LIHI Certificate #30 - Lake Chelan Project, Washington

March 25, 2020 - COVID-19 Update:Trails and open spaces managed by Chelan PUD are open where social distancing can be maintained. A plan is being developed to provide essential staff to provide limited upkeep and maintenance of Chelan PUD managed parks.  The following is the current status.  As the situation continues to evolve, this information may change.

  • Boat launches: Chelan Riverwalk, Old Mill, and Manson park boat launches are open.
  • Park areas: Chelan Riverwalk, Old Mill, and Manson parks and parking lots are open.
  • All trails are open.
  • Restrooms: All restrooms are closed. Portable restrooms provided at Chelan Riverwalk, Old Mill, and Manson Parks.
  • Playgrounds, Ballfields, Sports Courts: All closed.

The Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project is located on the Chelan River, near the City of Chelan, in Chelan County, Washington. The project occupies 465.5 acres of federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) and U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service (Park Service).

The Lake Chelan Project consists of (a) Lake Chelan, a 1,486-foot deep, 55-mile long natural glacial lake that was raised 21 feet by the construction of the dam to a normal maximum water surface elevation of 1,100 feet mean sea level (msl); (b) a 40-foot-high, 490-foot-long concrete gravity dam; (c) a reinforced-concrete side discharge intake structure that is integral with the dam; (d) a 14-foot-diameter, 2.2-mile-long power tunnel; (e) a 45-foot-diameter by 125-foot- high steel surge tank; (f) a 90-foot-long penstock that transitions from 14 feet in diameter to 12 feet in diameter before bifurcating to two 90-foot-long, 9-foot-diameter steel penstocks; (g) a powerhouse containing two vertical-shaft, Francis-type turbine generators with a rated capacity of 24,000 kilowatts (kW) each for a total rated capacity of 48,000 kW; and (h) a 1,700-foot-long excavated tailrace adjacent to the confluence of the Chelan River and the Columbia River that returns the project flows to the Columbia River. The average annual electric generation by the project was 380,871 megawatt-hours (MWh) for the 20-year period, 1980-1999.

The Lake Chelan Project, which can be operated locally or remotely from Chelan PUD’s Wenatchee Dispatch Center, operates at full or near full capacity almost year round. Chelan PUD operates the project to maintain reservoir elevations between 1,100 and 1,079 feet msl, with the reservoir maintained above 1,098 feet for most of the summer recreation period. The reservoir is drawn down annually for power generation and storage of spring snowmelt beginning in early October, with the lowest lake levels being reached in April. The lake is refilled through May and June, to attain an elevation of 1,098 feet on or before June 30, where it is maintained above 1,098 feet through September 30. Spills typically occur during May, June, and July, when inflows exceed the hydraulic capacity of the powerhouse units (2,300 cubic feet per second (cfs)) or when generation is curtailed. Water is spilled over the spillway into the 4.5- mile-long reach of the Chelan River that is bypassed by the project.

Under the new license, Chelan PUD would have slightly greater flexibility in managing lake levels by establishing target elevations to be achieved between May 1 and October 1, rather than a fixed elevation by a date certain. Chelan PUD proposes to manage minimum lake elevations based on snow pack conditions, lake levels, predicted precipitation and runoff conditions, and operational objectives of maintaining minimum instream flows in the Chelan River, reducing high flows (greater than 6,000 cfs) in the Chelan River, providing usable lake levels for recreation (between 1,090 and 1,098), and ensuring the project can pass the probable maximum flood without dam failure, among other objectives. The previous license did not require a minimum flow release to the bypassed reach of the Chelan River. Chelan PUD proposes a minimum flow for the entire bypassed reach, supplemented with pumping of additional water from the tailrace into the lower portion of the Chelan River (Reach 4) to improve spawning habitat for listed salmon and steelhead. The proposed minimum flow varies depending on the time of year and whether it is a dry, normal, or wet water year.

Lake Chelan is a 32,560-acre reservoir at normal maximum water surface elevation of 1,100 feet msl, with a gross storage capacity of 15.8 million acre-feet and a useable storage of 677,400 acre-feet between elevations 1,079 and 1,100. Approximately 2,000 acres of land lie within the Lake Chelan Project boundary which follows the 1,100-foot contour line from the upper end of Lake Chelan near Stehekin, Washington, to the City of Chelan then continues down both sides of the 4.5-mile-long bypassed reach of the Chelan River to the confluence of the Chelan and Columbia rivers. About 1,300 acres of the project lands are inundated and project facilities occupy the other 700 acres. The project lands are owned by the Forest Service, Park Service, several state agencies, Chelan PUD, and private property owners. Approximately 465.5 acres are inundated federal lands.

There are no primary transmission lines included in the Lake Chelan Project.  A project switchyard located 70 feet from the powerhouse connects the project power to Chelan PUD’s interconnected transmission system.

Project Name Lake Chelan
LIHI Certificate No. 30
LIHI Certificate Term September 26, 2017 - September 25, 2022
Owner Public Utility District No. 1 of Chelan County
State Washington
Location Located at river mile 3.8 on the Chelan River, near the city of Chelan, in Chelan County, Washington.
Installed Capacity 59.2 MW
Average Annual Generation 412,400 MWh
Facility Type store and release
FERC No. P-637 issued 2006, expires 2056

Certification History

July 15, 2019: The decision to recertify the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project is final. No appeals were received during the appeal period which closed on February 17, 2019. The new certification term for the Project is from September 26, 2017 through September 25, 2022.

January 18, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification with the following conditions:

  • Condition 1::  The Owner shall notify LIHI within 90 days of receipt of the determination made by WDOE as to whether or not the results of the 10-year study have shown achievement of water quality standards or if not, what actions will be taken by WDOE in response to the study findings.
  • Condition 2:  The Owner shall notify LIHI within 90 days of notification that the entrainment study must be initiated. This LIHI notification shall include the schedule for implementing the study and when the results of the study are expected to be available. The annual compliance statements to LIHI shall include a status update of the study. Should it be completed with the term of this Certification, a copy of the study report along with agency comments on the results shall be provided.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented on the initial application during the 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the Project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to with “Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website.  The applicant will have an opportunity to respond and any response will also be posted. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on February 17, 2019.  The full application and reviewers report are available below.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Lake Chelan Project will be September 26, 2017 through September 25, 2022.

October 23, 2018: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project. The Project is located on the Chelan River in Chelan County, Washington.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2018 application materials below.

Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Lake Chelan Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on December 22, 2018 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.

December 27, 2012: The Lake Chelan Project has been recertified for a second five year term, effective September 26, 2012 and expiring September 26, 2017.

January 24, 2008: The Lake Chelan Hydropower Project has been certified as low impact.