AW Objects to Brookfield Refusal to Reschedule Cheoah Releases (NC)
The owner of Santeetlah Dam, Brookfield, has refused requests to reschedule eight spring releases on the Cheoah River that were cancelled because of Covid-19. Today, American Whitewater filed a request asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require Brookfield to make up at least half of the cancelled releases later this year. The request comes after Brookfield delayed a meeting to reschedule releases and then flatly refused to provide any make-up releases. Similar releases on nearby dams operated by other owners were rescheduled willingly and without issue, and offered the public valuable late summer and early fall paddling opportunities.
Frustratingly, Brookfield waited three months to hold a meeting to discuss rescheduling releases despite numerous requests from American Whitewater to do so starting in April and continuing throughout the summer. In the August 25 meeting that was eventually held, Brookfield announced that there were agency concerns with fish spawning during September (then less than a week away) and October and into November. The delay in holding the meeting meant that we had missed viable August make-up releases, on top of not being able to have make-up releases during the warm fall months. The resource agencies agreed that we could have releases in December, so American Whitewater requested releases in December, and Brookfield refused. They offered no reasonable explanation for their position. Water not provided to the public for releases will
Thankfully, this decision is not up to Brookfield, as they are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC license for the dam understandably did not anticipate a global pandemic, so is silent on what to do in the case of pandemic-related (or any) release cancellations. We are hopeful that FERC will view make-up releases as a reasonable, fair, and valuable thing to require of Brookfield. We've asked for releases the first two weekends in December. It might be cold then, but it might not! We assume Brookfield will file a response and we may need to respond, and FERC could, at any time, issue a decision. Stay tuned!
FYI, the previously scheduled October 24, 2020 Cheoah release is unaffected by this and should occur as planned.