Georgia Power’s Middle Chattahoochee Project is an existing 129-MW hydroelectric facility located on the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City, Alabama. The project consists of a series of three hydropower dams and reservoirs (Goat Rock, Oliver, North Highlands) on a 16-mile reach of river classified for drinking water, recreation, and fishing uses. Georgia Power proposed the continued operation of the three hydropower dams, and retained Geosyntec to support them in developing an applicant-prepared environmental assessment (APEA) for routine relicensing of the Middle Chattahoochee Project. The APEA needed to be prepared under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) alternative (i.e., collaborative) licensing process, which combined into a single process the pre-filing consultation and the environmental review processes under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Geosyntec’s Scope of Services
Geosyntec characterized the affected environment and analyzed environmental impacts in eight resource areas, including geology and soils, water resources, fisheries and aquatic resources, wetland and terrestrial resources, historic properties, recreation, land use and aesthetics, and socioeconomic resources. Dam removal was considered as an alternative to the proposed action. Geosyntec analyzed the significant issues, which included the effects of project operation on reservoir fluctuations and downstream flow releases for riverine aquatic habitat, dissolved oxygen concentrations in the project inflow, federally protected species of mussels, fish passage, fish entrainment and turbine- induced mortality, recreational use and access, and the protection of free-flowing tributary habitats by providing vegetative buffers. Geosyntec led technical resource discussions in numerous consultation meetings and workshops held with stakeholders. Agreements reached with stakeholders on resource enhancements were incorporated into the APEA to facilitate review by FERC, the lead agency.
Georgia Power filed the APEA with FERC as part of its final application for relicensing in December 2002. Geosyntec supported post-filing activities as FERC processed the license application, which included drafting responses to stakeholder comments, filing comments on FERC’s environmental assessment, and refining resource enhancement measures through Federal Power Act Section 10(j) consultation with fish and wildlife resource agencies.
Geosyntec’s understanding of the FERC process and technical expertise assisted Georgia Power in obtaining a 30-year license that incorporated environmentally sensitive yet flexible operating terms and conditions.