FERC draft environmental assessment backs licensing 50-MW R.C. Byrd hydro project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a draft environmental assessment recommending the licensing of the 50-MW Robert C. Byrd hydroelectric project at a Corps of Engineers dam on the Ohio River.

The city of Wadsworth, Ohio, filed an application to license the hydro project (No. 12796) at the Corps’ Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, built in 1937 on the Ohio River at Gallipolis Ferry, W.Va. In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service declared the Robert C. Byrd project eligible for $8 million in tax-credit bond allocations under the federal government’s Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program.

Wadsworth, a member of American Municipal Power, is developing the project with AMP, which operates the 44-MW Belleville hydro project and is developing four other projects on the Ohio.

The Robert C. Byrd hydro project would feature a 1,200-foot-long intake channel, two intakes with trashracks, a reinforced concrete powerhouse housing two bulb-type turbine-generators, a 900-foot-long tailrace channel and a 2.4-mile transmission line. It would generate 266,000 MWh annually operating in “run-of-release” mode, whenever the Corps made flows available.

The FERC draft environmental assessment issued July 8 found the project “would not constitute a major federal action that would significantly alter the quality of the human environment,” meaning it does not require a full environmental impact statement.

“Based on our analysis, we recommend licensing the project as proposed by Wadsworth with some staff modifications and additional measures,” FERC staff said in the draft EA.

The staff modifications primarily would impose additional environmental safeguards beyond those proposed by the license applicant.

The draft EA found with staff modifications, the project power in the first year of operation would cost $21.6 million, about $81.36 per MWh more than the likely cost of alternative power.

The draft EA may be obtained from FERC’s Internet site, www.ferc.gov, using the eLibrary link and searching for docket P-12796. Comments may be filed within 30 days.

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