EPHRATA - The group governing the Grant County Public Utility District's dam operating license approved the agency's shoreline management plan recently.
With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval, specific plans to protect the shorelines surrounding the Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams can move forward, according to PUD spokesperson Sarah Morford.
According to the commission's decision, the district's plan is in the public's interest because it protects the shore's environmental and public recreation resources, preserves historic and cultural resources and protects scenic quality and aesthetic resources.
The commission also supports the utility's plan to transition Crescent Bar Island to full public use, according to a PUD statement. Included in FERC's decision was their approval of the agency's proposed land use along the reservoir shoreline, which includes Crescent Bar Island.
But the PUD, the Port of Quincy and Crescent Bar islanders are currently engaged in litigation over the utility's ability to return the island to full public use.
Morford said the components of the shoreline plan regarding Crescent Bar Island will be put on hold
"We're still determining how the shoreline management plan impacts litigation," she said. "We're still in an appeal process, so we're waiting on the next decision from the court." Crescent Bar Inc. sued the PUD and the Port of Quincy in 2010. Crescent Bar claimed the utility had an obligation to extend leases to 2023, according to a 2012 PUD news release.
The islanders' lease with the Port of Quincy and the port's lease with PUD both expired in 2012, according to the PUD. The agency requested that the Port of Quincy and Crescent Bar Inc. enter into a binding arbitration with PUD.
The court later determined that a binding arbitration was not required, Morford said. PUD appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and is currently waiting for a decision, she said.
Morford said the PUD is committed to full public use of the island.
"Our long term plan calls for the creation of enhanced boat launches, water trails and day use, camping and picnic facilities," she said. "Amenities that would be of interest to the public."
FERC commissioners said the disagreement as to whether the PUD must renew or extend a lease that allows private entities to keep their facilities on the island was outside their scope of review.
"Grant PUD has independently determined that not renewing the lease is in the best interest of it and its ratepayers," read the decision.
PUD commission President Terry Brewer said although the next steps regarding the lawsuit are still being determined, FERC's approval of the shoreline management plan is a step in the right direction.
"We look forward to the day all members of the public can recreate anywhere along shorelines within our control," he stated.