CITY

If you have any questions regarding the Blue Lake Project Expansion, please do not hesitate to contact:


Christopher Brewton

Utility Director
City and Borough of Sitka

Electric Department
105 Jarvis Street

Sitka, AK, 99835
907-747-1870

chrisb@cityofsitka.com

STAKEHOLDER LIST

This website will maintain a Mailing List of the names, contact information and affiliations of those who, through their resource agency missions or other interest in the Project, are routinely copied on all Project correspondence. If you wish to be on the Participant list, please contact Mr. Brewton at the contact numbers above. The Mailing List will be updated from time to time and kept current through the link in this website Section.

MAJOR EXPANSION AMENDMENT MILESTONES

The major milestones in the Blue Lake Project Relicensing schedule are:
  • Bi-annual Reports Required by ALP

These Milestones are described in detail in the following sections with links to associated documents and other material.

Notice of Intent (NOI) and Rationale for Expansion

The NOI is simply a letter to the FERC Secretary indicating the City’s intent to seek an amendment to the existing license.  Appended to the NOI, was a document providing background and rationale for the Expansion.  The City filed the NOI and Background Document with the FERC on March 10, 2008. 

Initial Consultation Document

The Initial Consultation Document  (ICD) is a document describing the Project works and operation, the license amendment process and schedule, the existing Project area environment, and expected environmental impact issues and related mitigation or enhancement measures which might relate to the Expansion.  The ICD was distributed to the Stakeholders list on March, 2008.

Under the 3-Stage Consultation Process, an applicant for amendment must conduct an Initial Consultation Meeting and a site visit early in the amendment application process.  The meeting(s) and site visit.  The Initial Consultation Meetings and site visit are currently scheduled to be held at the places and times shown in the invitation email.

Request to Use Alternative Licensing Process  (ALP)

The City has announced its intention to utilize the Alternative Licensing Process (ALP), a process authorized by the FERC to streamline application processes, including those for license amendments.  Under the ALP, the City would conduct certain elements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would prepare a Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment (PDEA), as described in more detail in later website links.  Use of the ALP retains all of the public participation and independent federal review elements of the Traditional Licensing Process.

The City sent a letter requesting use of the ALP to the FERC on March 11, 2008,   accompanied by a Draft Communications Protocol (CP).  The CP identifies participants and directs communications, meetings, documentation and review of Project documents. 

Bi-annual Reports Required by ALP

The FERC regulations require that applicants using the ALP submit status reports every six months from the time of ALP approval. 

Scoping Meeting and Documents

Scoping is a process required under the NEPA of 1969, the objective of which is development of a list of environmental issues to be addressed through the environmental review process of a federal action (such as a capacity-related amendment to a FERC license).  Scoping Process requirements include distribution of Scoping Documents, describing the proposed action and creating a list of preliminary issues.

In November, 2008, the City prepared a Scoping Document I (SDI) containing a project description, and a preliminary listing of expected environmental impact issues.

After review of this document, the public and agencies were invited to a Scoping Meeting, to discuss and comment on the licensing process and Project-related impact issues.

Comments were received on SDI and it was revised into a Scoping Document 2 (SD2) which was distributed for final agency review in June, 2009.

Mitigation Meetings and Minutes

There were two Mitigation meetings held at the Electric Department's conference room and the dates and minutes are as follows:

June 2, 2010 - Meeting Minutes

November 5, 2010 - Meeting Minutes

Roadless Rule Meeting and Minutes

On September 10, 2010 the City held a meeting to discuss the impacts the Inventory Roadless Rule has on both the Takatz and Blue Lake Expansion Project.  Even though the response to FERC was generated for the Taktaz project, much of the meeting was also spent discussing the Blue Lake Expansion Project.  The final meeting minutes were distributed October 22, 2010.

Study Planning, Execution, and Reporting

The Three-Stage Consultation process requires early development of study plans to address potential effects of the Expansion.  Generally, the FERC evaluates effects in certain resources categories, including:

Fish and Aquatic Resources;
Wildlife and Vegetation Resources;
Cultural Resources;

Aesthetic Resources;
Recreational Resources;

Intake Temperature;

Timber Management;

Sedimentation;

Minerals;

Timber;

Sediment and Erosion Control;

Wetlands Delineation;

and Functional Analysis.

Studies might also address Cumulative Effects, or those expected to result from past, present, and reasonable foreseeable future actions within the proposal’s area.

Fish and Aquatic Resources

On January 23, 2008, the City conducted a planning meeting for fisheries study at the Electric Department conference room in Sitka. After this meeting, the City distributed a Draft Fisheries Study Plan via e-mail.

Another meeting was held March 12, 2008 in the Electric Department conference room and after that meeting, on May 16, 2008, a Final Fisheries Study Plan was distributed.

May 22, 2009 the Draft 2008 Fisheries Report was submitted and on December 17, 2009 the Final 2008 Fisheries Report was submitted.

Wildlife and Vegetation Resources

On April 18, 2008 the City and certain Stakeholders met for a meeting to discuss prospective wildlife and vegetation studies.  The draft Wildlife and Vegetation Resources Study Plan was submitted via e-mail May 6, 2008 and the final Wildlife and Vegetation Resources Study Plan was submitted via e-mail June 20, 2008.

The Draft and Final Wildlife Resources reports were submitted to the FERC and the mailing list in August 2009 and January 2010, respectively.

The Draft and Final Vegetation Resources reports were submitted to the FERC and the mailing list in August 2009 and February 2010, respectively.

Cultural Resources

A Draft Cultural Resource Study Plan was submitted for review by the Project mailing list select members on July 8, 2008 and comments were received from the USFS. The Phase II Cultural Study Plan was submitted to the FERC and the mailing list on September 24, 2008 and comments were received from USFS, ADNR and STA.

