The Federal Regulatory Energy Commission’s (FERC) decision to dismiss the request by Grand River Dam Authority to temporarily suspend the lowering of Grand Lake in August and September 2011 should not have come as a surprise to GRDA or anyone that has been watching and waiting.
According to GRDA Communications Director Justin Alberty, at the November 2010 meeting of the Grand Lake Technical Committee, GRDA Director of Ecosystems Dr. Darrell Townsend met with representatives from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Townsend polled committee members as to whether they would support an amendment that would grant GRDA operational discretion for Grand Lake within the power pool and eliminate the rule curve requirement.
The technical committee, which was also established under terms of the FERC license, did agree to support delaying the drawdown of Grand Lake until after the 2011 Labor Day weekend. However, the committee indicated it would not consider a license amendment to permanently change the rule curve until further modeling and studies could be completed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Although the drawdown was originally implemented for wildlife habitat reasons, and not flooding concerns, FERC indicated a study to research the upstream flooding potential would need to be completed before it would consider the rule curve amendment, even on a temporary basis. According to GRDA, such a study would need to be completed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. GRDA had requested that assistance from the Corps earlier in the year. However, in mid July, GRDA was informed by the Corps that its request for assistance was denied, due to the Corps’ current workload and lack of available staff, Alberty said.
Additional information from the USACE in a letter to GRDA also says that GRDA was asking for substantially more analysis than they originally requested.
Secondly, USACE says the ongoing issues with flowage easements and the ongoing flood control operations at Grand Lake require that the District maintain its position of representing all stakeholders including those who are at risk of potential flooding.
“An analysis focused on one alternative which could benefit one stakeholder group at the expense of others creates the appearance that the Corps is not representing the interests of all stakeholders,” USACE said.
The Corps said that unresolved issue regarding flowage easements associated with flood control operations, which must be addressed before it is possible to adequately assess the consequences of operational changes of the lake.
USACE also reminded GRDA that the analysis would be a duplication of ongoing work at Grand Lake under the Grand Lake Comprehensive Study, Oklahoma.
The Grand Lake Comprehensive Study, Oklahoma is being conducted at 100 percent Federal cost, but according to USACE, the study has only been minimally funded because it is not in compliance with current budgetary policy, which gives preference to cost-shared studies.
USACE urged GRDA to seek cost-sharing partners to increase the eligibility for agency funds.
Consequently, because of the dismissal of the proposal, GRDA will proceed with the drawdown in 2011, to meet requirements of the operating license.