Vanceboro Dam Storage Project relicensed

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a new license to Woodland Pulp LLC to continue operating and maintaining the Vanceboro Dam Storage Project.  Located on the East Branch of the St. Croix River along the Canadian border in Washington County, Maine, the FERC-licensed project operates as a water storage facility that provides flood storage and flow releases for downstream hydroelectric generation.

The 469-foot-long, 16-foot-high Vanceboro Dam and 178,000 acre-foot project impoundment span the U.S.-Canada border.  The project is subject to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 which established the International Joint Commission (IJC), a bi-national agency with the mission of preventing and resolving disputes between the United States and Canada over boundary waters.

The Vanceboro project is part of the larger St. Croix River headwater storage system.  This system also includes the Forest City Project, located about 24 miles upstream on the East Branch of the St. Croix, as well as the West Branch Project.  Water flows into the Vanceboro project’s impoundment from the Forest City Project. The project operates in a store-and-release mode whereby water is stored during periods of high flow to reduce downstream flooding, and then released during periods of lower flow to increase generation at the downstream hydroelectric projects.   Generation associated with these projects occurs at the unlicensed Grand Falls and Woodland hydroelectric projects located downstream on the St. Croix River.  Collectively, these storage projects provide flood storage and helps to regulate and augment flows, resulting in increased generation at Woodland Pulp’s downstream hydroelectric projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an original license for the United States portion of the Vanceboro project on April 4, 1966.  The project is docketed as No. 2492.  That original license expired February 29, 2016, so two years earlier the licensee filed an application to the Commission for a new license to continue operating and maintaining the project.  In the interim, Woodland Pulp operated the project under an annual license pending resolution of its FERC relicensing process. 

On March 22, 2016, the FERC released an order issuing a new license for the Vanceboro Project. The new license authorizes no new capacity, and requires what the Commission characterized as "a moderate amount of new environmental mitigation measures."  These include a mandatory prescription issued under section 18 of the Federal Power Act, relating to new upstream fish passage facilities for American eel, river herring, and landlocked Atlantic salmon.

Given the fact that the Vanceboro Project is operated in coordination with the recently-relicensed West Branch Project No. 2618 and Forest City Project No. 2660 which each received 30-year license terms within the past 5 months, the Commission similarly relicensed the Vanceboro project for a 30-year license term to allow coordination of all three projects during any future relicensing.

Based on the large number of FERC-licensed hydropower projects whose licenses will expire in the near future, regulators expect to see an uptick in relicensing activity for hydroelectric projects and dams.

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