Xcel Energy Corporation (Xcel Energy) currently holds a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate and maintain the Cornell Hydroelectric Project (Cornell). The current license, which designated the Project as FERC No. 2639, expires on November 30, 2023. To receive a new license from the FERC, Xcel Energy began the relicensing process by submittal of a Notice of Intent to relicense (NOI) and a pre-application document (PAD) to the FERC on November 29, 2018.     

Project Description and Overview
Cornell is located on the Chippewa River in the City of Cornell in Chippewa County, Wisconsin.

The FERC issued an original license on December 26, 1973, effective December 1, 1973 to November 30, 2023. Cornell has an installed capacity of 30.75 MW.

Cornell is operated based upon the releases from the upstream Holcombe Hydroelectric Project. Cornell provides for a year-round minimum flow of 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) downstream to enhance aquatic habitat for recreational sportfish including walleye and channel catfish. The reservoir fluctuations are limited between 1,001.5 and 1,002.0 feet mean sea-level (MSL) from April 1 through June 7 and between 1,001.0 and 1,002.0 feet MSL from June 8 through Labor Day. During the remainder of the year, reservoir elevations are maintained between 1,000.0 and 1,002.0 feet MSL.

Xcel Energy owns limited land within the Cornell project boundary and the majority of the land it owns surrounds the dam and powerhouse.

The Cornell Reservoir, also known as the Cornell Flowage encompasses approximately 897 acres and has a storage capacity of approximately 7,005 acre-feet at normal reservoir elevation of 1,000.6 feet NGVD. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 55.7 feet and the water is moderately clear.

Recreation Facilities
There are several recreational facilities in the vicinity of the Cornell.  The major recreation facilities are listed below:

Brunet Island State Park
Ice Age Trail
Old Abe Trail
Mill Yard 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 were required to be filed with FERC no later than December 30, 2018. FERC approved utilizing the TLP on February 5, 2019. At which time, stage one of the formal three-stage consultation process began. In accordance with this schedule, within 30 days of receiving TLP approval from FERC, Xcel Energy issued the Notice for a Joint Meeting with resource agencies and Indian tribes. The Joint Meeting was held on March 19, 2019. Comments on the PAD were due by May 18, 2019.

Stage two consultation began after written comments were received on the PAD. This consultation stage included negotiation of studies that may be needed to identify potential resource impacts. Studies were conducted between June 1, 2019 and January 25, 2021. The Summary of Study Comments and Responses was filed with FERC on July 13, 2020.

The Draft License Application (DLA) was filed with FERC on June 8, 2021. Stakeholder review of the DLA took place between June 8 and September 6, 2021 (90 days). 

Comments received on the DLA were addressed in the Final License Application (FLA). The FLA was filed with FERC on November 29, 2021. Stage three consultation began with the filing of the FLA.

It is anticipated the following will occur between November 29, 2021 and November 30, 2023:

  • 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)
  • Request for Section 401 Water Quality Certification
  • 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 November 30, 2023.

For more information contact Matt Miller at 715-737-1353 or written communication related to the Cornell 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