Archived Story

Lake level increase denied

Published 11:20am Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Federal Energy Regulation Commission has rejected an Alabama Power Company relicensing proposal that would have increased Lake Martin’s winter elevation and extended the duration of the lake’s summer pool.

FERC rejected Alabama Power’s new license proposal that called for a change in the current rule curve where the winter pool of Lake Martin, which is 480 feet, would have been increased by 3 feet to 483 feet.

Alabama Power’s proposal also called for a conditional fall extension of the date the lake is lowered from the summer pool level of 490 feet down to the winter pool from Oct. 1 to Oct 15.

Alabama Power Company is the operator of Martin Dam, which controls the elevation of Lake Martin.

Steve Forehand, vice president and general counselor and secretary of Russell Lands – a stakeholder in Lake Martin – said FERC listed its reason for denying Alabama Power’s proposal as an increased risk of flooding downstream.

“When Alabama Power filed its license application, it recognized in its Environmental Impact Study there is a very slight risk of increased downstream flood potential by having the higher winter elevation,” Forehand said. “But it is a very slight risk. FERC mentioned that potential increase in downstream flooding as reason for denying the increase in pool elevation.”

Alabama Power’s current license, which lasts for 40 years, is set to end next week.

Forehand said FERC is required to hold a public hearing regarding its decision within 60 days after its issuance in order to field public response.

With a new license unlikely to be agreed upon by the end of the current license, Forehand said FERC will likely do what it has done in the past and continue the existing license on a year-by-year basis until a new license is in place.

John Thompson, president of Lake Martin Resource Association, said LMRA is in support of Alabama Power’s proposal and will attend the public hearing once a date and time is set.

“We will definitely respond in a manner to support Alabama Power’s initiatives to try to get this approved,” Thompson said. “The power company did some extensive studies to determine that this is not going to have a negative impact on any stakeholders – not the farmers down below the dam nor anyone else.”

Thompson added LMRA will be drafting a letter regarding its stance on FERC’s decision, as the rejection affects residents, recreational lake users and stakeholders in the Lake Martin area.

“We were in support of it because, from an association standpoint, that’s what our membership would like to see,” Thompson said. “They are the ones that use the lake, live on the lake and enjoy the lake, and they wanted to be able to use it for an extended period of time during the year.”

Forehand added Alabama Power’s EIS showed the risk of increased flooding downstream is minimal, and he said ultimately the responsibility will be on Alabama Power to show at the public hearing that its proposed change in the rule curve is justified.

“I expect FERC will hear an awful lot at that public hearing, but the end of the day, it’s Alabama Power Company’s license,” Forehand said. “So they are going to have to take center stage in trying to convince FERC that an increase in winter elevation and a fall extension is appropriately justified and the potential for downstream flooding is minuscule. And I believe they are going to try to do that.”