Goldendale Energy Storage Project

Project location just above John Day Dam next to the Columbia River in Washington state.

Project site map. Click to enlarge.

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.

John Day Dam and the Columbia River on a sunny day looking down from the proposed location of the upper reservior.

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.

Read the summary of the final EIS.

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.

Next steps

The EIS helps inform permitting decisions and does not determine whether a project moves forward.

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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.

June 23, 2022, hearing. Read the presentation as an accessible PDF.

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.

Two reservoirs sited next to the John Day Dam would generate electricity if a project near Goldendale is approved. Illustration from FFP Project. Click to enlarge.

Project Scope

Water for the Goldendale Energy Storage project would be drawn from the Columbia River under a permit that once served the aluminum plant. FFP Project plans to purchase water from the Klickitat Public Utility District. Project plans call for the lower reservoir to be filled once, with annual supplemental fills.

The lower reservoir would be located on a portion of the former Columbia Gorge aluminum smelter, a toxic cleanup site. The site requires cleanup regardless of whether or not the Goldendale project moves forward. We are developing a cleanup plan with FFP Project to address the remaining contamination.

The project is expected to generate up to 1,200 megawatts of electricity and includes:

  • Two reservoirs
  • A 2,400-feet gross elevation gain with no river or stream impoundments
  • An underground water tunnel and powerhouse
  • 115- and 500-kilovolt transmission lines
  • An electrical substation/switchyard and related facilities

Diagram showing how energy will be produced using two reservoirs at different elevations.

Project timeline

Date Activity
June 2020

FFP Project submitted 401 water quality certification application and draft checklist to Ecology

Sept. - Nov. 2020

Ecology held public comment period on the 401 certification application
Oct. 29 - Dec. 28, 2020

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held a comment period on the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act federal environmental review

Dec. 2020 FFP Project submits final signed State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist
Jan. 14 - Feb. 12, 2021

Ecology held comment period on the scope of the SEPA environmental review (EIS)

June 2021 Ecology denied 'without prejudice' the 401 Water Quality Certification due to insufficient information.
May 23, 2022 FFP Project submits second 401 water quality certification application.
June 6 - Aug. 9, 2022 Ecology held comment period on the draft EIS.
Dec. 21, 2022 Ecology released final EIS. 
May 22, 2023 Ecology issued Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification. Certification issued with conditions.



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.

Frequently Asked Questions