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It’s Official! Relicensing the South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project Is Underway 

The City of Seattle filed documents on April 8 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to formally begin relicensing the South Fork Tolt Hydroelectric Project. These documents are called the Notice of Intent (NOI) and Pre-Application Document (PAD). Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) are collaborating on this relicensing project. To understand why, let’s look at how the City’s facilities at South Fork Tolt work together.    

City Light’s 16.8-megawatt hydropower generation facility is the project being relicensed. It was fully commissioned in 1996 to take advantage of the preexisting dam and reservoir. SPU has owned and operated the reservoir and water treatment facility since the 1960s. These facilities provide 30-40% of the drinking water supply for 1.6 million people in our region. The hydropower plant associated with the dam is small and provides less than 1% of City Light’s power. But it powers the Tolt Water Treatment Facility and balances out the power provided by other renewable sources. Each facility is a key part of the infrastructure network that provides our region with electricity and water services.   

What are the NOI and PAD? What do they include?   

Any utility that wants to license or relicense a hydropower project in the United States must start by filing a NOI and PAD with FERC.     

The NOI formally tells FERC that the utility is starting the relicensing process. It includes basic information about the facility. It also affirms that the utility has appropriately informed all affected parties. This includes Tribes, federal and state resource agencies, relevant county and local governments, surrounding landowners, and other potentially interested groups.

The PAD gathers existing information about the project into one place. It includes detailed descriptions of the hydroelectric project and related facilities, operations, license requirements, and lands. It also includes a summary of everything the City knows about the project area. This includes cultural, fish, wildlife, and recreational resources.

Once the PAD has all this information, we share it with all parties involved in the process. The PAD helps the City, Tribes, and Licensing Participants identify issues and information needs, develop study requests and plans, and prepare documents related to the license application.   

What happens next?

FERC will host a public scoping meeting and site visit in early summer 2024. We will share more information about these activities when we have those details. Until then, the City continues to work closely with Tribes, agencies, and other licensing participants to identify and design a series of relicensing studies. These will help fill in gaps in our collective knowledge and inform the details of the new license.

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Receive regular email updates on the South Fork Tolt relicensing process. You can learn more about this process and access all the related documents at City Light’s Tolt Relicensing page. You can also find a public documents library under “Project Documents and Resources.”