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Sunday, December 3, 2023
Dec. 3, 2023

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Goldendale Energy Storage project wins water quality OK

By , Columbian staff writer

The Washington Department of Ecology on Monday issued a water quality certification for the Goldendale Energy Storage project, a development that would generate up 1,200 megawatts of electricity from the Columbia River.

The plan involves installing two reservoirs at different elevations near the John Day Dam, with the lower pool existing on a portion of a former aluminum smelter, where toxic cleanup is necessary. Each reservoir would be connected by a pipe with reversible turbines, allowing the system to store water in its upper pool and release it downhill when energy is needed. Think of them functioning as batteries.

If approved, the project would power roughly 500,000 homes, according to Department of Ecology.

A water quality certification requires construction and subsequent operations to meet state water standards, though this approval doesn’t mean development is underway. Government agencies must issue additional licenses and permits before the project can proceed, which are expected to occur in following years.

The Goldendale Energy Storage Project previously underwent an environmental review, which found it would result in 193.6 acres of permanently lost habitat and disturb 54 acres. Golden eagles, little brown bats and smooth desert parsley are among the special species impacted by the project.

It also noted that cultural resources, including Indigenous archeological sites and traditional foods and medicines, would be inhibited by the project. The Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Umatilla Reservation and Warm Springs Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs said there are no mitigation efforts that could spare these impacts, according to the environmental statement.

A design is expected to be finalized by 2024 if all goes according to plan, with construction underway by 2027,
according to the project timeline. Commercial operations will begin in 2028.

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