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Public Empowerment 

by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he tall, hale fellow with the white hair had the ruddy skin and weathered clothing of someone who spends a fair amount of time outdoors. He had driven from Mica Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene to Spokane last week to address a table full of federal energy regulators.

"I'm a patient man," he said. "Two weeks ago, I went to your website and I'm still waiting for my password so I can make a comment."

The remark drew a round of chuckles as about 90 people turned out at two sessions to lob comments about Avista's five Spokane River dams at a

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission panel that is deciding the terms of the utility's next licenses.

"There was very good turnout, especially in the evening," says FERC's John Blair.

Many asked Avista to address issues other than power generation, especially releasing up to 500 cubic feet per second into north and middle channels of the river downtown. These channels are often dry when water is diverted through turbines. Avista is proposing a release of 200 cubic feet per second.

Significantly, a city official and the head of an economic development group each joined the call for greater aesthetic flows, albeit cautiously. Lloyd Brewer, a program manager with the city, and Rich Hadley, president of Greater Spokane Inc., praised Avista's contributions to the city, but told FERC that they'd go for more water through Riverfront Park if it's available.

All comments are considered, says Blair. A final document listing conditions for the dams will be ready by late summer, he says.
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