FERC approves Wisconsin River license extensions

March 31, 2020

Dam overlooking river with orange buoys in waterIn 2019, nine hydroelectric project owners on the Wisconsin River submitted requests to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to coordinate relicensing of 20 hydroelectric projects. These licenses were set to expire between 2026 and 2035. Due to the number of licenses and their geographic reach of 310 miles, it was not feasible to request a single expiration date for all projects on the river.

To reduce the number of projects undergoing relicensing at one time, the area was divided into three geographic basins, each with similar vegetation, land cover, hydrology, and resource management concerns. Mead & Hunt helped several licensees prepare license amendment materials within the northern and central basins.

Wisconsin River basin makeup

The northern basin of the river encompasses 160 river miles and eight hydroelectric projects with five different owners. This basin is primarily located within the northern forest region.

The central basin encompasses 65 river miles and ten hydroelectric projects with three different owners. This basin runs through Wisconsin’s vegetation tension zone. Within this zone, the amount of forestland decreases, and the population increases. Agricultural and industrial land uses are prevalent here.

The southern basin encompasses 85 river miles and two hydroelectric projects with two different owners. This basin is dominated by agriculture, and has large reservoirs with different hydrological and resource management considerations than other basins.

License extension outcomes

Several stakeholders submitted comments regarding this proposal. The main concerns were the length of license extensions and the need for additional recreational and environmental enhancements. FERC determined that extending license terms did not require additional environmental mitigation measures because the existing licenses contain measures to protect cultural, environmental, and recreational resources, and these measures would not be altered by the extension. FERC also determined the lengths of the license extensions were reasonable.

On March 2, 2020, FERC issued orders approving extension of the license terms for projects within the northern basin to expire on June 30, 2035, projects within the Central Basin to expire on June 30, 2038, and projects within the Southern Basin to expire on June 30, 2041.

Filings related to the license extensions are available from the FERC’s eLibrary website. We at Mead & Hunt are committed to keeping up to date so we can keep clients and stakeholders informed of further developments.

Darrin JohnsonMan with glasses wearing tan suit and blue shirt specializes in FERC Licensing and Compliance, serving the Water sector out of Mead & Hunt’s Middleton office. His extensive experience affords him a deep understanding of FERC policies and procedures, allowing Darrin to provide accurate, effective guidance to clients. Outside of work, Darrin enjoys spending time camping and hiking outdoors with his family.