FERC cancels permit held by Boardman River dams removal backers

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has canceled a preliminary permit held by backers of a plan to remove three mothballed hydro projects from Michigan’s Boardman River.

While the three-year preliminary permit ostensibly allowed Grand Traverse County and Traverse City, Mich., time to study developing the 2.175-MW Boardman River project (No. 13284), in effect, it kept competitors from attempting to redevelop the project during a campaign to remove Boardman’s three developments, Boardman Dam (1 MW), Brown Bridge Dam (675 kW), and Sabin Dam (500 kW).

According to an Aug. 29 news release by the Boardman River Dams Project, a dam removal coalition, Grand Traverse County and Traverse City voted to proceed with dam removal in April 2009, two months after they had received the FERC permit. The Boardman River Dams Project Internet site, www.theboardman.org, identifies the county and city as members of the group’s dam removal Implementation Team.

At the time of permit issuance, FERC noted a number of commenters raised concerns that the city and county have no intention of pursuing project development and filed a permit application only to prevent other entities from developing the project. However, at that time, FERC said it could cancel the permit if the city and county failed to show sufficient progress in studying the project.

After repeated complaints that the permit holders filed late progress reports that listed no specific progress, FERC acted Sept. 19, canceling the preliminary permit and denying a request to extend the permit by one year.

“The permittee was notified on Feb. 11, 2011, and Aug. 17, 2011, that its fourth and fifth progress reports, respectively, were overdue, and the permit would likely be canceled in no less than 30 days,” FERC said. “In both cases, the permittee submitted identical progress reports that failed to describe, for the specific reporting period, the nature and timing of what the permittee had done under the pre-filing requirements of the commission’s regulations, as required by Article 4 of the preliminary permit. Therefore, the preliminary permit is canceled.”

Competitors could file Oct. 20; drawdowns slated to begin

The permit cancellation is effective at FERC’s close of business Oct. 19. No competing preliminary permit applications may be filed until the next day, FERC said.

When FERC approved the original permit, it denied competing applications by Peterson Machinery Sales (No. 13143), to develop all three dams also totaling 2.175 MW, and NM Hydroelectric Power LLC (No. 13129), to develop only Sabin Dam at 500 kW. If Peterson or NM Hydroelectric should decide to refile, they could not do so until Oct. 20.

Meanwhile, the Boardman River Dams Project issued a news release Sept. 16, saying the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had issued permits for interim drawdown of the impoundments at Brown Bridge and Sabin dams. It said the interim drawdowns would begin the week of Sept. 19 by using existing water control structures, rather than breaching the dams. The project Implementation Team said there would be a gradual lowering of the pond levels during the fall.

In 2006, Traverse City Light & Power surrendered the FERC license of the 800-kW Brown Bridge project (No. 2978) and the FERC exemptions of the 500-kW Sabin (No. 2980) and 1-MW Boardman (No. 2979) projects. The utility found the projects, built between 1867 and 1921, were no longer economically feasible to operate.

For more FERC news, click here.

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