Baker Project Relicensing
The Baker River Hydroelectric Project consists of two dams and reservoirs with two powerhouses generating a total of 134 MW. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) required Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing services including strategic planning and aquatic resource studies.
Following prescribed Alternative Licensing Procedures, KA | R2 worked collaboratively with resource agencies, Tribes, non-governmental agencies, and PSE to identify, scope, and implement studies. We were responsible for study plan design, budgeting, implementing, and reporting 17 different fish and aquatic studies. Issues addressed during relicensing included State and U.S. Forest Service versus FERC definitions of baseline conditions, and with- and without-project scenarios. We undertook studies including analyzing project effects on geomorphic processes and developing a large woody debris budget to predict wood recruitment and transport. Habitat and biological surveys in the project subbasins were used to quantify the fish distribution and abundance in addition to modeling potential reservoir and tributary fish production. We designed and conducted an instream flow study used to evaluate alternative management scenarios for project reservoirs and downstream habitats. The instream flow study used steady-state and unsteady hydraulic models to assess changes in habitat conditions associated with seasonal and hourly flow patterns in the downstream Skagit River. In addition to relicensing studies, KA | R2 worked with PSE, the FERC, and the Services to evaluate operational alternatives to protect bull trout and Chinook salmon during pre-licensing conditions. We analyzed project hydrology, flood control requirements, hydropower generation, structural and operational capabilities, and species requirements, and prepared separate Biological Assessments to address interim (pre-licensing) and post-licensing activities.
We provided both fish passage and biological monitoring expertise to PSE during re-licensing and post-licensing activities. By designing both efficient and cost-effective studies to determine the effectiveness of both Upper and Lower Baker floating surface collectors and an upstream fish trap, we demonstrated that these unique fish passage systems can operate together to bring fish populations that were on the brink of extinction to record highs in a matter of five generations. We continue to support PSE with training, monitoring, and compliance.