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Hydro Relicensing Redux: Will Dams Be Saved?

Fortnightly Magazine - April 1 2000

apply the structure of the three-phase process, but we use a lot of the collaborative aspects that are inherent in the alternative licensing process. We are using all three of those right now."

Moller says that PG&E has used the hybrid approach for most of its new relicensings. "The resource agencies like it, the non-governmental organizations like it, and it works for us," he says.

Moller does see improvements that could be made to the process, but mostly he would reduce the time that it takes to relicense a project.

"Over a duration of a five-year minimum relicensing proceeding, things change. That is the single biggest problem. It is a continually shifting landscape. The participants change, the social priorities change, the issues change, the economics change."

Moller says that with the alternative licensing process, the hydro company makes a tremendous effort to bring in all interested parties, listen to their concerns, identify issues, and perform studies that address those concerns. But after spending perhaps $1 million in the process, there may emerge a new group or a successor to the previous director managing the resource agency who says the hydro project must perform another multi-million dollar environmental study, Moller says.

For example, everyone might agree on an appropriate scientific method to use in determining minimum stream flows, he explains. But four years from now those same participants may say that technique is no longer appropriate and other methods must be used.

"The licensee is sitting there saying, 'I spent my $2 million four years ago. I have relied on this. I did my license application on this. I don't want to go through a whole other study effort." He adds that this situation happens all the time.

Says Moller, "We find ourselves continually changing the cast of characters, continually changing regulatory requirements, continually changing threatened endangered species listings, changing social priorities, changing power values. That is probably the biggest issue."

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