After review of several comments on the study plan the draft Cultural Resources Report was distributed February 26, 2009  and comments were received from ADF&G. The Final Cultural Resources Report was distributed April 20, 2009 and comments were received from SHPO.

 

Aesthetic Resources

The draft Aesthetics Resources Study Plan was distributed via e-mail April 1, 2009 and was used also as the final as there was only one comment to address.

The draft Aesthetics Resources Report was distributed via e-mail July 8, 2009 and with no comments, the draft acted as the final.

Recreational Resources

A draft Recreational Resources Study Plan and one comment was received from the USFS.  The final Recreational Study Plan were distributed via e-mail on July 11, 2008 and November 25, 2008 respectively.

Intake Temperature Report

There was no published study plan for Intake Temperature but a draft Intake Temperature Report was created and distributed via e-mail January 30, 2010 and one comment was received from ADF&G. The final Intake Temperature Report was distributed via e-mail July 26, 2010.

Timber Management Plan

There was no published study plan for Timber Management but a draft Timber Management Plan Report was created and distributed via e-mail October 27, 2010 and comments have been received from STA, FWS and DEC.

Sedimentation

There were two draft Sedimentation Study Plans submitted, the first draft was submitted January 19, 2009.  We received comments from ADF&G, USFS and at a later date, again USFS.  These comments were incorporated into the revised draft which was submitted February 26, 2009.

The draft Sedimentation Report and final Sedimentation Report were distributed via e-mail August 18, 2009 and December 9, 2009, respectively.

Minerals

The draft Minerals Study Plan was distributed February 3, 2009.  We received comments from the USGS and USFS that were incorporated into the final Minerals Study Plan which was distributed February 26, 2009.  Each were distributed via e-mail to concerned stakholders.

There was no draft Report but the final Minerals Report was submitted June 22, 2009.

Timber

The draft Blue Lake Timber Inventory Resources Study Plan was distributed via e-mail February 26, 2009 and received comments from ADF&G and the USFS.  Before the Final Study Plan was submitted, a revised draft was sent to the USFS to address their comment.  The final Blue Lake Timber Inventory Study Plan was distributed via e-mail May 13, 2009.

The US Forest Service requested that the City conduct a timber cruise to determine the volume and appraised value.  There was also a check timber cruise that was performed and a Check Cruise Report was generated September 21, 2009. 

The final Report was distributed October 16, 2009 via e-mail.

Wetlands Delineation

The Preliminary Wetlands Delineation Report was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers for review in mid-December of 2011. The Final Wetlands Delineation Report is available to the public starting on January 11, 2012. Click on the links in blue to review the Wetlands Delineation Reports.

Functional Analysis

The Draft Functional Analysis was sent to stakeholders on March 6, 2012 and the Final was send to stakeholders and e-filed with the FERC on April 17, 2012.

Draft and Final Application Activity

Draft Amendment  Application

The Application for Capacity Related Amendment was issued March 5, 2010.

Draft Environmental Assessment Amendment Application

The Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment Draft Application for Amendment was issued March 5, 2010.

Final Amendment Application

The Final Amendment Application was submitted to the FERC and stakeholders on November 22, 2010.

Final Draft Environmental Application

The Final Draft Environmental Application was submitted to the FERC and stakeholders November 22, 2010

Mitigation and Management Plans

The Plans below were submitted first as drafts to stakeholders eliciting comments.  Some were then turned into finals and sent to stakeholders and e-filed with the FERC.

I.            Timber Management

  • Draft – 10/27/2010
  • Comments: STA – 11/23/2010, FWS – 11/4/2010, DEC – 01/24/2011
  • Timber Management was changed to Reservoir Inundation

II.          Erosion and Sediment Control

  • Draft – 10/27/2010
  • Comments: USFS – 01/13/2011
  • Final – 03/01/2011 *03/01/2011
  • Comments: USFS - 7/31/12

III.         Reservoir Inundation

  • Draft – 5/9/2011
  • Comments: USFS - 7/31/2012

IV.         Water Quality Monitoring

V.          Bear Safety

VI.         Reservoir Access Control

VII.       Environmental Compliance Monitoring

  • Draft – 5/11/2011
  • Comments: USFS - 8/6/12

VIII.      Cultural Resources Protection

  • Draft – 5/11/2011
  • Comments: STA -  6/2/2011

IX.         Fish Monitoring Plan

X.         Wildlife Monitoring Plan

XI.          Revegetation Plan

  • Draft – 3/19/2012
  • Comments: USFS – 4/18/2012
  • Final - 4/24/2012

XII.          Noxious Weed Plan

  • Draft – 4/24/2012
  • Comments: USFS - 5/18/12

XIII.        Safety During Construction

XIV.        Public Safety

XV.        Hazardous Substances

XVI.        Mitigation and Monitoring

XVII.        Wildlife Disturbance Avoidance

Engineering

Construction Documents and Drawings

General Construction & Underground Excavation Contracts Information Package and Drawings

Blue Lake Expansion Project Revision to Contracting Approach

*Notice* Change in Advertise Date of General Construction Contract 9

 

(Note: The following document is 195 MB and may take over an hour to download.)

Geotechnical Investigation TM7


FERC ISSUED ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT and ORDER

The FERC issued a Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment, on January 12, 2012, for public comment.

The Final Environmental Assessment and Order Issuing Amendment were received from the FERC on May 30, 2012.

 

 

City and Borough of Sitka, Electric Department

105 Jarvis Street, Sitka, Alaska  99835
(907)747-4000, Emergency number (24 hours a day): 907-747-6634, Fax: 907-747-3208
Business Hours:  Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.