Feds OK Snohomish PUD underwater turbine pilot

Plans to install the first tidal turbines in the sea floor off Whidbey Island passed an important regulatory hurdle this week.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC} issued a license to the Snohomish County Public Utility District for the pilot project. If the PUD’s commissioners decide to go forward with the project, the turbines will be the first of their kind in Puget Sound.

The Island County hearing examiner, however, is yet to make a decision on appeals of permits granted to the PUD by the Island County planning department.

Steve Erickson of Whidbey Environmental Action Network, which challenged the project on the federal and local level, said he expects the parties to appeal the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision.

“This is going to be litigated for a while here,” he said.

Craig Coller, an assistant general manager for the PUD, told the South Whidbey Record last  month that FERC had rejected the appeals and that the license would be issued shortly, which occurred Thursday.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network, the Tulalip Tribes, the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, PC Landing Corp. and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community filed motions to intervene.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network was concerned about the on-land portion of the project, which could impact a scarce plant community. The tribes claimed the turbines posed a risk to fish and fishing nets and could force the state to close the area to fishing. PC Landing Corp. was concerned about the turbine’s proximity to underwater cables.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled, however, that the turbines posed no risk either to undersea cables or marine wildlife, nor would they impede the tribes’ fishing rights.


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