Archived Story

FERC to make next move in dam relicensing

Published 11:51am Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Alabama Power license for Martin Dam expires in June of this year.

Ideally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will issue a license before that time – but Jim Crews, manager of hydro services for Alabama Power, said there is still a lot that has to happen to make that deadline.

Right now, Crews said the process is in a holding pattern until a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) has been completed.

“We have provided everything to FERC that is required,” Crews said. “They are preparing a draft EIS – that is the next thing we should see from them.”

Alabama Power first filed its application for re-licensing in June 2011, two years before the license is set to expire.  Crews said that FERC issued in February 2012 a notice that the application for a new license had been accepted and was ready to be put out for comments and motions to intervene.

“In the issuance asking for comments, FERC provided a target schedule to have the draft EIS issued by October 2011,” Crews said. “We are still waiting.”

There is still work to be done after the draft EIS is issued, but Crews said the document will give stakeholders an idea of where the license process is heading.

“The draft EIS typically gives you an indication of what could be in the new license,” Crews said. “On Martin, a lot of people are interested in the winter pool levels and the conditional fall extension. The (draft EIS) will address both of those and indicate some sort of preference on those matters.”

Once the draft EIS is issued, there will be a 60-day period for public comments. FERC will then review those comments perform any needed analysis before issuing a final EIS.

“When the final EIS is issued, you are getting really close to the license issuance – everything has been pretty much addressed by that point,” Crews said. “After that point, FERC will just be taking all the information in the EIS and putting it in the form of a new license.”

Crews said there are no more comment periods, reviews or regulatory steps after the final EIS. However, the license approval process make take longer that usual, Crews said, due to two motions filed during public comment periods.

“There were two motions to intervene in opposition to issuance of the license filed,” Crews said. “This means the license can’t be strictly issued by the particular licensing agency.”

Usually, the hydro licensing group at FERC has the authority to issue the license – however, the addition of two motions to intervene in opposition means the license has to pass through a higher level of approval, Crews said.

“The staff at the licensing group will prepare the license, but before it is issued, it will have to be approved by FERC commissioners,” Crews said.