Virginia Dam Defines Dereliction in Licensing

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After years of directly violating license articles, failing to submit plans or reports on time or at all, not installing fish passage, failing to provide a minimum flow, and generating power despite direct orders from FERC to cease operation, the Commission has threatened to revoke the License for the Harvell project on Virginia's Appomattox River.

In its 1987 license, FERC directed the owner of the Harvell project to construct, maintain, and monitor upstream and downstream fish passage. During the relicensing process agencies determined that fish passage at the Harvell project, the first dam on the Appomattox River, would benefit striped bass, American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, and alewife.

By 1998, the licensee had constructed half of the upstream passage facilities. A FERC inspection in 2000 demonstrated that the existing upstream passage was not operating properly as a result of low attraction flows. After several letters from FERC, the licensee finally agreed to monitor the migration season of 2001 and provide a report to FERC by spring 2002. That deadline passed and it was not until March 2003 that the licensee finally filed what amounted to an inadequate report with FERC. Further visits by FERC in 2002 revealed that the entrainment barrier component of downstream passage had been improperly installed.

Additionally, in summer 2000, a license violation of a minimum flow-related license article resulted in the death of 500 to 1000 fish, as documented by a residential neighbor to the project. Compliance orders directing the licensee to cease operations had no effect: the licensee generated power and nearly $38,000 in summer 1996. A civil penalty levied against the licensee remains only partially paid.

The order, issued September 15, only proposes to revoke the license. The licensee may respond within 30 days or may request an evidentiary hearing, prolonging proceedings.