Pike Island Hydro Plant Is Debated
26 January 2014
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer
YORKVILLE - St. Clairsville, Woodsfield and Oberlin are among Ohio
municipalities that could benefit if American Municipal Power
generates 256,000 megawatt-hours of renewable power per year by
building a hydroelectric plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam.
Yorkville village officials do not oppose the plant that would be
built on the Ohio side of the dam, but Councilman Ron Emerson said
they also want to know how it will affect them.
"It is definitely going to impact the village of Yorkville," he
said, noting the municipality's property extends to the edge of
the Ohio River where the dam begins. "They could not build it on
the West Virginia side because of the locks."
American Municipal Power is one entity looking to install a
hydroelectric power plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam that
would generate about 256,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per
According to preliminary plans on file with the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, Columbus, Ohio-based American Municipal
Power has proposed to build a 155-foot wide, 71-foot tall water
intake structure near the Ohio side of the dam.
There would also be a 189-foot long concrete powerhouse featuring
two giant turbine generators.
In place since 1963, Pike Island Locks and Dam spans the Ohio
River just north of the Warwood section of Wheeling on the West
Virginia side and Yorkville on the Ohio side. Although West
Virginia has jurisdiction over the Ohio River, the dam falls under
the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As more coal-fired power plants shut down to comply with U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards,
hydroelectric power could be one way to fill the generation void.
Environmentalists such as Wheeling Jesuit University biology
professor Ben Stout favor renewable hydroelectricity as a means of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions that occur with the burning of
fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
American Municipal Power is the company that operates the New
Martinsville Hydroelectric Plant at the Hannibal Locks and Dam,
which began generating power in 1988. According to the company,
the New Martinsville plant is capable of producing 18 megawatts of
electricity per hour on each of its two generating turbines, a
total of about 315,000 megawatt-hours per year.
New Martinsville Plant Manager Chuck Stora, who has worked at the
plant since it started operation, said the pressure required to
drive the plant's two turbines - 28,000 cubic feet of water per
second - would fill a pair of football field-sized swimming pools
with 10 feet of water in just 10 seconds.
In October, Boston-based Free Flow Power Project submitted a
competing proposal to FERC that would have called for building a
225-foot wide, 50-foot long intake facility near the Ohio side of
the Pike Island dam. This plant would have generated roughly
225,000 megawatt-hours per year.
Emerson said he believes Free Flow has dropped out of the running
to build the plant. Free Flow officials could not be reached for
Who Would Get the Power?
Emerson said he knew the northeastern Ohio city of Oberlin was
somehow involved in the project. A FERC document shows that
Oberlin filed for a permit to build the plant at Pike Island in
September 2010. However, the permit expired on Aug. 31.
Steve Dupee, utility director for the city of Oberlin, said that
Oberlin is one of several cities listed as members of AMP. St.
Clairsville and Woodsfield are also classified as AMP members.
"If it would be built, some of the power could go to Oberlin,
while some of it could go to the other member municipalities,"
Dupee said. "AMP would be the builder, if it got to that point."
Dupee said Oberlin is a "very environmentally conscious community"
that is working on many renewable energy projects.
AMP spokesman Kent Carson did not return calls and emails seeking
comment. FERC officials also could not be reached for comment.
Last week, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, told Yorkville officials he
would find out how the potential hydroelectric facility would
impact the village.
"The first thing we need to find out is if they are really back in
the game, or if this is a case of one hand not talking to the
other. We owe you some answers," he said.
Numerous public officials and business leaders expressed support
for the hydroelectric plant by submitting comments to FERC. As
Mayor Blair Closser reminded Johnson, Yorkville overlaps the
northernmost point of Belmont County and the southernmost point of
Jefferson County. Jefferson County Commission Thomas Graham said
"any type of business facility will be a benefit to Jefferson
A letter signed by Belmont County commissioners Ginny Favede, Matt
Coffland and Mark Thomas states, "This area is easily accessible
by road, rail and water, making it an excellent site for
Scott Mazzulli, secretary and treasurer of the Upper Ohio Valley
Building and Construction Trades Council, states, "The Pike Island
Locks and Dam has great energy producing potential. The project
would be environmentally friendly, and also help us achieve energy
"We don't oppose it at all," Emerson added of the planned
facility. "We just want to know what is going to happen."