GRDA)made their formal e-filing of notice of intent to file license application and pre-application documents with FERC for the Pensacola Hydroelectric Project.

MIAMI - The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) made their formal e-filing of notice of intent to file license application and pre-application documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Feb. 1 for the Pensacola Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1494).

The purpose of the pre-application is to provide FERC and interested parties with existing information relevant to the Pensacola Project including background, the relicensing process and schedule, operations, engineering, environmental and natural resources, recreation, cultural resources, and socioeconomic aspects of the Pensacola Project.

“This existing, relevant, and reasonably available information enables FERC, GRDA, and interested parties to identify issues and study needs and to develop focused study requests and plans where necessary...and formally initiates the relicensing process for this Project,” GRDA states in their document.

GRDA's current license to operate the Pensacola Project was issued by FERC on April 24, 1992 and expires March 31, 2022. The original license for the Pensacola Project was issued in 1939.

The license of the project consists of the Pensacola Dam, spillway, Grand Lake reservoir and six penstocks supplying flow to six turbines each rated at 17,446 kilowatts attached to six generators each rated at 24,000 kilovolt-ampere or 26,000 kilowatts, and a tailrace and spillway channel and appurtenant facilities for the operations. The Project has an installed capacity of 105,176 kilowatts.

The project is located on the Grand River in Craig, Delaware, Mayes and Ottawa counties in Oklahoma and is located by the cities and towns of Miami, Wyandotte, Langley, Grove, Bernice, Disney, Afton, Ketchum, and Fairland as well as 20 local Native American Tribes.

GRDA is a non-appropriated agency of the State of Oklahoma, created by the Oklahoma legislature in 1935 to be a “conservation and reclamation district for the waters of the Grand River.”

As licensed by FERC, the Project serves multiple purposes, including hydropower generation, water supply, public recreation, and wildlife enhancement.

In GRDA's filing they state, “As directed by Congress under the Flood Control Act of 1944, 58 Stat. 887, 890- 91, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has exclusive jurisdiction over Grand Lake for flood control purposes.”

"GRDA has elected to use the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) to provide the framework for its consultation with agencies, tribes, and other stakeholders for the Pensacola Project relicensing," GRDA's Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan wrote to FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose.

In conjunction with this filing, GRDA is requesting that the Commission designate GRDA as the Commission’s non-federal representative for carrying out informal consultation, pursuant to (1) Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and the joint agency regulations thereunder at 50 CFR part 402, Section 305(b) of the Magnuson- Stevens Act and the implementing regulations at 500 CFR 600.920; and (2) Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the implementing regulations at 36 CFR 800.2(c)(4).

Sullivan wrote to Bose that the main body of the document and all but one attachment is being filed publicly. The excluded attachment contains sensitive information related to archaeological and historic resources, therefore, pursuant to 18 C.F.R. §§ 388.112(b), GRDA accordingly requests designation and special treatment as Privileged material. 

In accordance with FERCs regulations, GRDA is also transmitting electronic notification via posting on the relicensing website, www.grda.com/pensacola-relicensing, or CD and/or paper copies of the pre-application document to relevant resource agencies, Native American tribes, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and other interested stakeholders (identified in an attached Distribution List) concurrent with the filing.

GRDA asserts they have exercised due diligence in identifying, requesting and obtaining relevant information concerning the project and its surroundings and has researched and analyzed this data and information in preparation. GRDA also has initiated outreach to interested parties and mailed 182 questionnaires to federal and state resource agencies, tribes, local governments, NGOs, area universities, and other entities that might have relevant information related to the Project. In response, 20 completed forms, and 6 emails/letters were received by GRDA.

GRDA met with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), and Oklahoma Archaeological Society (OAS) to introduce the relicensing process prior to filing of the PAD. GRDA has incorporated the results of these early outreach and consultation efforts into this PAD.

The schedule provided by GRDA in accordance with FERC sets out a three-year timeframe for the substantially lengthy process During the course of the Project relicensing process, communication will take place through public meetings, conference calls, and written correspondence.

