What is an HCP?
In August 1993, Douglas PUD and the other two mid-Columbia PUDs recognized that salmon and Steelhead that migrate through our area might be listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. There was a chance, prior to listing, that we could collaboratively develop a plan that would allow the National Marine Fisheries Service to rely on proactive and effective mitigation measures at our dams to avoid listing fish in this section of the Columbia River. As it turns out, many factors that are out of our control, from ocean conditions to other human impacts, affect the life cycle of the fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service listed Steelhead as endangered in August, 1997. They are expected to list Spring Chinook as endangered early in 1999. In light of these listings, the Wells Project must receive a permit for the "incidental take" of the listed species. Therefore, the plan that we once worked on to preserve fish and prevent a listing has become a plan to preserve fish and allow the Wells Project to continue generating electricity. Nearly five years have gone into negotiation of the HCP, or Habitat Conservation Plan, with federal and state fishery agencies, tribal governments, and resource advocates American Rivers. The HCP spells out the fish protection obligations of the Wells Project for the next fifty years. This plan will be the basis for the federal government to issue a permit to Douglas PUD to continue generating electricity at Wells Dam, Douglas County’s primary source of electric power. The estimated incremental cost of the HCP is between five and ten million dollars over the next fifty years. There is still considerable work to do on the HCP. It must undergo a public environmental and agency review process that could take up to two years. Continuing to generate electricity at the Wells Project will be the result.
Elements of the Wells Project HCP:
- Allows continued generation at the Wells Hydroelectric Project
- Establishes tributary habitat fund for a maximum of $10 million over 50 years
- Establishes a hatchery program to compensate for fish losses
- Provides support for Douglas PUD to relicense the Wells Hydroelectric Project
- Establishes a framework for collaborative fishery management