Thursday, December 4, 2014

Applegate Dam hydroelectric project terminated by FERC

Applegate Dam and Reservoir
          The tale of the proposed hydropower generation facility on the Applegate Dam is one of corporate mergers, joint ventures and acquisitions, and less about actually generating electricity. 

            Symbiotics LLC originally obtained the license and permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2009, then later Ag Hydro LLC took over the license. Symbiotics and Ag Hydro are now both subsidiaries of Riverbank Power Corporation. Based in Toronto, Canada, Riverbank Power is a developer, constructor and operator of hydropower generation facilities in North and South America, with offices in Toronto, Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Lima, Peru.

            After all the efforts of the federal government; after all the corporate financing poured into the project; after all the energy of local Applegaters to attend public meetings and write public comments about the proposal, and after more than a decade, the project has been officially terminated by FERC. The reason as stated in FERC’s Order Terminating License issued October 16, 2014: “…we find that AG Hydro failed to commence project construction by the deadline established pursuant to section 13 of the Federal Power Act (FPA). We therefore must terminate the license.” However, after reading this Order it appears to me that Ag Hydro just completely dropped the ball. Read FERC'S Order Terminating License yourself; it is an interesting read.

The Applegate River emerging from the Applegate Dam

       Some of the reasons stated for the termination of the project within the Order are: 
  • Ag Hydro filed drawings stamped “Not for Construction."
  • Ag Hydro failed to submit a formal project financing plan. 
  • Ag Hydro’s steel liner design was considered unacceptable and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asked for major modifications to the project design, but Ag Hydro did not file an amendment application to address the issues. 
  • Ag Hydro did not meet the deadline to start project construction on December, 17 2011, and after being granted a two-year extension they didn’t meet the final deadline to start project construction on December, 17 2013. 
  • Ag Hydro submitted inadequate documentation to prove manufacturing of turbine components at its manufacturing facility in China. 
  • Ag Hydro submitted photos of blueprints that were ineligible and in Chinese, and the only dates on the drawings referenced 2006, predating the FERC license. 
  • Ag Hydro failed to complete other pre-construction requirements. 
  • Ag Hydro ordered turbines differing from those authorized in the license.

            It’s clear that it was in the best interest of Applegate Valley residents, the Applegate River and public coffers that this project was terminated by FERC. Despite being told by Symbiotics at public meetings here in the valley that they wanted to “work with the community,” it appears that Symbiotics/Ag Hydro didn’t even want to work with the agency, let alone the community, and they completely mismanaged this project.

            Unfortunately, we are still left with an uncertain future regarding the health of salmonid fish (fall chinook, coho, steelhead, and cutthroat trout) in the Applegate River. When the Applegate Dam was constructed in 1980 it blocked an estimated 35-80 miles of spawning and rearing habitat above the Applegate dam according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Coho salmon in the Applegate River belong to the Southern Oregon-Northern California Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit, which is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The 242 foot dam would require a fish ladder that would be 3.5 miles long to maintain the maximum 1.3% slope needed to keep the water velocity in the range of 6 to 12 feet per second to achieve the right conditions for upstream fish migration.

            Over and over the public has been told such a fish ladder would be financially unfeasible. That is why Ag Hydro had to include a plan within their proposal to trap adult steelhead at the dam’s base and truck them upstream above the dam, and retrofit the existing dam structure to allow fish to get back downstream on their own through a kind of chute. Hopefully the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Applegate Dam, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife can still find funding to restore fish to their original spawning streams above the Applegate Dam.

Suzie Savoie

No comments:

Post a Comment