Northern States Power Company – Wisconsin, a Wisconsin Corporation (NSPW) currently holds a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate and maintain the White River Hydroelectric Project (White River Project). The current license, which designated the Project as FERC No. 2444, expires on July 31, 2025. To receive a new license from the FERC, NSPW began the relicensing process by submitting a Notice of Intent to relicense (NOI) and a pre-application document (PAD) to the FERC on July 29, 2020.  

Project Description and Overview
The White River Project is located on the White River in the town of White River in Ashland County, Wisconsin and in the town of Kelly in Bayfield County, Wisconsin.

The FERC issued the existing license on August 29, 1995, effective August 1, 1995. The White River Project has an installed capacity of 1.2 MW.

White River is operated in a run-of-river mode. A minimum flow of 16 cfs, or inflow, whichever is less is released at all times into the bypass reach of the White River immediately below the White River Dam. Reservoir elevations are required to be maintained between 710.4 feet and 711.6 feet NGVD.  FERC approved a temporary increase in the maximum operating elevation to 712.6 feet NGVD in 2016 to allow repairs to Unit 1 and testing of the unit. The repairs and testing were completed in 2021, ending the temporary increase in operating elevation. NSPW requests that the existing license’s required operating range of 710.4 feet and 711.6 feet NGVD be maintained under the renewed license.

NSPW owns 76.9 acres of land within the project vicinity, primarily adjacent to the dam and powerhouse. The remaining lands within the project are privately owned.

The White River Reservoir encompasses approximately 39.9-acres and has a storage capacity of approximately 297 acre-feet at reservoir elevation 711.6 feet NGVD. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 26 feet, and an average depth of 7 feet.

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

  • White River Boat Landing and Canoe Portage Take-out
  • White River Tailrace Fishing Area
  • White River Canoe Portage Put-in

Process Description
NSPW 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, a request was filed asking FERC to allow NSPW 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. NSPW’s rationale and justification for utilizing the TLP is included in the submittal.

The initial activities on the TLP plan and schedule included filing the PAD and NOI, as well as the request to use the TLP. FERC approved utilization of the TLP on September 16, 2020, beginning stage one of the formal three-stage consultation process. In accordance with this schedule, NSPW held a virtual Joint Agency Meeting on October 29, 2020. An in-person site visit to the project was held on June 17, 2021. Comments on the PAD and study requests were submitted by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, National Park Service, Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Stage two consultation began after the written comments were received. This consultation included studies that were needed to identify potential resource impacts. The final study summary, including the final study plans addressing stakeholder comments, was submitted to FERC on April 21, 2022. Studies were conducted in 2022. Final study results were included in the Draft License Application (DLA), which was filed on March 6, 2023. Stakeholder review of the DLA took place between March 6, 2023 and June 5, 2023 (90 days).

The Final License Application (FLA) was filed with FERC on July 21, 2023. Stage three consultation began with the filing of the FLA.

It is anticipated the following will occur between July 31, 2023 and July 31, 2025:

  • 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 July 31, 2025.

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