On March 20, 2014, FERC issued a pilot project license to Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington (“Snohomish PUD”) for the 600-kilowatt Admiralty Intel Pilot Tidal Project in Puget Sound, Washington.  Snohomish PUD proposes to install and operate a hydrokinetic turbine for a 10-year period to investigate whether tidal energy is commercially viable in Puget Sound.  The project will evaluate the performance, cost, and environmental effects of hydrokinetic tidal energy. 

During the pilot licensing process, FERC considered the effects the project will have on the PC-1 North fiber optic communication cable located 170 meters from the project.  PC-1 North is part of a cable system that runs in a loop between the U.S. and Japan called PC-1 Landing.  Pursuant to the Commission staff’s pilot project licensing white paper, a pilot project should, among other requirements, “be located in non-sensitive areas based on the Commission’s review of the record.”  In the order issuing the pilot license, FERC concluded that the project’s proximity to the cable did not render the project location a “sensitive area” because the pilot license includes safeguards that will adequately protect the cable.  The pilot license requires Snohomish PUD to protect the cable by developing and implementing a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (“HIRA”), which will define procedures for conducting marine operations without the use of anchors, define safe weather conditions required for marine operations, establish a port of refuge at least two kilometers away from the PC-1 North cable, and define the notification and reporting procedures for marine operations.

In addition to a HIRA, the license requires monitoring and safety plans designed to mitigate environmental and safety concerns.  Snohomish PUD must monitor noise levels radiating from the project, monitor for changes in the local benthic community as well as sediment accumulation and erosion, monitor interactions of fish and marine mammals with the turbines, monitor for accumulation of derelict fishing gear, and monitor for project-related changes in marine mammal behavior and inlet use.  Furthermore, the pilot license requires Snohomish PUD to implement procedures to address the affected area at the end of the pilot license, measures for identifying and responding to emergencies, procedures to shut down the project’s turbines during an emergency at the project, and consultation and notification protocols with the U.S. Coast Guard to protect navigation, among other requirements.

A copy of the order is available here.