Plant May Cost Trail
UMRA: Proposal will cut pathway, negate land deed
Morgantown Dominion Post
23 January 2014
By Ben Conley
An officer with the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA) is
concerned that a proposed hydroelectric plant could affect
As part of a preliminary application process with the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), stakeholders had until
Tuesday to submit comments on Free Flow Power’s proposal to place
hydroelectric power plants at lock-and-dam sites along the
As the Morgantown, Opekiska and Point Marion lock-and-dam sites
are among the locations selected by Free Flow Power, numerous
local entities have taken the opportunity to provide comments to
Among them, some concerns spelled out by Wallace Venable, UMRA’s
chief technical officer, seem to cut to the crux of the issues
that have not only been spelled out in stakeholder comments, but
also vocalized by members of the public during a special
Morgantown City Council meeting held on the topic.
“We have very strong reservations about the FFP [Free Flow Power]
assumptions about the Morgantown site. We also have concerns about
the lack of properly detailed planning at other sites,
particularly with regard to recreation,” Venable states in the
nonprofit’s comments to the FERC.
The issue that seems most likely to affect the Morgantown project
is the fact that the proposed site of the power plant is now a
section of rail-trail.
Venable said that the West Virginia Rail Authority owns the
surface of the property, while railroad company CSX owns the
subsurface and air rights.
In UMRA’s comments, Venable writes of FFP’s application, “FFP
makes the following incorrect and highly misleading statement:
‘The project will be primarily contained within lands managed and
maintained by USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).’ In fact, the
project is to occupy about 4.5 acres which have never been owned,
maintained or managed by the USACE and essentially not USACE
During last week’s special city council meeting, Morgantown City
Manager Jeff Mikorski said that the rail-trail corridor must
“The city of Morgantown has a quitclaim deed with the state rail
authority, which has a contract and a deed from CSX. That deed has
reversionary clauses. If we fail to maintain an intact corridor
... that reversionary clause could result in CSX removing our
surface rights to the rail-trail property,” Mikorski said. “We see
that as a major concern.”
Free Flow Power puts the value of the property near the Morgantown
Lock and Dam at $125,000. But Venable points out that because the
value of the total corridor could be destroyed, the value “may
well exceed $125,000,000.”
UMRA’s comments also point out that Free Flow Power promised a
Recreational Resources Management Plan that was to “inventory
existing facilities and seasonal use patterns,” and lay out how
construction and future operations could impact those facilities.
No such plan ever materialized, according to UMRA, which points
out that the data submitted by Free Flow Power “contains no plans
at all, other than a definition of the projected recreational
impact zones for the projects.”
Among the requests UMRA presents in its comments are:
- Free Flow Power to submit a clear plan for the
acquisition of the real estate to be used, correctly
identifying ownership and with reasonable cost estimates.
- Free Flow Power to present a completed Recreational
Resources Management Plan (RRMP) to the public and allow
adequate time for comment before approval of any permits.
- RRMPs include solid data on the annual use of the
tailwaters fishing areas and the rail-trail, and estimated
values of public loss of recreation.
- Free Flow Power to include planning for a canoe portage
at the Opekiska site as part of the RRMP.
Three other Mon River locations, Charleroi, Maxwell and Grays
Landing lock-and-dam sites, have been targeted for potential
hydroelectric projects by Free Flow Power.