FERC grants license for CVEA run-of-the-river power plant
After a series of baby steps, Copper Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEA) took a giant step forward earlier this month after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted the cooperative a license to build its long planned-for Allison Creek run-of –the-river hydroelectric project.
“We’re real excited about getting the license,” said John Duhamel, CVEA engineer on the project when he spoke to KCHU news director Tony Gorman about the project last week.
Duhamel, along with CVEA CEO Robert Wilkinson, has been working on the project for several years, well before filing its initial FERC application back in August 2011.
“The proposed project will consist of the installation of a 6.5 megawatt hydroelectric generation plant located on the south side of Port Valdez near Alyeska’s Valdez Marine Terminal for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline,” said a DNR legal notice posted in the Valdez Star earlier this month. “The proposed project is expected to divert water from Allison Creek into a penstock which will transport water to a powerhouse located approximately 2,000 feet upstream from the mouth of Allison Creek.”
The Dept. of Natural Resources is one of the many entities involved in the project. DNR is looking to grant CVEA a 30-year “surface easement” for a utility right-of-way.
CVEA officials say it is hoped the project could be up and running as early as 2015. To make that best-case date will require a process with few hiccups in the dealing with not only government regulations on municipal, state and federal levels, but also is dependent on everything from timely delivery of components, many of which require over a year’s lead time for fabrication, to the ultimate boss, Mother Nature.
Last October, CVEA said that its “environmental position had been “agreed to” by key
state and federal agencies, which could speed the process at FERC and result in an approved license faster than expected.”
Duhamel told Gorman that CVEA had been moving forward with the project well before the FERC license was granted, which is not typical for these types of projects.
“Most organizations start these activities after the license is granted,” Duhamel said.
Last year, CVEA moved forward on the procurement of the design engineer and construction manager and contractor.
These steps were taken during the three years or so it took to complete the environmental studies and other important steps in the licensing process, according to Duhamel.
“There were no controversial environmental issues,” Duhamel said, but wildlife is always present in undeveloped areas such as Allison Creek and the impact to fish, birds and mammals must be looked at closely. “In our plan we have taken consideration of those animals,” Duhamel said.
It was concluded there would be little or no negative impact on the area’s wildlife.
Duhamel has been deeply involved in the project for three years according to Wilkinson.
“Through his dedicated effort we’ve been able to advance it to this stage,” Wilkinson said.
“We have a good project moving forward.”
Duhamel said CVEA is now waiting for a request made to FERC to gain what CVEA calls “early entry.” This will allow construction activity to begin in 2013, weather permitting, and is essential if the project is to actually start producing electricity in 2015.
“They (FERC) still want us to justify why we want to get in early,” he said. “Our hopes are we can get in in 2013.”
He said recent conversations with FERC indicate early entry may be granted.
“We hope to start seeing our idea turn into a reality,” Duhamel said.
“We’re in it to win it as they say,” Wilkinson told Gorman. “…we look forward to bringing it online.”
DNR is still asking for public input on its pending lease with CVEA.
“Members of the public are invited to comment on this proposal,” DNR said in a public notice, which can be found at DNR’s Online Public Notice Website. “The DMLW must receive written comments no later than 5:00PM on September 6, 2013.”