The road to relicensing Chelan PUD's Rock Island Dam officially begins this month - Dec. 15.  

The formal process takes a minimum of five years, but PUD Hydro Licensing Manager Janel Ulrich says they've been preparing since 2021.  

"One thing that we spent a lot of time doing was an effort we call early engagement," said Ulrich. "So, this is basically doing as much as we can prior to the formal relicensing process, to get things done that everyone agrees makes good sense.  

Relicensing is a public process that requires the PUD and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to evaluate aspects of environmental quality near the dam, such as protection of fish and wildlife, flood control and recreation. 

One example representing the PUD's responsibility would be the Horan Natural Area, a nature & wildlife preserve along the Wenatchee River as it feeds into the Columbia River. 

The PUD must protect the environmental quality within a boundary area surrounding the dam. 

"What it ends up being is the reservoir, and FERC approved recreation sites," Ulrich said. "And then the reservoir, it's as far up as we have a backwater effect. So, for Rock Island, the project boundary extends up the Wenatchee River to a certain elevation."  

The project boundary extends north on the Columbia River to just downstream from the Rocky Reach Dam to 1,000 to 3,000 feet south of the Rock Island Dam itself. 

The new license will require the PUD to invest in protection, mitigation and enhancement measures. FERC determines what those measures are based on scientific studies and historical information. 

The license is a 30-to-50-year permit from FERC, which authorizes Chelan PUD to continue generating power.  

Chelan PUD has operated Rock Island for 68 years and the next license will be Rock Island’s third. The current 40-year license for Rock Island expires in 2028. 

During a presentation to PUD commissioners Monday, Ulrich said they've conducted six formal studies and three evaluations, and organized several technical working groups that involve more than 130 people from 43 entities. 

The final license application is due Dec. 31, 2026 and a new license may be issued as soon as January 2029. 

The Rock Island Dam is Chelan PUD's second largest power producer behind Rocky Reach Dam.