In order for IFP to operate both Idaho Falls and the Gem State Projects, they must be granted an operating license from FERC. The Federal Power Act (FPA) gives FERC the exclusive authority to issue licenses to construct, operate, and maintain certain non-federal hydropower projects. A license is issued for a specific period of time (typically 40 years), and all licensees, like IFP, must reapply for a new license prior to the expiration of an existing license. This application process is called relicensing.
Since it's been a long time since IFP last relicensed their Projects, FERC must look at the operations of the Idaho Falls and Gem State Projects through the lens of modern environmental standards. The existing data that will be collected as part of the PAD may reveal gaps into known existing information, and this may result in IFP needing to conduct some environmental studies to get an accurate snapshot of the current environmental conditions.
As such, the relicensing process addresses not only a project's power generation, but also the natural and social resources present at a project that may be affected, both positively and negatively, by the project's continued operation. These resources include:
- Fish and Aquatic life
- Water Quantity and Quality
- Botanical (plants and vegetation)
- Land Use (sediment and erosion)
- Cultural and Historic (including tribal)
Under the FPA, FERC is required to consider both power and non-power issues when relicensing hydroelectric facilities. FERC equally considers all of the resources provided by hydropower projects including those listed above, as well as flood control and power generation.
Integrated Licensing Process
As noted in the overview, IFP has chosen the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) to conduct this relicensing. The ILP begins when IFP submits their Notice of Intent (NOI) to seek a new license, and a PAD to FERC. The ILP is a schedule-driven process lead by FERC. Similar to other relicensing processes, stakeholders will have multiple opportunities for engagement including attending public meetings, commenting on documents produced by IFP, and responding comments filed by FERC and other stakeholders. In relicensing, stakeholders are encouraged to participate and provide both FERC and IFP insight into resource concerns that matter to them.