Environmental studies to be discussed

FirstEnergy’s bid to retain hydroelectric operations at the Kinzua Dam is moving ahead.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Hampton Inn in North Warren, FirstEnergy officials will hold a public meeting to present the findings of 13 environmental studies related to relicensing for the Kinzua Pumped Storage Hydro Project.

The meeting is open to the public and comment will be accepted.

The studies are a required step in relicensing for the company, which, under one name or another, has operated the facility since commercial operations began in 1970.

According to a FirstEnergy press release, the 13 separate studies examined environmental and cultural issues related to operation of the facility. Research related to invasive plants, aquatic life, water quality and feasibility of future generation increases was conducted amongst other studies.

“It’s just part of the process,” Mark Durbin, FirstEnergy environmental and fossil generation media contact, said Tuesday. “This is open to the public. We welcome comment and use it to formulate our application. We’re required to do certain studies and we take the results, and any public comment, and use it to help outline our plan.”

FirstEnergy’s current license expires in 2015

However, FirstEnergy isn’t the only entity with plans to apply for license to operate the plant.

The Seneca Nation of Indians has expressed a desire to take over operations at the plant, a move the Warren County Commissioners have backed in the past.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the Seneca Nation a preliminary permit in 2011.

“This is a positive first step in what will be a lengthy process that started last November (2010) to win back the Kinzua Dam, the Allegheny Watershed and our flooded ancestral lands and use them for the benefit of our bi-state region,” then-Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter said in a press release at the time. “We would argue that FirstEnergy could never file an application equal to the nation’s, because FirstEnergy is unable to obtain the Seneca Nation’s water or property rights for storing water on the nation’s land and using water for additional hydropower generation.”

The Seneca Nation was required to conduct studies similar to those done by FirstEnergy. It will present the findings of its studies on Wednesday, Jan.16 in Salamanca, N.Y.

The Seneca Nation has said it expects to file final application paperwork in November.

FirstEnergy cites “its strong operating record at this facility” as motivation to file for relicensing.

FirstEnergy said in its release that it intends to file a final application in December.