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 was 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 was filed with FERC no later than January 29, 2020. FERC approved utilizing the TLP on February 13, 2020, 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 virtual Joint Meeting was held on April 9, 2020. Comments on the PAD were due on June 9, 2020.

Stage two consultation began after written comments were received on the PAD. This consultation included studies that were needed to identify potential resource impacts. Studies were conducted between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022. The Summary of Study Comments and Responses was filed with FERC on September 1, 2020.

The Draft License Application (DLA) was filed on July 6, 2022. Stakeholder review of the DLA took place between July 6, 2022 and October 24, 2022 (90 days). 

Comments received on the DLA were addressed in the Final License Application (FLA). The FLA was filed with FERC on December 30, 2022. Stage three consultation began with the filing of the FLA. 

It is anticipated the following will occur between December 30, 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