Cheryl Franklin

Grove Sun

An application has been filed by Grand River Dam Authority with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to temporarily amend the rule curve that governs the levels of Grand Lake.

The license amendment will ask FERC to allow GRDA and the Corps of Engineers to maintain the elevation in the lake at 743 feet from August 16 through September 15. The proposed rule curve will then lower the elevation from 743 feet to 742 feet and maintain that level through April 30 when the level is moved back up to 744 feet where it remains throughout the summer.

GRDA representatives Casey Davis, Assistant General Counsel and Dr. Darrell Townsend, Director of Ecosystems Management, announced the proposal at Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues meeting on Thursday morning at Montana Mikes.

Davis told the group of attendees that included legislators, city and county leaders and citizens that the proposition that was formally filed with FERC on Wednesday is a compromise to satisfy the interests of all of the stakeholders.

“This model eliminates the biggest group of complaints that we get, “ Davis said which is the recreation businesses, boaters and dock owners on Grand Lake.

Currently, the lake is drawn down to 741 feet in August, which creates a situation where boat owners are unable to get their boats out of the boat slips because the water is too low creating a negative economic impact on marinas and resorts, especially through the Labor Day weekend.

The document, provided by GRDA, says the two-year proposal is a collective effort to replace existing license requirements for the reservoir rule curve, wildlife management areas, and Fish and the Waterfowl Habitat Management Plan with a single Comprehensive Management Plan.

Miami residents and business owners at the meeting, however, expressed concern that the proposed new lake levels were strictly to satisfy Grand Lake recreational interests and was not enough to reduce the risk of flooding in Miami.

“We gave up 4 feet of flood storage in the 80’s, we went from 738 to 742 and since the 80s we have had 25 flood events,” said Mark Osborn, a Miami business owner.

Davis said the change in lake level does not directly alter the flood risk since the practice of lowering the lake to 741 was strictly to allow the seeding of millet in the mudflats to attract duck hunters and increase tourism.

“The draw down was not put in place for a flood control issue,” Dr Townsend said.

Davis told the group that the millet seeding program was costly and not as successful as they had anticipated so the program was ceased, eliminating the need to draw down the lake in the future.

Osborn was not convinced and told the GRDA officials that the modeling plan is a risky one.

Dr. Townsend tried to assure the group that they are taking steps to address the flooding risks and are in the process of acquiring easement property north and west of Miami that is being developed into wetlands.

“Some of these easements should have been acquired when the reservoir was built, but weren’t,” he said.

Townsend said they have purchased approximately 3000 acres to date with a plan to acquire up to 15,000 acres.

“The wetlands development areas on the Neosho (River) are going to take a long period of time and we hope to bring in numerous cooperators with those projects,” Townsend said.

The request to FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose says that while the proposed alteration is not significant, the beneficial impact on recreational opportunity at Grand Lake resulting from the proposed temporary rule curve. Under the existing rule curve, Grand Lake’s surface elevation is lowered 3 feet to 741 ft the first 2 weeks of August. This draw down occurs during peak recreational boating season and prior to Labor Day, a popular boating holiday.

“While optimized recreational opportunity is a recognized goal under the license, consideration of flooding issues is of paramount importance,” Davis assured the group.

GRDA also included in the proposed temporary amendment a plan to pre-release waters from Grand Lake to accommodate predicted increases in inflows in an effort to avoid significant flooding. It was noted that the pre-release practice was unsuccessful when Miami flooded in July 2007.

The proposal also says that if the temporary change, presents an unreasonable increase of flood risk the Commission may rescind approval of the temporary modification.

“This is your opportunity for the next 30 days to comment on that filing with FERC,” Dr. Townsend said.

Comments, protests, or motions to intervene will be considered if filed in accordance with the Commission’s Rules which can be found on the FERC website under Temporary Amendment of License Articles 401 and 411 for Project No 1494 (Pensacola).