Xcel Energy Corporation (Xcel Energy) currently holds a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate and maintain the Saxon Falls Hydroelectric Project (Saxon Falls). The current license, which designated the Project as FERC No. 2610, expires on December 31, 2024. To receive a new license from the FERC, Xcel Energy is required to begin the relicensing process by submittal of a Notice of Intent to relicense (NOI) and a pre-application document (PAD) to the FERC no later than December 31, 2019.

Project Description and Overview
Saxon Falls is located on the Montreal River in the Town of Saxon in Iron County, Wisconsin and in Ironwood Township in Gogebic County Michigan.

The FERC issued a subsequent license on December 22,1989, effective January 1, 1990. On July 18, 2014, the Licensee requested a license amendment for the Project to align the expiration date to coincide with that of the Superior Falls Project (P-2587). On November 6, 2014 the FERC issued an order extending the term of the Saxon Falls Project license to expire on December 31, 2024. Saxon Falls has an installed capacity of 1.5 MW.

Saxon Falls is operated in a run-of-river mode where discharge measured immediately downstream of the Project approximates the sum of inflows into the Project reservoir. A minimum flow of 5 cfs or inflow, whichever is less, is released during the ice-free season (ice-out to October 31). In order to minimize reservoir fluctuations, a minimum reservoir elevation of 997.0 feet NGVD is required to be maintained from ice-out to June 1. Between June 1 and ice-out, the reservoir is required to be maintained between elevations 996.5 and 997.0 feet NGVD.

The Saxon Falls Hydroelectric Project is an unlicensed storage reservoir located on the West Fork of the Montreal River in the Towns of Carey and Pence in Iron County, Wisconsin. The flowage was created to augment river flows during summer and winter low periods at the downstream Saxon Falls and Superior Falls Projects. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission Order issued on August 26, 1937, set the maximum elevation at 1490.0 feet NGVD. The flowage has been historically operated with a maximum drawdown of 15 feet to elevation 1475.0 ft NGVD. While a 15-foot drawdown is allowed, the amount of drawdown has been minimized. Between 1984 and 2017 the summer drawdown averaged 5.2 feet (minimum-1.8 feet, maximum-7.8 feet) and the winter drawdown has averaged 7.8 feet (minimum-1.4 feet, maximum-10.9 feet). A minimum flow of 10 cfs minimum flow has historically been released downstream into the West Branch of the Montreal River, in accordance with an agreement with the Village of Montreal.

Xcel Energy owns all lands located within the Saxon Falls Project boundary. Xcel Energy owns the lands with Gile Flowage project facilities including the dam, reservoir and the majority of shoreline areas to elevation 1490.0 feet NGVD. Submerged lands are either owned in fee title or flowage rights have been obtained for them.

The Saxon Falls Reservoir encompasses approximately 69 acres and has a storage capacity of approximately 550 acre-feet at reservoir elevation 997.0 feet NGVD. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 12 feet.

The Gile Flowage encompasses approximately 3,317 acres and has a usable storage capacity of 37,064 acre-feet with a 15-foot drawdown. The flowage has a maximum depth of 25 feet.

Recreation Facilities
There are several recreational facilities in the vicinity of the Saxon Falls Project. The major recreation facilities are listed below:
• Saxon Falls Boat Landing
• Saxon Falls Scenic Overlook
• Montreal River Canyon

There are several recreational facilities in the vicinity of the Gile Flowage. The major recreation facilities are listed below:
• Sucker Hole Landing
• Pence Park Landing
• County C Landing
• Gile Park Landing

Process Description
Xcel Energy filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to file an application with FERC to obtain a new license for the Project. The NOI was accompanied by a Pre-Application Document (PAD). Pursuant to 18 CFR, Section 5.5, the filing of the NOI marks the beginning of the licensing process and sets the schedule for further licensing activities. In addition to filing the PAD and NOI, Xcel Energy filed a request asking FERC to allow Xcel Energy to utilize the Traditional Licensing Process (TLP) The request to use the TLP was filed as a related submittal under 18 CFR, Section 5.3. Xcel Energy’s rationale and justification for utilizing the TLP is included in the submittal.

The initial activities on the TLP plan and schedule include filing the PAD and NOI, as well as the request to use the TLP. Comments regarding the proposed use of the TLP must be filed with FERC no later than January 29, 2020. Once FERC approves utilizing the TLP for relicensing, stage one of the formal three-stage consultation process begins. In accordance with this schedule, within 30 days of receiving TLP approval from FERC, Xcel Energy will issue the Notice for a Joint Meeting with resource agencies and Indian tribes. The Joint Meeting will be held no later than April 28, 2020. Comments on the PAD are due by June 27, 2020.

Stage two consultation begins after written comments have been received on the PAD. It is anticipated this consultation stage will include negotiation of studies that may be needed to identify potential resource impacts. Negotiation is expected to occur between June 27, 2020 and July 27, 2020, with any negotiated studies being conducted between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.

It is anticipated preparation of the Draft License Application (D LA) will begin by November 1, 2021 and will be filed by June 2, 2022. Stakeholder review of the DLA is expected to occur between June 2, 2022 and August 31, 2022 (90 days). If a joint stakeholder meeting is deemed necessary, the meeting is expected to occur by August 31, 2022.

Preparation of the Final License Application (FLA) is expected to begin by November 1, 2022, with an anticipated filing date with FERC by December 31, 2022. Once the FLA is filed, stage three consultation would begin.

It is anticipated the following will occur between December 31, 2022 and December 31, 2024:

  • FERC review of the FLA
  • Issuance of FERC acceptance letter
  • Submittal of stakeholder comments, terms, and conditions
  • Scoping under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Preparation of Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
  • Resolution of issues, if any, under Federal Power Act Section 10(j)
  • Preparation of final EA or EIS

Based on this anticipated schedule, FERC would issue a License Order by December 31, 2024.

For more information contact Matt Miller at 715-737-1353, or written communication related to the Saxon Falls Hydroelectric Project relicensing can be mailed to:

Matthew J. Miller
Hydro License Compliance Consultant
Xcel Energy Corporation
1414 W Hamilton Avenue, PO Box 8
Eau Claire, WI 54702-0008
Phone 715-737-1353
Email: matthew.j.miller@xcelenergy.com