Cushman Dam Must Release More Water


The Cushman Project lies on the North Fork Skokomish River in Washington. On May 21, 1999, FERC issued an Order granting the City of Tacoma' s motion to stay implementation of the new Cushman license pending litigation, including the instream flow provisions. At that time, FERC instituted an interim flow requirement of only 60 cubic feet per second (cfs), well under the 240 cfs established in the new license. The 60 cfs is wholly inadequate to support a healthy riparian ecosystem and adversely impact fish spawning, rearing, and access to salmon and steelhead habitat.On September 24, 2003, FERC accepted the Skokomish Tribe's motion to lift the stay on the license conditions, and assigned the matter to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for fact finding and recommendations. The proceeding was set on an accelerated schedule, with the ALJ making its proposal to the Commission on December 23, 2003.The resource parties (including American Rivers, the Skokomish Tribe, and several state and federal resource agencies) submitted extensive filings to the ALJ in support of increasing interim flows. Based largely on these reports, in December the ALJ determined that increasing interim minimum flows of 240 cfs would be economically and technically feasible, and recommended to FERC that these flows be instituted. The recommendation included harsh language directed at Tacoma Power for its delay tactics and inexpert filings.On June 21, 2004, FERC issued an Order finding with the ALJ and lifting the stay on minimum flow condition of the license. This Order effectively puts 240 cfs, or four times the flow, back in the North Fork Skokomish.