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Hydro Review

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Rhode Island provides grant for hydro project study

The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. approved a $200,000 grant in late July for JAL Hydro LLC of North Kingstown, R.I., to study development of a run-of-river hydropower project.

The funds, provided through the corporation's Renewable Energy Fund, will be used for a pre-development feasibility study to support the installation of two Archimedes screw units with a total capacity of 296 kW at Natick Pond Dam in West Warwick. The units will be supplied by New England Hydropower Company LLC.

The Pre-Development Feasibility Study Program provides recoverable grants for 75% of the approved project cost. The $200,000 awarded represents less than half the funds needed for the project; the owner will contribute the remaining amount. If the project is successfully developed, the funds will be paid back.

"Harnessing a cleaner way to produce energy has been of great interest to me over the years," said Bob Cioe with JAL Hydro. "Now, with EDC's confidence and working with various state agencies, our team enthusiastically embarks on an exciting opportunity to use Rhode Island's natural resources in an innovative and sustainable manner."

JAL Hydro was established in Rhode Island to develop and operate small, low-impact hydropower facilities that incorporate innovative, efficient, environmentally friendly technologies not yet deployed in New England. The company performed an initial feasibility assessment of the site, then acquired a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in May 2013.

Stillwater Ecosystem wins award for Soda Springs Dam fish study

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded a US$34,733 contract to Stillwater Ecosystem Watershed Riverine to study lamprey habitat upstream of Oregon's 11-MW Soda Springs project.

The Forest Service indicated the work will include quantitative baseline spawning and rearing habitat surveys, mapping, and report documentation for Pacific lamprey and Western Brook lamprey upstream of Soda Springs Dam in the Diamond Lake Ranger District of Umpqua National Forest.

Work is also to include developing habitat suitability criteria and habitat survey protocol, collecting habitat data, and analyzing and mapping that data for documentation in a report.

The PacifiCorp-operated Soda Springs Dam - located on the North Umpqua River - is one of eight developments in the 194-MW North Umpqua project.

During relicensing of North Umpqua, the Forest Service had pushed for removal of Soda Springs Dam. Instead, as a condition of relicensing in 2003, PacifiCorp was required to provide fish passage for adult salmon and lamprey at Soda Springs.

Other developments of the North Umpqua project are 31.99-MW Lemolo 1, 38.55-MW Lemolo 2, 15-MW Clearwater 1, 26-MW Clearwater 2, 42.5-MW Toketee, 11-MW Fish Creek, and 18-MW Slide Creek.

Climate change studies not required for Alaska applicant

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected an attempt by the National Marine Fisheries Service to force the Alaska Energy Authority to perform climate change studies as part of licensing the 600-MW Susitna-Watana project on Alaska's upper Susitna River.

NMFS had appealed an April ruling in which FERC approved 14 remaining environmental studies for the Susitna-Watana project but turned down AEA's plan for climate change studies, which were proposed at NMFS' request. FERC said the studies would be costly - an estimated $1 million - and likely to produce uncertain results.

After that ruling, NMFS initiated a study dispute resolution procedure in which it did not prevail. Then NMFS requested FERC rehearing of the rejection of the climate change studies. In a July 18 order, the full commission upheld its action.

"The commission agrees with NMFS that the effects of climate change on streamflow conditions and any corresponding adverse effects on environmental resources are important issues, and any substantial information regarding these matters will be given due consideration in the commission's environmental analysis and in any subsequent license order," FERC said. "However, the commission does not agree that the climate change studies ... are likely to yield reliable data that can be used in the development of license requirements, particularly when balanced against the cost of such assessments."

Instead, FERC said, effects of the project on environmental resources can be studied effectively and evaluated using conventional hydrologic studies, monitoring techniques, and predictive models, as has been done in other hydroelectric project licensing cases. The commission added that its standard license reopener article would permit the license for this project to be changed later if unanticipated adverse environmental effects occur during the course of the license.

FERC did approve two components of the climate change studies. One calls for AEA to analyze potential changes to sediment delivery from the upper Susitna watershed into the reservoir from glacial surges. Also, saying it would be low cost, FERC approved a requirement that AEA review existing literature relevant to glacial retreat in south-central Alaska and the upper Susitna watershed and summarize the understanding of potential future changes in runoff associated with glacier wastage and retreat.

The commission rejected a request that AEA develop a hydrologic modeling framework that utilizes a glacier melt and runoff model and a water balance simulation model to predict changes in glacier wastage and retreat on runoff in the Susitna Basin resulting from climate change. It also rejected a request that AEA simulate the inflow of water to the proposed reservoir and predict changes to available inflow using downscaled climate projections up to the year 2100.

Finally, while not mandating the additional studies, the commission did add that AEA was free to conduct the $1 million in studies voluntarily.

HEC to perform modeling, water resources studies

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to hire a company to perform hydrologic and hydraulic engineering modeling and water resources management studies for its Hydrologic Engineering Center.

The HEC performs special projects and research, develops software, presents training courses and workshops, and provides technical assistance to Corps field offices, headquarters, and laboratories in support of the Corps civil works program.

The company the Corps chooses for this work will provide a wide variety of hydrologic and hydraulic engineering modeling, analysis, software enhancements, and water resources studies and projects. Such activities might be performed for HEC special projects, research and development, technical assistance, or training activities.

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