The FERC scoping process has begun, and documents have been released as the next step in the process.
MIAMI – Ottawa County residents can mark their calendars with dates for opportunities to respond, comment and participate in the public scoping process of GRDA's (Grand River Dam Authority) Pre-Application Document filed for relicensing the Pensacola Hydroelectric Project No. 1494 with FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).
The scoping process has begun, and documents have been released as the next step in the process.
GRDA filed the pre-application on Feb. 1, 2017, and the Scoping Document 1 was released on Jan. 12, which spells out the steps to relicensing.
The deadline for filing comments is March 13, 2018.
In accordance with the amended National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, FERC staff intends to prepare an environmental analysis and impact statement. This NEPA information will be used to determine the relicense conditions imposed by FERC on GRDA's new license for a term of 30 to 50 years.
“To support and assist our environmental review, we are beginning the public scoping process to ensure that all pertinent issues are identified and analyzed and that the NEPA document is thorough and balanced,” FERC states in the Scoping Document 1.
The scoping document was released to provide information on the Pensacola Project, invite public participation, and solicit comments and suggestions on preliminary issues and alternatives to be addressed in the NEPA document.
FERC is also asking studies be identified that would help provide a framework for collecting pertinent information on the resource areas under construction necessary for the Commission to prepare the NEPA document for the project.
FERC has scheduled four public scoping meetings to receive input for the scope of the Pensacola Project's NEPA document.
Daytime Scoping Meeting - Langley at 9 a.m. on Feb. 7 at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center located at 420 E. Highway 28 in Langley.
Evening Scoping Meeting – Grove at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7 at Grove City Hall located at 104 W. 3rd Street in Grove.
Evening Scoping Meeting – Miami at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8 at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Fine Arts Center Performance Hall located at 200 I Street NE in Miami.
Daytime Scoping Meeting – Tulsa at 9 a.m. on Feb. 9 at the GRDA Engineering and Technology Center located at 9933 E. 16th Street in Tulsa.
The daytime meetings are focused on resource agencies', tribes', and non-governmental organizations' concerns. The evening meetings are primarily for the public, but the public, agencies, Indian tribes, and non-governmental organizations may attend either daytime or evening scoping meetings.
These meetings will be recorded by a court reporter and all statements written or verbal will become part of the Commission's public record for the Pensacola Project.
During the meetings, FERC will offer several opportunities for public input both oral and written.
An environmental site review of Pensacola Dam will be held 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 in Langley and is open to the public.
FERC reports that at this time, GRDA proposes no changes to the project's operation or facilities, but during relicensing GRDA proposes to investigate whether any changes to the project's seasonal rule curve, equipment replacements or modernization activities or general operations of facility efficiency improvements are warranted.
The Pre-Application Document is available for review at FERC's website at www.ferc.gov using the eLibrary link, enter the docket number P-1494 to access the documents.
Following the scoping meetings and comment period, all issues raised will be reviewed and decisions made as to the level of analysis needed.
If “substantive comments” are received FERC will issue a Scoping Document 2 for informational purposes only.
Grand Lake's flood control target pool elevation varies seasonally between 741 and 744 feet, and the upper elevation of 755 feet. The U.S. Corps of Engineers controls elevations between 755 and 760 feet for flood control operations. These flowage easements are in the process of being transferred to GRDA, according to FERC.
“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,” FERC states in the document.
GRDA manages environmental resources at the project with plans for dissolved oxygen monitoring and enhancement, gray bat compliance, fish and waterfowl habitat, recreation and shoreline management.
FERC and GRDA must consider dam safety constraints in the impact of any proposal or alternatives in the pending proceedings.
FERC considered and eliminated alternatives of a federal government takeover, non-power license, and project decommissioning of the Pensacola Project.
Cumulative effects and site-specific resource issues resulting from incremental effects of past, present, and foreseeable future actions are included in the scoping process. The geographic scope is analyzed as well as the temporal scope to look at the project’s reach and effects 30 to 50 years into the future.
“Cumulative effects can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time, including hydropower and other land and water development activities,” FERC states.
A preliminary list of environmental issues raised to date will be addressed in the project’s Environmental Impact Study including; geology and soil, water, fish and aquatic resources, terrestrial resources, threatened and endangered species, recreational use, land use, aesthetic, socioeconomic, cultural and developmental resources.
As part of the process, GRDA has identified and proposes studies covering geologic and soil resources, recreation, cultural and developmental resources.
FERC is seeking information from federal, state and local resource agencies such and the public such as quantitative data, professional opinions, and input regarding all aspects of the project.
FERC will be accepting public comments submitted no later than Mar. 13, and all comments must clearly identify the following on the first page: Pensacola Hydroelectric Project (P-1494-483).
Scoping comments may be filed electronically on FERC’s website at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling and must include name and contact information. FERC Online Support is available at 1-866-208-3676.
Electronic filing is strongly recommended but comments may also be filed by sending a copy to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20246.
The lengthy relicensing process now underway is scheduled to take five years to complete.
GRDA has been operating the Pensacola Project under a license issued in 1992, and that license expires March 31, 2022.
FERC, based in Washington, DC, is an independent federal agency tasked with regulating and overseeing energy industries in the economic, environmental and safety interests of the American public. Ultimately the five FERC Commissioners; Chairman Kevin J. McIntyre, Cheryl A. LaFleur, Neil Chatterjee, Robert F. Powelson and Richard Glick will make the final determination on the approval and conditions of GRDA’s relicense.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.