The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 14, 2012

FERC seeks feedback on hydro projects: Hawks Nest and Glen Ferris

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

— From recreation to endangered species, the public will have a chance to weigh in on issues related to the re-licensing of two hydroelectric projects in Fayette County at two upcoming meetings.

The Hawks Nest and Glen Ferris hydro projects, which supply power to West Virginia Alloys Inc., are up for review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

A public scoping meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hawks Nest State Park Lodge is primarily for receiving input from the public.

A second meeting Thursday at 10 a.m., also at the lodge, will focus on resource agency, Indian tribes and non-governmental organization concerns.

The scoping process is designed to ensure that any pertinent issues, concerns or opportunities for enhancement are identified and analyzed before the FERC launches into its evaluation of the utility’s license application.

FERC will review all feedback and decide which issues need further study and how deeply.

Already, a coalition of whitewater industry and environmental groups is proposing a study to determine the impact of releasing more water from the Hawks Nest Dam into an area of the New River known as “The Dries” for commercial and private whitewater recreation.

More information on the campaign can be found at http://www.americasbestwhitewater.com/wet-the-dries-2/.

Meeting attendees should come prepared to discuss their issues and concerns.

A key document to review at this point is called a “Scoping Document,” which outlines some of the issues that will be considered during the review process. These include the project’s impacts on aquatic resources, terrestrial resources, threatened and endangered species, geologic and soil resources, and recreation and land use.

The other key filing is the 233-page Pre-Application Document (PAD), which includes information submitted by stakeholders in the project to date.

Both documents can be reviewed at the eLibrary on ferc.gov. Search for the P-2512 docket and then click the “File List” link under the appropriate documents (labeled “NOI/PAD” and “Letter inviting interested agencies to participate in the meetings").

Ultimately, the FERC will decide whether to make no changes to the license, accept the utility’s proposed changes or accept alternatives to the proposed changes.

Right now, Hawks Nest Hydro, a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy, holds the license. It is not proposing any changes to the license at this time.

One alternative that has been ruled out by the FERC is decommissioning of the hydro projects, either with or without dam removal.

At the Hawks Nest Dam, approximately 10,000 cfs of water from the New River is diverted through a 3.5-mile downslope tunnel under Gauley Mountain.

This creates a 5.6-mile section of the river known as “The Dries,” with minimum flows of 100 cfs continuously released from the dam into this section. Large boulders protrude from the low water in this area, which is utilized for fishing, bouldering and other recreational uses.

The diverted water reemerges at Hawks Nest Hydro plant near Gauley Bridge, which generates an annual average of 541,845 MWh of electricity. The power is sold to West Virginia Alloys Inc., a silicon metal producer nearby.

The Glen Ferris Project consists of a low dam on the Kanawha River near the town of Glen Ferris that creates a 2.2 mile long reservoir extending upriver. Two powerhouses near the dam generate an average of 34,400 MWh annually. No changes are proposed to this project either.

Under the current license, Hawks Nest Hydro pays an “annual fish mortality compensation payment” to West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR) to mitigate “turbine-induced impacts to fish.” They also provide $50,000 to the WVDNR for recreational facilities at Cotton Hill and Kanawha Falls.

Oral and written comments highlighting significant environmental and socioeconomic issues can be submitted until Nov. 21.

After the scoping meetings, Hawks Nest Hydro has until the end of 2015 to file its application.

For assistance in accessing any of the documents, contact FERC Online Support at FERCONlineSupport@ferc.gov or toll free at 1-866-208-3676.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com