Xcel Energy Corporation (Xcel Energy) currently holds a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate and maintain the Superior Falls Hydroelectric Project (Saxon Falls). The current license, which designated the Project as FERC No. 2587, 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
Superior Falls is located on the Montreal River in the Town of Saxon in Iron County, Wisconsin, and Ironwood Township in Gogebic County Michigan.

The FERC issued a new license on January 19, 1995, effective January 1, 1995. Superior Falls has an installed capacity of 1.6 MW.

Superior Falls is operated in a run-of-river mode. A minimum flow of 8 cfs from the Saturday before Memorial Day to October 15 each year for the enhancement of aesthetic resources. On weekends and holidays during this timeframe a minimum flow of 20 cfs is required between 8 a.m. and 8.p.m. In order to maintain run -of-river operations, the reservoir is maintained at a minimum elevation of 939.7 feet NGVD.

Xcel Energy owns all of the land located within the Superior Falls Project boundary.

The Superior Falls Reservoir encompasses approximately 16.9 acres and has a storage capacity of approximately 80.9 acre-feet at reservoir elevation 740.0 feet NGVD. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 18 feet, and an average depth of 4.8 feet.

Recreation Facilities
There are several recreational facilities in the vicinity of the Superior Falls Project. The major recreation facilities are listed below.
Superior Falls Canoe Take-out
North Country National Scenic Trail
Superior Falls Overlook
Superior Falls Tailwater Fishing Area
Gobegic County Lake Superior Overlook
Saxon Harbor County Park

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 Superior 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