GRDA will hold public relicensing participant meetings at various times throughout the relicensing process and provide advance written notification to all parties on the relicensing distribution list and will seek to provide at least 15 days advance notice of the meeting date, although in some circumstances a shorter advance notice period may be warranted. Additional agency meetings will be integrated into the relicensing schedule. “GRDA, in partnership with federal and state resources agencies, supports numerous water quality, wildlife, recreation, and natural resource monitoring efforts in the Project vicinity,” GRDA states in their pre-application. “Recent license amendment applications regarding proposed changes to the operating rule curve and completion of the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for the Project also provide detailed Project vicinity information to inform the description of existing conditions and to support the analysis of potential effects of proposed Project operations for the new license term.”

GRDA operates the Pensacola Project as well as the downstream Markham Ferry Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2183), the Salina Pumped Storage Project (FERC No. 2524), and managing three lakes (Pensacola Project’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Markham Ferry Project’s Lake Hudson, and Salina Project’s W.R. Holway Reservoir), along the Grand River system. GRDA produces electricity that reaches into 75 of 77 counties in Oklahoma. GRDA sells electricity to three customer classes: municipalities, electric cooperatives, and industries.

GRDA reports the flood control pool associated with Grand Lake consists of the storage volume available between the target pool elevation, which varies seasonally between 741 and 744 feet, and the upper elevation of 755 feet.

The current target elevations for the project are from May 1 to31, 742 to 744 feet, June 1 to 31 maintain 744 feet, Aug. 1 to Aug. 15 lower 744 to 743 feet, Aug. 16 to 31 lower to 743 to 741 feet, Sept. 1 to Oct. 15 maintain 741 feet, Oct. 16 to 31 raise to 741 to 742 feet, ad Nov. 1 through April 30 maintain elevation at 742 feet.

“When reservoir elevations are either within the flood control pool (i.e., above elevation 745 feet) or projected to rise into the flood control pool, the Tulsa District of USACE directs the water releases from the dam under the terms of Section 7 of the Flood Control Act of 1944, 58 Stat. 887, 890-91, as defined in the guiding protocol of the 1992 Letter of Understanding and Water Control Agreement between USACE and GRDA (FERC 1996). When directed to make lake releases by USACE, GRDA first discharges as much water as possible through the Project’s hydropower units. Once the Project has reached the powerhouse’s maximum hydraulic capacity, USACE may direct GRDA to open one or more spillway gates if the conservation pool is still rising, but typically not unless the water surface elevation exceeds, or is projected to exceed 745 feet. USACE will then determine if additional gates need to be opened. The target discharge rate at any time is based on the current Grand Lake water surface elevation, the current estimated Grand Lake inflow rate, and the amount of projected flooding downstream in the Grand or Arkansas River basins (GRDA 2011a),” GRDA reports.

The operating goal of the project is to use any water in the project’s flood control pool for power generation, up to the maximum hydraulic capacity of the turbines, whenever possible. Typically, GRDA does not operate the Project’s hydropower units when the Grand Lake water surface elevation is below target, according to GRDA’s pre-application.

“GRDA has been granted three temporary variances from the rule curve requirements under Article 4018 of the Project’s FERC license, which were issued by the FERC on Aug. 15, 2012, Aug. 14, 2015, and Aug. 12, 2016. The purpose of the 2012 variance was to alleviate drought conditions and the 2015 and 2016 variances were to increase water levels for recreation and boater safety and to maintain adequate DO levels downstream of the Project in the event of a drought event. While tribes and other parties with interests in the upstream areas of Grand Lake raised concerns during the respective proceedings that the variance would cause greater flooding upstream of the Project in the vicinity of the City of Miami, each year GRDA implemented the variance consistent with the relevant storm and drought adaptive management plans without incident during the applicable timeframe,” GRDA states.

In 2016, GRDA filed an application with FERC to permanently amend the Article 401 rule curve during the August-October period each year, coupled with a proposed Drought Adaptive Management Plan and Storm Adaptive Management Plan. As proposed, these plans would provide for GRDA, in consultation with federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, and other interested parties, to adjust reservoir operations in response to severe weather conditions through the year. GRDA’s rule curve amendment application is separate and apart from this relicensing proceeding and remains pending before FERC as of the publication of the pre-application.

GRDA is not proposing any modifications in the pre-application for shoreline management, recreation management, water supply, and wildlife enhancement.

GRDA’s documents include the monthly annual generation from 2011 to 2015 from a low of 1,098 MWh in November of 2012 to a high of 85,390 MWh in July of 2015, or an increase of annual total of 323,096 in 2011 to 527,694 MWh in 2015. The current net investment of Pensacola Project is approximately $506,000,000.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1