October 28, 2010 - Maine dam removal?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiery fall foliage in Phippsburg, Maine.
Yesterday, I mentioned a list of recently-removed Maine dams.  That list describes 20 dams as having been removed as of January 1, 2010, with another ten dams described as "currently proposed or under study for removal":

* Boston Felt Dam Lebanon, ME & Rochester, NH Salmon Falls River

* Coopers Mills Dam Whitefield Sheepscot River

* Gardiner Paperboard Dam Gardiner Cobbosseecontee Stream

* Great Works Dam Old Town & Bradley Penobscot River

* Montsweag Dam Wiscasset & Woolwich Montsweag Brook

* Veazie Dam Veazie & Eddington Penobscot River

* West Winterport Dam Winterport & Frankfort Marsh Stream

* Juliet Mill Dam Lisbon Sabattus River

* Farwell Mill Dam Lisbon Sabattus River

* Martin Brook Upper Dam Madawaska Martin Brook

Of these, several more have been removed.  For example, the Montsweag dam is gone.  The West Winterport dam is also gone.

Let's take a deeper look at one of the dams on this list.  The Boston Felt dam (Project No. 4542–013), which formerly produced 150 kW, was granted an exemption from licensing on August 29, 1983 (24 FERC ¶ 62,240). The project stopped operations in May 2006, due to a breach of the project dam by high river flows.  Project owner Bacon Felt Company, Inc., stated that a 20-foot long, 6-foot wide section of the wooden frame dam was carried away by the flooding.

After the water level dropped, the Federal Energy Regulator Commission ordered the owner to repair the dam.  US Fish and Wildlife Service also gave a directive regarding the installation of fish passage.  The owner allegedly explained why the project was inoperable (damage to the dam) and told FERC that resumption of generation at the project may be beyond its available resources, and said it would file a compliance plan and progress reports.  By September 2009, FERC issued a notice of revocation of exemption by surrender, based on allegations that exemptee had not taken responsive action.

In an October 2009 response, Bacon Felt filed a protest, stating that it had in fact replied to the Commission's information request and had requested a 120-day review period.  By February 2010, the project owner filed a formal motion requesting withdrawal of the notice of revocation of its exemption to maintain the project.  Bacon pointed to a host of changes, including a change in ownership of the company, changes to their manufacturing strategy, and an overall increase in the price of purchased power.  Bacon then argued that it had not surrendered its exemption, nor had it abandoned the project triggering an implied surrender.  Bacon pointed to examples of what implied surrender usually looks like, including:
  • James Lichoulas Jr., 124 F.E.R.C. ¶ 61,255, P 23 (implied surrender found where “the building over the substructure generating facilities [had] been demolished, the generating equipment [was] covered with collapsed building materials, and the wicket gate operators of the turbines appear[ed] to be inoperable.”), on reh’g, 125 F.E.R.C. ¶ 61,195 (2008)
  • New England Fish Co., 38 F.E.R.C. ¶ 61,106, at 61,285 (1987) (finding surrender where the licensee “abandoned good-faith operation of the project in 1964” and “never filed an application for new license when the term of the original license expired in 1977.”)
  • Pinedale Power & Light Co., 38 F.E.R.C. ¶ 61,036 (1987) (finding surrender where the licensee abandoned the project 15 years prior to the surrender decision and sold the property 12 years prior to it).
Bacon then argued that current energy policy still favors the development of suitable waterways, and that it could continue (or resume) producing low-cost renewable power from the project.

The case remains pending before the Commission.

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