Relicensing of a hydroelectric project begins at least two years before the old license expires.


After an application is filed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gives public notice, and any member of the public can comment. But to maintain a voice throughout the process, some petition to become intervenors by proving their direct interest in the decision. Nine out of 10 petitions are granted. In the case of Fossil Creek, the Yavapai Apache Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity and American Rivers all have intervenor status.


The Commission prepares an environmental analysis under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, and then it decides whether to relicense. At that point, only intervenors can file for a rehearing. If FERC doesn't grant one, intervenors can take the matter to federal appeals court.


A decade ago, few people got involved in the relicensing process, says Andrew Falund, of the Hydropower Reform Coalition. When they did, their voices were barely heard. That's changed, but with one caveat: "For individual citizens to become involved and be effective, they have to join with other like citizens and coalitions. There's no other way around it - it's much too complicated and much too resource-intensive."


The public can use the FERC facilities in Washington, D.C., for research. For more information on the relicensing process, call 202/208-0680 or check out FERC's Web site at www.ferc.fed.us.


*K.M.