An earlier ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit went into effect Monday, Aug. 27, meaning the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license for the 960.9-MW Coosa River hydro project has been vacated.
FERC granted the 30-year license to Alabama Power in July 2013. This combined three Alabama Power hydroelectric projects in Alabama and Georgia into a single 960.9-MW Coosa River project. Combined, the Coosa River project includes 87.75-MW Weiss, 72.9-MW Neely Henry, 128.25-MW Logan Martin, 177-MW Lay, 225-MW Bouldin, 170-MW Mitchell and 100-MW Jordan.
The judges said that portions of the Coosa River ecosystem are in fragile condition and, “A review of the licensed project’s impact on the environment and endangered species documented that the project would cause a 100% take of multiple endangered mussels, a large loss of indigenous fish, and perilously low dissolved oxygen levels for substantial periods of time.”
In a decision issued July 6, the court granted the second petition for review on the ground that the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion, which FERC adopted, and FERC’s environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act “were arbitrary and capricious, insufficiently reasoned, and unsupported by substantial evidence.”
Alabama Power is still allowed to operate the projects under its previous license but may have to find new ways to reduce their environmental impacts. The company must reapply to FERC for a license, although there is no indication when this may occur.