City Will Talk Turbines at a Special Meet

Power plant plan raising concerns

Morgantown Dominion Post
15 January 2014
By Ben Conley

A letter explaining the city’s concerns about a potential hydroelectric power plant on the Monongahela River next to the Morgantown Lock and Dam will be the focus of a special meeting of the Morgantown City Council scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

In 2011, Free Flow power began the lengthy process of getting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval to put power-producing turbines on the river’s Opekiska and Morgantown locks.

As part of the process, area stakeholders have until Monday to file comments with FERC.

A draft letter from City Manager Jeff Mikorski explains that city administrators met with Free Flow Power in “early 2012,” but, “Additional discussions were expected after that meeting that did not occur ...”

Mikorski said the special meeting will be an opportunity for council to shape the letter before it is submitted, and will provide an opportunity for public comment on the topic.

Of concern to the city:

Property — The proposed location of the power plant would affect the city’s rail-trail. The quitclaim deed giving the city access to the land has a reversionary clause that requires the land be preserved for future rail use and provide interim recreational opportunities.

Environmental impact — Due to the proximity to residential homes and neighborhoods, Free Flow Power should provide information on the amount of light, noise and odor such a plant produces, as well as the environmental impact of its construction.

Economic impact — The city as well as private property owners and developers have invested millions spurring development of the Wharf District. The city is concerned the power plant will harm that area.

Visual impact — The facility will be along a major access for visitors to the city. There is concern that the power plant will harm the visual appeal of the riverfront.

Power lines — The city asks that Free Flow Power make an effort to reduce the impact of the power plant by burying any power lines that are a part of this project.

Mikorski said it is too early to determine if these issues would be deal breakers for the city.

“Free Flow Power still has quite a bit of work to do in the approval process, and a large part of that deals with environmental and recreational impact,” Mikorski said. “But these are concerns, and we would need to see how they respond to them before

While the city has some issues it needs cleared up, MUB General Manager Tim Ball said he’s not only behind the project, but also hopes MUB can be involved as a partner or direct customer.

“It’s a wonderful idea. It’s frustrating to know the amount of energy passing through that dam everyday,” Ball said, adding that MUB has “long toyed with the idea” of putting a hydroelectric generator at the lock and dam.

“It’s a little frustrating that somebody beat us to the punch,” he said.

Ball explained that MUB would endorse the city’s comments and “supplement them with our own.”