Upon its decision to pursue the Castle Creek Energy Center (CCEC), the City of Aspen is required to seek the approval of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC).  The City of Aspen's preliminary application document information is available on the FERC Online eLibrary.
Small Conduit Exemption
In preparing the CCEC project, the City of Aspen first filed a “Draft Application for Exemption of Small Conduit Hydroelectric Facilities” through the FERC licensing process. The decision to seek this exemption was based on the project’s relatively small size 
and the fact that much of the infrastructure would be in place whether or not electricity was generated. 
The City’s initial strategy to pursue an Exemption for the CCEC was due to a desire to save time and taxpayer money by going forward with a project they had determined—through independently commissioned stream habitat studies and monitoring reports—to be environmentally sound. Although many of these studies conducted by the City were not required to qualify for the Exemption, the City undertook them due to its commitment to environmental responsibility. 
Minor Water Power Project
After receiving feedback from community mediation and a community forum involving interested individuals and groups, the City of Aspen determined that a Minor Water Power Project license application would be the best process for the CCEC. Accordingly, the City elected not to file a final application for exemption, and instead began the process of obtaining a Minor Water Power Project license. 
This process results in submitting the CCEC to the Commission’s full licensing review processes and requirements, including environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
FERC has three available licensing processes for hydropower projects:
The Traditional Licensing Process (TLP)
The Integrated Licensing Process (ILP)
The Alternative Licensing Process (ALP)
The appropriateness of each process to review a given water power project depends on the individual details surrounding the project in question.
After considering the pre-application document (PAD), FERC concluded that the proposed CCEC project is “relatively straightforward” and that “the TLP is adequate for the proposed Castle Creek Project”, noting the following:
“The City's proposal and PAD contain an extensive amount of existing information about the project. The PAD's Final Environmental Report describes the existing conditions in Castle and Maroon Creeks and the areas that would potentially be affected by building and operating the proposed project. Responding to requests by resource agencies, the report includes the results of four recent studies on existing fish populations and the potential effect of the project on stream habitat and amphibians.
"Based on the information in the PAD and other available information, staff does not anticipate a significant need for new studies."
Example FERC Traditional Licensing Process (TLP) -DRAFT-
(click on the flow chart to view a larger version)
From beginning to end, the TLP process takes around 2 years. During this time, FERC will oversee a rigorous and multi-stakeholder assessment of project impacts.
Some notable elements of the TLP are:
- An Environmental Assessment (EA) following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines will be conducted.
- There will be several opportunities for public comments ensuring all aspects of the project are considered and every perspective is heard.
For questions and comments, please send us an email at email@example.com or call 970-920-5110.
[ Under the Federal Power Act, FERC “has the exclusive authority to license most nonfederal hydropower projects…”]
[ “Conduit exemptions are authorized for generating capacities 15 megawatts or less for non-municipal and 40 megawatts or less for a municipal project.”]
[ “The conduit has to have been constructed primarily for purposes other than power production…”]
 “Those receiving an exemption are exempt from the requirements of Part I of the Federal Power Act”, meaning, among other things, they are not required to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
[ Defined as “…any licensed or unlicensed, existing or proposed water power project that would have a total installed generation capacity of 2,000 horsepower (1.5 MW), or less.”]
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