Rocky Mountain Power eyes Cutler Dam federal relicensing

Dave Eskelsen spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power talks about relicensing the Cutler Dam with FERC.

Rocky Mountain Power held an information meeting at the Riverwoods Conference Center Wednesday to begin the process for renewing the Cutler Dam Federal Energy Regulatory Commission License.

Eve Davies leads a breakout session for the Cutler Dam hydroelectric project as part of the utilities multi-use Bear River system.

“This was the initial public meeting for our Cutler Dam relicensing project,” Dave Eskelson, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power said. “Cutler is a hydroelectric project in Cache Valley, mostly, but also in the Box Elder side.”

The dam was finished in 1927 and has been operating and generating power for their customers since that time, he said.

“It needs a federal license in order to operate,” Eskelson said. “The Cutler license was last renewed in 1994, it expires in 2024, so we are now starting the five year process to do the studies, research and documents necessary to renew the federal license.

Relicensing requires a lot of public involvement, so this is the first step in the process, he said.

The spokesman said in addition to the public meeting, the FERC renewal process will also include a March 19 meeting for a Pre-Application Document and Notice of Intent to be issued after a public scoping meeting.

From now until 2021, there will be meetings to develop and implement and then report on study plans, which takes a minimum of two years.

In 2021, Rocky Mountain Power must complete Project Study Reports; development of Project Mitigation and Enhancement Measures. Also in 2021, is the Draft License Application, which includes a public comment period.

And finally, in March of 2022, the Final License Application, which again includes public comment.

Charles Holmgren, a member of the Utah Department of Natural Division of Water Resources from Box Elder County, said he was disappointed with the number of people that showed up for the meeting.

“There are 1,600 water users along the Bear River and about 30 single pump users on Cutler Reservoir,” he said. “We should have more people here.”

We have been reaching out to all the key stakeholders who have an interest in operations at Cutler,” said Eve Davies, principal environmental scientist with Pacific Corp. “As we proceed with the renewal process, we want to encourage involvement and comment from all interested parties.”

Along with the FERC meeting, Rocky Mountain Power also held a Cutler Project Stakeholders Kickoff Workshop to gather input on a plan to better regulate power from the dam by changing water levels.

James Watterson, president of the Benson Bear Lake Irrigation Company, said he had some concerns about changing dam levels to meet electrical demand. He was going to make known his concerns in the breakout session.

There were some people concerned the water levels would be raised two feet and flood some of the low level farms. One participant prepared signs of protest, but Davies made it clear from the beginning that they were not going to raise the level of the reservoir.

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