The 2.3MW FERC-licensed Tallasee Shoals project, which is currently not operational because of equipment problems is located on the Middle Oconee river and is owned and operated by the Fall Line Hydro Company, Inc.
Certifying an existing dam that is not operating, in this case for four years, presents a situation not specifically addressed by LIHI criteria. However, there is nothing in LIHI’s criteria that precludes certification of a non-operating project. Since non-operation makes it impossible to assess compliance by the project with terms and conditions of its FERC license regarding flows, and with impacts of the operating project on water quality, the LIHI Governing Board has included the following supplemental compliance verification conditions in its certification decision for the Tallassee Shoals Hydroelectric Project:
• At 90 days and 120 days after commencement of operation (commercial operation of main turbine), the applicant must submit proof of compliance with minimum bypass flow requirements and downstream water quality standards.
• On an annual basis beginning with the first anniversary of the effective LIHI Low Impact certification date, the applicant must submit documentation relating to the status of any recovery activities and compliance or non-compliance for any prescribed requirements of the Project for robust redhorse and anadromous or catadromous fisheries in the Oconee River watershed.
The run-of-the-river Tallassee Shoals Project consists of: a concrete dam; headrace and two 2.4m diameter penstocks; a powerhouse with two generating units with an installed capacity of 2.3MW. The project was constructed in 1984-85 and began operation in 1986.
The 1.3MW Pawtucket hydroelectric project, a FERC-licensed facility, is located on the Blackstone river, and is owned and operated by Pawtucket Hydropower, LLC.
The project consists of a brick and timber dam, about 61m long and 1.2m high, constructed at the top of waterfalls about 4m high; a reservoir of negligible storage; an intake structure and brick-lined underground tunnel (penstock) 5.3m in diameter and 40m long; a brick and granite hydroelectric station building, and a tailrace, 27.4m long and 13.7m wide.
In conjunction with FERC’s issuance of the 1981 license exemption to the project’s previous owner, Blackstone Valley Electric Company, waterwheels and generators were replaced with turbines. Today the project operates two 1.9m full Kaplan turbines with total installed capacity of 1300kW and average annual generation of 4000MWh. The facility operates in run-of-river mode.
LIHI received two public comments on this application, both expressing concerns about or opposing the project’s certification. One was from Russ Cohen, River Advocate, Massachusetts Riverways Programs (part of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement) who expressed the sentiment that providing fish passage at the facility should be a prerequisite to LIHI certification. The other, John Torgan, Narragansett BayKeeper, Save the Bay, contends that the facility results in the entrainment, impingement, and destruction of fish. Torgan writes that Save the Bay would reconsider its objection to certification contingent on the applicant’s explicit agreement to cooperate in the state fish restoration program, and to implement measures to prevent entrainment and impingement.
The applicant submitted rebuttals to both letters. The letters and rebuttals are available on the LIHI website.
The Board’s vote to certify the Pawtucket project as a Low Impact facility was by a majority with five votes in favor, one opposed, and one abstention. In recognition of concerns raised during the deliberation, the Board certified the Pawtucket Project with the following supplemental conditions:
• If the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) implements a plan for restoring anadromous fish to the Blackstone river and the facility contests a requirement to construct and operate any ‘…fish passage facilities and any other appropriate project modifications…’ under Exemption Standard Article 2 (which incorporates the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s May 21, 1981 comment letter), , LIHI certification of the Pawtucket project shall be suspended subject to the project’s continuing compliance with other requirements of LIHI certification.
• If the resource agencies prevail in the dispute, and the project complies with the resource agencies’ orders, LIHI will restore the project’s certification.
• If the resource agencies prevail in the dispute, and the project refuses to comply with the resource agencies’ orders, LIHI will revoke the project’s certification.
• If the project prevails in the dispute and the resource agencies’ recommendations are overturned by a legal proceeding, those recommendations will cease to be valid and LIHI will restore the project’s certification subject to the project’s continuing compliance with other requirements of LIHI certification.
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