FERC Staff Issue Final EIS for Big Creek Projects

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the four hydroelectric projects on the Big Creek System, located in Fresno and Madera Counties in California.The four projects are owned by Southern California Edison (SCE) and include Mammoth Pool Project (P-2085), Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8 and Eastwood (P-67), Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2 (P-2175), and Big Creek No. 3 (P-120).The existing projects have a combined capacity of 865 MW and consist of nine powerhouses, six reservoirs, numerous small diversions, other conveyance facilities and electrical transmission lines. The projects occupy about 6,870 acres of federal land in the Sierra National Forest.The EIS prepared by the Commission staff has proposed that the projects be licensed as proposed by the applicant with additional measures as recommended by the staff. The staff recommendation includes provisions from the Settlement Agreement except for provisions to manage reservoir water surface elevations for recreational purposes at the Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2 and Mammoth Pool projects and funding rehabilitation of five campgrounds that are outside the existing project boundaries.Federal and state resource agencies, Coalition members American Whitewater, Friends of River and Trout Unlimited, and other NGOs signed the Settlement Agreement for the projects and submitted to FERC in February 2007.The Big Creek projects are located in the Upper San Joaquin River Watershed, which drains a 1,600-square-mile area situated between the Sierra Nevada crest to the east and the Central Valley foothills to the west.