Business, Community, Energy, Environment

Public raises concerns about Lake Lynn Generation’s stewardship of Cheat Lake Park, other public areas

MORGANTOWN – The public remains skeptical of Lake Lynn Generation/Eagle Creek Renewable Energy’s proposal to remove 307.1 acres surrounding Cheat Lake from federal protection.

Among the complaints voiced at the Sept. 25 public meeting held to discuss Lake Lynn Generation’s application to renew its Lake Lynn Hydroelectric Project license were the company’s inadequate maintenance of Cheat Lake Park.

Comments filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Cheat Lake Environment and Recreation Association on Thursday illustrate those concerns.

It says, in part, “Trees remain down on the trail for weeks, washouts remain unfixed for over a year, trails are worse for wear, the swimming beach goes without sand and full of debris, docks fall apart, viewing benches are broken and unusable, bathrooms are out of commission, etc., etc.

“Then shoreline erosion goes unchecked, and dredging is not frequent enough for boat passage. Now they want to remove 300 acres from the project lands opening up the possibility of selling it off for development.”

CLEAR’s suggestion: “The current relicensing should not go forward until the language is strong enough to hold the licensee responsible for maintaining the project lands to the specifications needed to keep the operation safe and project area recreation friendly. The current owner needs to stop the dereliction of duty.”

In mid-September, Jody Smet, chief compliance officer and vice president of regulatory affairs for Lake Lynn Generation and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, told The Dominion Post, “Stewardship is a company value, and we are committed to protecting the lake and the lands around it.”

Given the concerns about Cheat Lake Park, we contacted Smet twice last week with a series of questions about the complaints, its stewardship and its plans to address the concerns; we even quoted Smet’s prior comment.

Smet did not respond to either contact attempt.

CLEAR is not alone in its criticisms. We previously noted the comments of Pennsylvania state legislator Charity Grimm Krupa, who represents the area of Fayette County affected by the dam project.

We quote them in full here: “Initially, Ontario Power Generation Inc.’s lack of upkeep and failure to complete general maintenance is noteworthy as it evidences a general attitude of gross neglect and broad contempt for the public lands under its purview and control as the operator of the power station and surrounding areas.

“They have refused to provide the bare necessities for public use. For example, it has been reported that the public restrooms are unusable as the toilets, urinals, and sinks are not operable and no toilet paper or soap is provided.

“The overwhelming majority of the water fountains do not operate. The normal trash generated by public use is not handled appropriately, often left unattended for extended periods of time, thus resulting in garbage being scattered across the park and into the lake itself.

“Basic safety measures are disregarded. Cases for fire extinguishers remain empty. Forty-two lakeside lights which automatically illuminated under prior operators have not worked since Ontario Power Generation Inc. took over.

“Under previous control, Millstone Point Beach annually received a load of new sand but not this year. Under the current reign, uncut grasses and weeds have grown to almost 5 feet high at times.”

A group calling itself Save Cheat Lake noted the same problems in a PowerPoint submitted to FERC.

The Dominion Post visited the park last week. It is off-season so the restrooms were closed, and the water fountains were not working. It was daytime, so we couldn’t tell if the lights were working. All of the trash cans had been emptied, the grass was not overly high, and a pile of treated lumber sat near the main building, indicating some kind of maintenance was underway, but no workers were there.

CLEAR is among those calling on FERC to deny Lake Lynn Generation’s proposal to remove the acreage from FERC oversight. FERC Project Coordinator Allan Creamer said during the Sept. 25 meeting that if FERC allows the boundary adjustment, it will have no say in what the current owners do with the land.

And the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is among the many who’ve said the adjustment would open the acreage to private development.

Smet said at the Sept. 25 meeting that they are not removing public access areas from FERC protection under their proposal: Cheat Lake Park, Cheat Haven and Tower Run nature viewing areas, Sunset Marina boat ramp and parking lot, Tailwater fishing access.

But, as we said, Smet did not respond to our questions about public comments on its lack of stewardship.

CLEAR and others want FERC to ensure that the hydroelectric project license renewal will require the owners to provide a recreation plan and shoreline plan before relicensing is done. CLEAR is also among those who want assurance that all stakeholders will remain involved: the local community, local and state governments, and the appropriate federal agencies.

CLEAR said, “We must ensure the license provides a mechanism to hold the Project owner responsible for correcting deviations from the license in a timely manner.”

Creamer explained the timeline at the Sept. 25 meeting. FERC staff was to have reviewed the scoping meeting comments by Oct. 25, and then must prepare for and undertake a thorough environmental review for a National Energy Policy Act report, which will be subject to public comments. FERC will then issue a licensing decision, and parties with intervenor status will have 30 days to request a rehearing.

Among the protection, mitigation and enhancement measures, Lake Lynn Generation must develop a shoreline management plan and a historic properties management plan. FERC will review such things as the effects of shoreline development on erosion and sedimentation.

And, concerning the proposed boundary change, FERC will review the possible effects of removing the land from federal protection on such things as aquatic life, endangered species recreation opportunities, archaeological sites and cultural resources.

While the current public comment period has expired, the public can review all submitted comments and other updates at the FERC e-library, entering docket number P-2459.