The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 20 granted Columbia Basin Hydropower’s request for more time under a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of a 500-MW pumped storage project that would use Banks Lake as the upper reservoir and Lake Roosevelt near Grand Coulee, Wash., as the lower one.

In September, the agency rejected an earlier request for an additional two years beyond an existing two year extension that expired in July, but that was before the 2018 Water Infrastructure Act, which authorized extending preliminary permits by up to four years.

In its Dec. 20 order , FERC reinstated the preliminary permit and extended it by an additional two years because of the new law, and because Columbia Basin “has carried out activities under the permit in good faith and with reasonable diligence” [P-14329] .

“The extension is good news,” said Columbia Basin General Manager Tim Culbertson. “We’re still very strongly in support of continuing work on the project.”

One major snag still in the way is resolving the dual federal approvals needed to authorize the project.

Dual federal approvals are required because while a portion of the proposal is under FERC jurisdiction, most of it is planned for lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation—including both lakes—which must grant a Lease of Power Privilege in order for the project to proceed.

Columbia Basin had hoped to address this issue by securing legislation giving BuRec exclusive jurisdiction over pumped storage developments that propose to use at least one Reclamation reservoir.

The bill, H.R. 1967, passed the House in June 2017 and was moved along by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in early October 2018. It was placed on the Senate calendar on Nov. 26 to await further action from the floor.

“If it passes, we’ll be out of the FERC process,” Culbertson said.

Although the jurisdiction bill wasn’t taken up before the 2018 session ended, Culbertson said he was optimistic that it would eventually pass, given its benign language—he said it applied to only one other project—and the favorable treatment it has received so far.

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