Energy Letter Approved

Residents wary on hydroelectric plant proposal

Morgantown Dominion Post
17 January 2014
By Ben Conley

Morgantown City Council chambers was nearly full Thursday evening during a special meeting to consider a letter addressing the city’s concerns about a proposed hydroelectric power plant next to the Morgantown Lock and Dam.

Council unanimously approved the letter’s delivery to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the permitting body for the project proposed by Boston-based Free Flow Power.

The letter lays out five major concerns with the power plant: Its potential impact to the rail-trail, any odor, light or noise created due to the proximity to residential areas, the potential financial impact on the Wharf District, the visual impact on a major city gateway and the number of power lines that would run to the facility.

A handful of residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, mostly touching on particular points in the city’s letter.

In the letter, City Manager Jeff Mikorski points out that the closest homes are within 500 feet of the proposed site of the hydroelectric turbines.

Tom Sal’s Callen Avenue home would overlook the new facility.

“I have lived at 514 Callen Avenue for 40 years. I raised my children there. Right down the street from me, on Callen Avenue, my daughter and her husband and two children live. I am very, very concerned, because I don’t really know anything about this,” Callen said.

The letter also points out that, due to the deeds surrounding the rail-trail property, the design submitted by Free Flow power has the potential to impact the banked rail-trail corridor to the point that CSX, a railroad company, could remove the city’s rights to the property.

Ella Belling is the executive director of the Monongalia River Trails Conservancy. She said the conservancy also plans to present comments to the FERC.

“We have asked that Free Flow Power come back with a redesign that does not use any of the rail-trail property,” Belling said. “Also we have encouraged that the idea of a shutdown of the trail be not allowed” at any time, including during the facilities construction, should it be approved.

Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) General Manager Tim Ball said MUB supported the city’s comments. He also stated that MUB was going to submit comments stating, among other things, that MUB would like to either partner with Free Flow Power or be a direct customer should the project move forward.

Mikorski said that the previous city administration met with Free Flow Power in 2012, but did not submit comments during a subsequent comment period. Council Member Mike Fike said he was curious as to why the city did not submit comments when other area entities did.

Council Member Ron Bane said the city not only failed to submit comments, but council was never informed the project was taking shape.

“I know as a council member during that period of time, we did not know about this. I had no communication from the previous city manager about this project. We had no idea what was going on,” he said. “This is a huge project and the previous council did not know this was going on.”

Like most of the public comments, council members voiced approval of clean energy alternatives, but also noted the serious nature of the city’s concerns.

Mikorski said that the special meeting was held in order to get the city’s comments submitted ahead of next week’s deadline for comment. He also assured council and the gathered public that the process is still in the preliminary stages and that additional opportunities for public comment will arise as Free Flow Power continues to work toward FERC approval.

Mikorski agreed, at council’s request, to coordinate the city’s letter with letters submitted by other entities, such as the rail-trail conservancy, to ensure a consistent message.

UMRA's Comments submitted to FERC are on this website at