Natural Resource Protection

Location and size of land owned, leased, managed or adjacent to protected areas of high biodiversity value. Description of significant impacts of activities on biodiversity in protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas. Biodiversity of offset habitats compared to the biodiversity of the affected areas strategies, current actions and future plans for managing impacts in biodiversity. Total number of incidents of violations involving rights of indigenous people and actions taken.

Spokane River Project

Avista owns and operates six hydroelectric plants on the Spokane River. One of those plants, Little Falls, is operated under separate congressional authority and is not licensed by FERC. On June 18, 2009, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a 50-year operating license to Avista for our Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, which comprises the remaining five of Avista’s six Spokane River plants (Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake). The license includes a variety of measures designed to protect and enhance natural resources connected with the Project and the Spokane River.

Over the six-year licensing process, more than 200 stakeholders helped scope studies, gather information and make natural resource protection, mitigation and enhancement recommendations reflected in Avista’s 2005 application to FERC.

The conditions in the new license reflect important agreements with many of those parties, including the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Colville Confederated Tribes, federal, state and local natural resource and recreation management agencies, the Sierra Club, and other interested groups and organizations.

These agreements detail the many actions Avista will take over the next half-century to protect and enhance fish, terrestrial, water quality, recreation, cultural and aesthetic resources related to the project. These are significant environmental measures, which will benefit both the communities and the natural and cultural resources where our facilities are located.

New conditions that will be implemented in the project area will take place on a schedule that is set out in the license. Major efforts include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Historic properties and cultural resources protection efforts;
  • Aesthetic flows at Post Falls, Upper Falls and Monroe Street dams;
  • Minimum flows in the Spokane River to enhance habitat for rainbow trout;
  • Water quality monitoring and improvement;
  • Aquatic weeds, erosion and sediment management and control;
  • Fisheries and recreation enhancements; and
  • Other measures:
    • Bald eagle management plan in Idaho and Washington
    • Project transmission line management plan to help minimize raptor injuries and manage vegetation
    • Wetland and riparian habitat restoration efforts
    • Land use management efforts to benefit the public for Avista-owned lands within the Project boundary.
    • Historic properties and cultural resources protection efforts.
    • Facility upgrades at Nine Mile, Upper Falls and Post Falls Dams

According to Avista's 50-year FERC license to operate, issued in June 2009, collectively the hydro project relicensing agreements comprehensively resolve numerous issues that have divided Avista and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, in particular, for a century, including those pertaining to land use, water use, potential trespass, resource usage and Tribal sovereignty. The Tribe agrees with Avista that these agreements have fostered a mutual spirit of cooperation and trust that will allow Avista and the Tribe to work together over the term of the new license and beyond to ensure continued efficient operation of an important hydroelectric resource. At the same time the agreements protect and enhance the Tribe's natural and cultural resources and provide the Tribe with appropriate compensation for Avista's use of its land and waters. Avista's commitment to enhancing relationships with the area's indigenous people is reflected in the company's appointment of a full-time Tribal liaison.

vegetation MANAGEMENT

As part of our Spokane River Project License, we are developing and implementing a transmission line management plan. This work will help minimize raptor injuries and mortality, and will include provisions for non-chemical vegetation management in the transmission line corridor, supporting native vegetation.

Water Quality

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a water quality improvement plan that states the combined amount of phosphorus allowed into the Spokane River from both point sources and non-point sources, including a plan on how to stay within that targeted amount. While Avista is not a discharger of phosphorus, the reservoir created by Long Lake Dam (Lake Spokane) and other portions of the river have seasonal levels of dissolved oxygen that do not meet Washington State’s water quality numeric standards.

Concurrent with seeking a new FERC license, We applied for a Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification from the Washington Department of Ecology. In working through the certification process, we volunteered to participate in the Dissolved Oxygen TMDL process. That resolution, which was incorporated into our new license, was captured in an agreement between Avista, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Sierra Club and others. It requires Avista to work with the entities who are dischargers of phosphorus to find ways of improving water quality, including dissolved oxygen levels, in Lake Spokane.

For more information on the TMDL, visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s TMDL website.

Clark Fork River Project

Avista’s Clark Fork Hydroelectric Project includes Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams on the Clark Fork River in Northern Idaho and Northwest Montana.

In 2009 we celebrated two major milestones in our Clark Fork Project – the 50th anniversary of the first power generated at Noxon Rapids Dam, and the 10th anniversary of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement.

The Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, a multi-stakeholder agreement for managing and protecting the natural resources of the area, was signed in 1999 after several years of collaborative negotiation. It resulted in a 45-year operating license from FERC to operate both Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids. This single Clark Fork Project License took effect March 1, 2001, in an unprecedented issuance of the license by FERC a year before the existing Cabinet Gorge license expired.

As part of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, we began implementing protection, mitigation and enhancement measures in March 1999. Measures in the agreement address issues related to fisheries, water quality, wildlife, recreation, land use, cultural resources and erosion. The first ten years’ implementation has led to a number of environmental success stories.

For specific details on land managed, protected habitats, biodiversity impacts and strategies, see our Spokane River Project FERC License , and Clark Fork Project FERC License.

Number of IUCN redlist species and national conservation list species with habitats in areas affected by operations

A number of species in the Northwest are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In our operational area these species include primarily bull trout, though grizzly bears and wolves are also in the surrounding areas, particularly in western Montana. Avista consulted with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service regarding the ESA for relicensing both the Spokane River and Clark Fork hydroelectric projects.

The restoration of wild fish stocks, particularly bull trout, is a key part of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement. The result is a collaborative bull trout recovery program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Native American tribes and the states of Idaho and Montana on the lower Clark Fork River, consistent with requirements of the FERC license.

While not involving ESA-listed species, we have ongoing programs to reduce harm to raptors, including hawks, ospreys and bald eagles, by minimizing nesting on transmission and distribution line structures, providing nesting platforms, taking remedial action in the event of bird injury, and training employees in raptor identification and protection.

As part of our Clark Fork Project License, Avista is required to provide for the monitoring and protection of bald eagle occurrence and nest sites, to ensure there are no project-related human activities related to recreation or other land use activities that could harm eagles.

The Spokane River Project License also requires Avista to prepare and implement a bald eagle management plan to protect bald eagles. The effort will include surveying, monitoring, and protecting bald eagle nests. In addition, we plan to provide for a bald eagle education and interpretive program.

Total environmental protection expenditures and investments by type

Our protection, mitigation and enhancement expenditures in 2009 for implementing the Spokane River Project License were $3.26 million. For the Clark Fork River license implementation, we spent $5.45 million. These totals reflect environmental affairs activities associated with license implementation only, and as Avista practices environmental stewardship in all of our daily operations, including generation and production, the costs of doing so are absorbed throughout our capital and operations & maintenance budgets.