Free Flow Power Project 101, LLC (FFP Project) proposes to build an off-channel energy storage system next 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 feed into the electrical grid at the nearby John Day Substation when other renewable sources, like wind and solar, are unavailable.
Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification
On May 22, 2023, we issued a water quality certification for the Goldendale project.
The certification includes conditions so that the project’s construction and operation would meet state water quality requirements. The conditions include specific best management practices, requirements to obtain future Ecology permits, and monitoring and notification requirements.
This certification is specific to water quality requirements and is just one of many permits and licenses needed before the project can be built. Issuing it does not mean the project will immediately move forward. Ecology and other government agencies still need to review and issue additional permits and licenses.
Under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, Ecology reviews federally approved proposals to determine if they meet water quality requirements.
Environmental impact statement
On Dec. 21, 2022, Ecology released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Goldendale Energy Storage Project. The EIS examines significant adverse environmental impacts if the project is built. The document also identifies if those impacts may be reduced or eliminated through mitigation measures.
The EIS process began in January 2021 after we determined that the project would likely cause significant adverse impacts. We released the draft EIS on June 6, 2022, followed by three public hearings held throughout a two-month comment period.
Para más información, favor de comunicarse con Meg Bommarito al 425-681-6236.
The EIS helps inform permitting decisions and does not determine whether a project moves forward.
Significant findings in the final EIS
The EIS describes local impacts to air quality, plants and animals, transportation, water resources, and water quality. The analysis also recognizes significant impacts to Tribal rights, traditions, and heritage at the proposed project site.
Terrestrial species & habitat impacts
- Disturbance of plants and animals during 5-year construction period
- Permanent habitat loss of 193.6 acres
- Temporary habitat disturbance of 54 acres
- Impacts to special status species including golden eagle, little brown bat, smooth desert parsley, and other rare plants
FFP Project proposed mitigation to reduce these impacts. Plans include purchasing additional property for wildlife habitat, conducting animal surveys before and after construction, and timing construction around eagle nesting season.
Tribal cultural & natural resource impacts
The EIS considers impacts to cultural sites and treaty-reserved resources of the Yakama Nation, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, and Umatilla Tribes. Impacts include:
- Disturbance or destruction of several archaeological sites and sacred cultural areas
- Degradation of the visual quality of the landscape, interrupting cultural and spiritual practices
- Disturbance of plants and animals that have cultural significance to the Tribes, which includes the loss of medicinal and traditional plants
- Reduced access to treaty-reserved hunting and gathering areas
FFP Project supplied proposed mitigation measures to reduce Tribal impacts. However, to date, there is no mitigation that has been proposed or supported by Tribes.
Past public hearing recordings
We held one in-person and two virtual public hearings during the draft EIS comment period in 2022.
We considered all public comments received, and some led to minor changes in the final EIS.
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.
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.
For more than 50 years, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) has helped Washington communities grow while considering and protecting natural resources. SEPA balances the environment, the economy, and human quality of life by helping us understand how a proposal will affect the environment. These impacts can include effects on natural resources (plants, animals, water, etc.) and the built environment (traffic, noise, etc.).
SEPA outlines a process for analyzing potential environmental impacts from government decisions like issuing permits, constructing facilities, and developing regulations. It requires government agencies — including Ecology — to consider environmental factors and information from the SEPA review when making decisions on proposed projects.
An EIS is a comprehensive scientific evaluation that helps us fully understand the likely, significant, and adverse environmental impacts of a project. It also analyzes if those impacts can be reduced or eliminated by exploring reasonable alternatives and mitigation measures that would minimize environmental impacts.
An EIS is not a project approval and is not a permit. It gives agencies important information to consider when making project decisions, which can help them decide how to protect people and the environment from project impacts.
A lead agency evaluates a proposal using scientific data and determines its impact on the environment. That agency then decides the level of environmental impacts, which would fall into one of three categories:
- Determination of Non-significance — The project is not likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts.
- Determination of Mitigated Non-significance — The project could have significant adverse environmental impacts, but mitigation can reduce or eliminate them.
- Determination of Significance — The project will likely result in significant adverse impacts. The lead agency is then responsible for developing an EIS. An EIS provides a more thorough review than what’s typically submitted in the SEPA checklist.
It varies, depending on the complexity of the proposal and the scope of the review. The average EIS takes 18-24 months to complete.
Washington Administrative Code (WAC) recommends completing an EIS in two years, but every proposal is different and is reviewed independently so that the EIS is comprehensive, objective, transparent, and defensible.
FFP Project provided a list of anticipated permits and decisions. After the SEPA environmental review is completed, agencies will use it to help decide if permits should be granted, conditioned, or declined.
|Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
- National Environmental Policy Act environmental review
- FERC license
|Bonneville Power Administration
||Large Generation Interconnection Agreement
|US Army Corps of Engineers
||Clean Water Act Section 404
|Washington Department of Ecology
- Clean Water Act Section 401
- NPDES construction stormwater permit
- Reservoir permit
- Prospective Purchaser Agreement (detailed proposal for site cleanup)
|Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
||Hydraulic Project Approval
Federal and state permitting decisions will likely be made over the next two years.