Irrigation Districts begin FERC licensing of La Grange Dam

In  a significant victory for CSPA and conservation allies, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Modesto Irrigation District (MID) have begun the process to get a hydropower license for TID’s powerhouse at La Grange Dam.  This process may require a study of fish passage on the Tuolumne River.

In the ongoing relicensing of the Districts’ Don Pedro Project, CSPA and others had requested study of fish passage.  The Districts had previously persuaded FERC that since the non-jurisdictional La Grange Dam blocked passage, FERC could not require study of passage past it or past Don Pedro Dam.

However, on July 19, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an Order ruling that TID, owner of a small unlicensed powerhouse near the base of La Grange Dam, needed to commence a licensing proceeding of the La Grange Project, including the dam.  MID, joint owner with TID of La Grange Dam, is also appearing as a licensee.   

In the July Order, FERC granted the Districts a 6 month delay before commencing relicensing.

In September, 2013, the Districts sued FERC in the Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, asking that the licensing order be set aside. Also in September, the Tuolumne River Trust filed a separate suit, and CSPA and others subsequently intervened in favor of the Trust.  The Trust’s suit seeks to have the La Grange facilities licensed as part of the Don Pedro Project in a combined licensing.  Briefs in the now combined court cases are due March 26, 2014.

In a motion filed on December 20, 2013, the Districts requested another delay in licensing.  In a response dated the day after Christmas, Conservation Groups opposed further delay.  FERC has not responded to these pleadings.

On January 29, 2014, the Districts distributed the Pre-Application Document (PAD) for licensing La Grange.  A copy of the PAD can be downloaded from the La Grange Licensing website at   The PAD for La Grange appears to be heavily reliant on information generated in the Don Pedro relicensing.  We have not yet found in it any mention of fish passage.

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