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Relicensing Work Begins on South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues operating licenses to hydroelectric generating facilities in the United States. The license to operate the South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project will expire in 2029, and the City of Seattle has started working with FERC, Licensing Participants, Tribes, and interested parties in the multi-year renewal process.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for the City’s South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project is up for renewal, and Seattle City Light is partnering with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) in this multi-year relicensing project. The hydroelectric facility was built in 1995 to generate power from the South Fork Tolt Dam and is an important source of renewable energy for the city. The South Fork Tolt Reservoir provides water to 1.5 million people in the region.  

The relicensing process is highly collaborative. The City has begun engaging with licensing participants (LPs), Tribes, and other interested parties to learn their interests and develop shared relicensing goals. This fall, Resource Working Groups, made up of City employees and representatives of the LPs, Tribes, and other interested parties, were formed. Also this fall, the City is working to develop the license Pre-Application Document, which will be filed with FERC in early 2024.  

“Our engagement with such diverse and thoughtful Licensing Participants, Tribes, and interested parties affirms the value and opportunity of the South Fork Tolt relicensing project – it’s not just about power and water, but about serving the wide range of values and interests of the community,” said Mike Haynes, Interim General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light. “This is a marathon, not a sprint, and through our ongoing stewardship and the relicensing process going forward we hope to secure a license that best represents the collective interests of all participants.”

While the hydroelectric facility supplies less than 1% of City Light’s power, it helps balance out the power provided by other renewable sources in the region, fill in gaps, and increase resiliency within the local power grid. Renewing the federal operating license will allow the South Fork Tolk Hydroelectric Project to continue delivering affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy services to our customers in a manner that maintains the city’s long-term water supply. 

“The hydroelectric project and water supply infrastructure are critically important for the region, especially this year where we are facing a water shortage and as we continue to plan for a changing climate,” said Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO of Seattle Public Utilities. “I’m looking forward to building relationships with all interested parties as we go through the relicensing process.” 

The original FERC license was issued in the 1980s and expires in 2029. The formal relicensing process will begin with the filing of its Notice of Intent and Pre-Application Document no later than July 19, 2024. The license application must be filed by July 19, 2027. 

For details and updates, learn more about the relicensing of the South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project.