Free Flow Power Project 101, LLC (FFP Project) proposes to build an off-channel water storage system adjacent to the Columbia River in Goldendale. The system would release water from an upper reservoir downhill to a lower reservoir to generate energy. Power produced would be provided to the electrical grid at the nearby John Day Substation in Oregon when other renewable sources, like wind and solar, are unavailable.
The public comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Goldendale Energy Storage project ended Aug. 9 and we are reviewing the comments received.
The public comment period on the draft EIS ended Aug. 9, 2022. We are reviewing all comments recieved and expect to finalize the EIS at the end of this year.
The draft EIS examines significant and adverse environmental impacts resulting from the construction and operation of the Goldendale Energy Storage Project, and identifies whether and how those impacts may be reduced or eliminated.
The draft EIS studies local impacts to air quality, plants and animals and their habitat, transportation, water resources, and water quality. The analysis also recognizes the significant impacts to indigenous rights, cultures, traditions, and heritage at the proposed project site.
Terrestrial species & habitat impacts
The draft report identifies impacts and mitigation measures to reduce significant impacts to plants, habitat, and wildlife. Other sections in the EIS describe lesser impacts that do not require mitigation.
Impacts to plants and animals include:
- Disturbance of plants and animals during 5-year construction period
- Permanent loss of 193.6 acres of existing habitat and temporary disturbance of 54 acres
- Impacts to special status species including golden eagle, little brown bat, and smooth desert parsley and other rare plants
The company developed a Vegetation Management Plan and a Wildlife Management Plan that contain mitigation measures to reduce these impacts. Mitigation includes purchase of additional property to be used as wildlife habitat, animal surveys before and after construction, and timing construction around eagle nesting season.
Tribal cultural & natural resource impacts
Section 4.9 of the draft EIS examines impacts to cultural sites and treaty-reserved tribal resources. The analysis considered impacts to the Yakama Nation, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, and Umatilla Tribes.
Impacts to tribal cultural and natural resources include:
- Disturbance or destruction of several archaeological sites and sacred cultural areas
- Degradation of the visual quality of the landscape, impacting cultural and spiritual practices and places
- Disturbance of plants and animals that have cultural significance to the Tribes
- Loss of medicinal and traditional plants and foods
To date, no mitigation has been identified that would reduce the significant impacts to Tribes.
Public hearings to accept oral comments were held:
We are considering comments as we finalize the EIS, expected at the end of 2022. The EIS helps inform state and local permitting decisions. It is not a decision document, and does not determine whether a project moves forward.
More project information
Federal environmental review process
This project is also being reviewed for environmental impacts through the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. To review the federal environmental review documents, visit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's document library.
401 Water Quality Certification
As part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process to license hydropower projects, the state has to issue a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification that the project aligns with state water quality standards. We are currently reviewing an application for Section 401 Certification, submitted on May 23, 2022, by Rye Development on behalf of FFP Project.
Cleanup of contamination left behind by former aluminum smelter
The lower reservoir of the proposed project would be located on a portion of the former Columbia Gorge Aluminum smelter site called the West Surface Impoundment. We are working with FFP Project to study and develop a cleanup plan to address contamination left behind by past smelter operations in this area.
Read our May 2022 blog for more information.