With a stroke of a pen, and encouragement of members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, members of FERC - the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission - approved a permanent variance for Grand Lake. 

The decision, which came right on the heels of the mid-August deadline, was released by FERC late Tuesday, Aug. 15.

In the ruling, FERC said the amendment request to the Grand River Dam Authority's operating license for Pensacola Dam and Grand Lake would be granted through the remainder of the current operating license which goes until March 2022.

The previous rule curve which GRDA officials sought to amend had been in place since 1992.

The new amendment means for the next six years, GRDA officials will not be required to lower Grand Lake from 744 to 741 feet starting in mid-August. Instead, the lake will be lowered to 743 feet and remain steady at that level until mid-September, when it will be lowered to 742 feet until next May.

GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan said he is "very pleased" with FERC's decision.

"I'm glad it's final," Sullivan said following the decision. "[FERC] made it just in time.

"This will allow us to hold the elevation of Grand Lake at a level that is much safer for recreation not only during the busy Labor Day holiday but throughout the latter portion of the boating season.”

Sullivan said he's relieved the decision means GRDA officials no longer have to make an annual plea to FERC for a rule curve amendment.

"We've been engaged in this discussion for several years," Sullivan said. "There are better ways of dealing with wildlife mitigation issues, which showed the drawdown wasn't needed before Labor Day.

"This was a relic of the past, that didn't benefit anyone. It was a distraction and detrimental for both lake users and public safety.

"We're not planting millet anymore, so why risk public safety." 

Sullivan said he believes FERC made the decision about the variance, came for several reasons.

First, he said, the five-member commission received a quorum - the first in six months - after two commissioners appointed by President Donald Trump were approved, and sworn into their positions last week due to action by the U.S. Senate. 

“We are also very appreciative of Senator [James] Inhofe, not only for his support of our amendment request but also his efforts in restoring a quorum to FERC,” said Sullivan.

Secondly, Sullivan believes discussions with stakeholders in Miami and in the northern part of the lake, concerning storm adaptive management and other issues, showed FERC how GRDA officials work with people to manage the entire landscape of Grand Lake.

Sullivan said GRDA officials continue to seek "long-term solutions" concerning the lake level issues, which provides operational control over the lake, while "balancing all other stakeholder concerns of hydroelectric generation, flood control and recreation."

Watch www.grandlakenews.com and Tuesday's issue of The Grove Sun for reaction from various stakeholders concerning the FERC decision.