Archiving Project Data for FERC Review: What’s Working

To provide the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with electronic versions of supporting technical information documents, or STIDs, for each of its eight high-hazard hydroelectric projects, We Energies ’ hydro engineering group needed a centralized, efficient information system. So, the group scanned reports, created links between these electronic documents, and provided a search function.

By Joseph W. Kick

Organizing information so that it is available when we need it increases our efficiency and effectiveness, as well as that of our business units. As Samuel Johnson, an important 18th century English author, wrote, “The next best thing to knowing something is to know where to find it. ”

With all the information required to properly operate and maintain dams and hydroelectric projects, an efficient information system is vital. We Energies ’ hydro engineering group has always tried to keep its technical reports in an accessible, easy-to-use format.

The group ’s report storage system, the Hydro Engineering Reference System (HERS), has been in use for 15 years. I borrowed part of a system from a previous employer to create HERS for the technical reports or studies that have accumulated for the 13 dams and 14 powerhouses within We Energies ’ Hydroelectric Operations Division. These technical reports often were used in Part 12 inspection reports for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Division of Dam Safety and Inspections or at least referenced in these reports.

The hydro group uses “magazine bankers boxes ” to store bound technical reports, previous Part 12 studies, historical reports, bound photographs, construction reports, plans and specifications, repair records, surveillance reports, and more. These boxes are numbered consecutively by an abbreviation of the dam name and a consecutive number. For large reports in three-ring binders, the binders are given the same number system as a box.

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All reports are included chronologically in a “living ” spreadsheet that staff members update periodically and is available as a “read-only ” file in the computer system and as a paper copy in the library. An individual seeking a historical report can scan the spreadsheet, identify the storage box, and access the report. A checkout column in the library copy lets the user “sign out ” a copy of the report.

Beginning in 2003, FERC ’s Division of Dam Safety and Inspections asked all licensees, including We Energies, to perform potential failure mode analyses (PFMAs) and prepare supporting technical information documents (STIDs) for its projects.

An STID is a comprehensive, up-to-date document that contains all current and approved studies for geology, hydrology, hydraulics, stability analyses, as well as data on operations, correspondence, inspection reports, and surveillance.In paper form, each of these reports fill three 5-inch-thick three-ring binders. And this does not include the referenced technical reports!

The hydro group ’s paper-based system was adequate to cover FERC ’s need with regard to the PFMAs. However, the group felt that a computerized system would provide more interactive electronic data, as well as preserve any historical reports and construction photographs and save storage space.

Developing HIS

In early 2004, I used Adobe Acrobat Standard software to scan reports into portable document format (pdf) files to provide the electronic form of the STID that FERC requested. But, these pdfs were not linked and were merely electronic files organized by each particular section of the STID. This was not user-friendly in accessing information.

By the end of 2004, the hydro group developed its Hydro Information System (HIS) to provide a better, more user-friendly interactive electronic version of the STIDs for its high-hazard projects. The group used Adobe Acrobat Standard software to archive and organize the first STID. By using electronic links from table of contents pages, the group can locate key information, photographs, data, or technical reports included in the STID for its hydro projects; print the information; or provide a user-friendly CD-Rom version of any part of the STID and its historical reports to its consultants or to FERC staff. This system has made it far easier to find information in the STID and have the STID become a “living document ” as FERC intended.

Figure 1: The homepage for We Energies ’ Hydro Information System (HIS) consists of a location map of the entire hydroelectric system, with links to the five projects that are currently part of HIS.
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A search function also lets the user find key text or analyses included in the STID. In addition, those who only want to search or review the STID, not update it, can use Adobe Reader software. This program can be downloaded for free at

Figure 1 shows the HIS homepage, which is available to users of the We Energies hydro group computer system as a shortcut on their desktops. This homepage consists of a location map of the entire hydroelectric system, with links to the five projects that are currently part of HIS. The remaining three high-hazard projects will be included by the end of 2006. The user “clicks ” on the underlined name of the dam to bring up a particular project homepage.

Each homepage features four sections:

— Data Book, a technical summary sheet of the project;

— EAP (Emergency Action Plan);

— Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Manual; and


Clicking on STID brings up that homepage. From there, users can access a table of contents that contains links to various sections of the STID. A bookmark lets the user return to the homepage if desired. Each section of the STID contains a link to that particular section ’s table of contents, which then links to the pertinent information within a section.

HIS is the hydro group ’s plan for managing and accessing the information within the engineering section, all its FERC correspondence, FERC reports, field data, licensing information, and ultimately drawings. This is all made easy with Adobe Acrobat Standard, in which you can quickly create a pdf of any document that you can print. Training employees to use the software is fast and easy.

The result is an immense amount of technical information available from a desktop and/or from a user-friendly CD. Although the group can only fit one STID and its technical reports on a CD, ultimately the group expects to put all eight projects together on one DVD.

We are not quite fully electronic, but HIS already is saving us office shelf file space. A column in the HERS spreadsheet shows if the hard copy of a report has been scanned and provided in the electronic STID. HIS is showing us great efficiencies in information management. We can now quickly access data and information about our projects or their history, pertinent correspondence, and the many available drawings. HIS is our information storage system of the future.

Mr. Kick may be reached at We Energies, 800 Industrial Park Drive, Iron Mountain, MI 49801; (1) 906-779-2434; E-mail:

Joe Kick, P.E., is senior engineer with We Energies. He developed the use of Adobe Acrobat Standard software to create the information system described in the article.

Electronic Dam Safety Information: FERC ’s Perspective

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requests that all licensees compile and maintain a supporting technical information document, often referred to as an STID, for each of its projects. The purpose of the document is to place in one location the information needed to understand the project, its construction history, and its design and engineering elements.

Examples of the types of information in an STID are: detailed description of the project and project works, summary of the construction history of the project, a copy of the most recent potential failure mode analysis (PFMA) report, the instrumentation and surveillance plan, summaries and an engineering evaluation of instrumentation and surveillance data for the project, and pertinent correspondence from FERC and state organizations related to dam safety.

The STID is meant to be a “living ” document — as new data or analyses become available, this information is added to the document and the outdated material removed. FERC asks licensees to submit updates to the document every five years as part of the Part 12D independent consultant inspection process.

Chapter 14 of FERC ’s Engineering Guidelines for the Evaluation of Hydropower Projects calls for project licensees to provide the commission with copies of the STID in both printed and electronic formats.

In preparing the electronic format of the STID, FERC engineers in the Office of Energy Projects ’ Division of Dam Safety and Inspections encourage licensees to consider making the document searchable and interactive. Experience has shown that a search function is useful when needing to find information quickly, such as in an emergency.

— By Dan Mahoney, Acting Director, Division of Dam Safety and Inspections, Office of Energy Projects, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

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