Under current law, nonfederal entities that propose to develop hydropower at reservoirs administered by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) must enter into a lease with BOR or obtain a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The regulatory jurisdiction of each BOR reservoir was previously negotiated by the agencies to clarify which permitting process would be in effect for each reservoir.
At least one project, a proposal to develop pumped storage hydropower within BOR’s Colombia Basin Project (CBP) in the state of Washington, would need to seek permits from both agencies because it would be constructed on two reservoirs; Banks Lake would require a BOR lease and Lake Roosevelt reservoir would require a FERC license. (Pumped storage hydropower is a type of storage for hydroelectric energy used by electric power systems for load balancing.) H.R. 537 would make BOR the sole regulatory authority for developers seeking a lease for a pumped storage hydropower facility at federal reservoirs.
The bill also would require a nonfederal developer to negotiate an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation as a condition for a BOR lease on CBP facilities. The agreement would establish the terms for interactions between the developer and tribes including studies to analyze the potential adverse effects of the project on annual payments due to the tribes under their respective settlements; on hunting, fishing, and boating rights of the Tribes; and on the environment. The bulk of the costs for those studies would be incurred by the developer and any costs incurred by BOR would be paid to BOR by the developer in advance.