Archived Story

Alabama Power files report on water levels

Published 11:08pm Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Local stakeholders Tuesday said they are “guardedly optimistic” that Lake Martin’s winter pool level will be raised to 484 feet (mean sea level) after Alabama Power Company made public their recent answer to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) final information request.

“Our understanding is that all of the evidence indicates this thing could be approved,” said Lake Martin Resource Association president John Thompson.

Lake Martin’s Home Owner and Boat Owner Association president Dave Heinzen said the report is great news, and he is looking hopefully forward to the commission’s approval of the power company’s proposal for the higher water level.

Alabama Power Monday filed a 2,425-page report of findings based on nine historic storm events at Lake Martin over more than 50 years. The findings answer questions FERC staff raised at a public meeting last July during which more than 600 individuals and stakeholder representatives overwhelmingly supported a proposed winter water level increase from 481 feet msl to 484 feet msl.

“There is no incremental increase in risk of annual flooding to downstream structures and roads resulting from our proposed operational changes at Martin Dam as compared to existing operations,” the power company’s manager of hydro services Jim Crew wrote to FERC Secretary Kimberly D. Bose.

“We found no incremental increase in risk of flooding downstream at 484 feet versus the existing winter pool. It is essentially negligible,” Crew said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Crew said he thinks the results are clearly in favor of a raised water level, and he feels that the science behind the modeling supports the power company’s proposal.

“The reason that we are hopeful of its approval is that FERC staff has been working step-in-step with us,” Crew said. “A lot of times in these situations, we will go off and do the work and submit our results only to have FERC staff say that it wasn’t exactly what they wanted. In this case, we have worked with them all the way through the process. We requested and were granted conferences in which we asked if our modeling would result in the data they needed, and we changed our approach based on what they had to say.

“Having said that, I can’t say that FERC will automatically approve our proposal. There are no guarantees, but we feel the case is,” he said.

In addition to citing potential downstream flood modeling, the report mentioned that auxiliary dam and spillway gate operations would not experience any additional risk of failure if the lake level were raised 3 feet during the winter months and cited that measures now in place will continue to reduce potential for downstream flooding. These include floodwater storage, routine weather monitoring and alteration of the power company’s generation schedule in response to predicted precipitation.

FERC staff now will write a final Environmental Impact Statement with recommendations to the commissioners, who are expected to make a decision in the matter early next year.