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FERC pulls the plug on Cuyahoga (OH)

Posted: 06/18/2007
By: Thomas O'Keefe
In a letter dated June 14th, 2007, FERC officially pulled the plug on the proposed hydropower project on the old outdated Ohio Edison Dam on the Cuyahoga River.

The Ohio Edison Dam was built in 1912 and for many years served a hydropower plant while the reservoir provided cooling water for a coal-burning power plant. With the operation of the hydropower plant discontinued in 1958 and the coal-burning plant decommissioned in 1991, the need for the dam ceased to exist. It seemed that "the river that burned" creating memorable visual imagery that was influential in the passage of the Clean Water Act, would be on its way to further restoration with removal of the old dam.

With the river now suitable for recreation, paddlers have discovered some good whitewater at the base of the dam, and have been wondering what was beneath the reservoir--2 buried miles at 100 feet per mile including the namesake falls for the town of Cuyahoga Falls. Meanwhile Metro Hydroelectric Company emerged on the scene and began the process of obtaining a new hydropower license for the dam. It's been half a century since the project was in operation and in the meantime Metro Parks has developed the land for public use and benefit. Rebuilding the facilities at the hydropower plant would have required construction of roads, destruction of old-growth forests, the loss of wildlife habitat, and the destruction of park attributes including whitewater recreation.

Given these impacts, park commissioners and the public overwhelmingly opposed the project and blocked the hydro developer from accessing the park to conduct required studies. The company won access to the park in U.S. District Court, but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision this past April.

Given the legal uncertainty of the project, Mark Robinson, Director of Energy Projects at FERC wrote this past week:

The ILP provides discrete time frames for studying a proposed project and developing a license application. As you are unable to follow the prescribed schedule in this proceeding, I am terminating the ILP for the Metro Project without prejudice. (read complete letter)

While the applicant was invited to submit a new Notice of Intent to develop a project if the legal questions are resolved, the letter from FERC is significant in making it clear that applicants can not waste everyone's time and resources when they are not able to remain on schedule.

Since the passage of the Clean Water Act, we have spent billions of dollars to restore the Cuyahoga River. Dams remain as major obstacles to finishing the job of cleaning up the river and constructing a hydropower facility on one of these outdated structures is not in the public interest.

We gratefully acknowledge local affiliate Keel Haulers Canoe Club whose members have highlighted the recreational benefits of this river--a rare whitewater resource in the state of Ohio--and continue to track the project for AW.

For additional information on the history of this project visit Friends of the Crooked River. Friends of the Crooked River was formed in 1990 in order to give the 100 mile length of the Cuyahoga River a voice.

Thomas O'Keefe

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Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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Cuyahoga Restoration (OH)

A new hydro license proposal would dewater a nice rapid and preclude opportunities for dam removal.

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