The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has terminated Boyce Hydro Power LLC’s licenses for the Secord, Smallwood and Sanford hydroelectric projects on the Tittabawasee River in Michigan. The termination was for Boyce Hydro Power failing to meet the obligations of its licenses, due to its loss of project property in condemnation and bankruptcy proceedings.
Four Lakes Task Force, a nonprofit organization, now owns the real property associated with the projects and is coordinating the safe repair and management of the facilities with the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), in cooperation with FERC staff.
Heavy rain on May 19, 2020, caused high inflows in the Tittabawassee River, resulting in the breaching and failure of Edenville Dam, the license for which the commission had revoked for Boyce Hydro’s failure to comply with safety directives and other license requirements. The right embankment at the FERC-jurisdictional Sanford Dam also was breached during the high flows.
After the flood, Boyce Hydro repeatedly failed to comply with additional FERC safety directives. As a result, FERC assessed Boyce Hydro a $15 million penalty for its inaction. But the commission said it does not intend payment of the penalty to imperil the recovery of damages by victims of the dam breaches and notes that Boyce Hydro’s liquidation plan ensures that the victims’ recovery will be before any recovery of the penalty.
The licenses were terminated by implied surrender due to the unique facts of this case, where a local community entity has acquired the project lands and property and is already working to remedy the deficiencies at the three projects. Also, Four Lakes has no intent to generate hydropower and Michigan EGLE has expressed support for this action.