Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) kicked off the seven year federal relicensing process of the Grandfather Falls and the Tomahawk Hydroelectric Power Plants with a pair of public input meetings last week in Lincoln County.
“One person showed up at our meeting in Merrill and 7 folks showed up at our meeting in Tomahawk,” said WPS spokesperson Kelly Zagrzebski. “Most were just curious about our facilities, our operation and the licensing process. A few had questions on water level changes. It’s a long seven year process to relicense the Grandfather Falls and Tomahawk hydro plants, so we intend to keep everyone up to date through our website communications.”
The 30-year licenses for both facilities will expire in 2018. The licensing process is federally regulated. WPS is seeking public input now. Both facilities have been providing electricity to northern Wisconsin since 1938.
A lot of information is gathered during the five to seven year license renewal process. “Public input is important, as well as environmental recreational and operational information that will be gathered and researched and included in the relicensing effort,” said Greg Egtvedt, Manager of Environmental Licensing for WPS.
A lot of information is considering for relicensing, Egtvedt explained.
“It’s a very comprehensive process that covers all aspects of the operation; water level, endangered species, water quality, recreational activities, cultural and environmental factors.”
The first step is to gather all the existing information, such as fisheries data from the DNR and state recreation plans. WPS will initially consult with entities such as natural resource agencies and the State Historical Society. The second phase is to complete studies and the third phase will bring all that baseline date together.
WPS will gather the necessary information and develop a relicensing study plan through January 2013. Field studies and license preparation will then take place until January 2016, the license application will be finalized, developed and submitted in 2016 and federal regulators will have two years to develop the conditions of the newly issued licenses.
Public input is a key component of the process, Egtvedt said.
“We want to have people identify any concerns with the facilities,” he said.
WPS operates eight hydro facilities on the Wisconsin River, six on the Peshtigo River and one on the Menominee River and is well-versed in all aspects of hydro facility operations, including operating two hydro facilities for over a century.
The Tomahawk and Grandfather Falls facilities are very different from one another. Tomahawk has a reservoir of over 2,700 acres and a very low head. The plant produces 2.6 megawatts of electricity. The Grandfather Falls reservoir is only 200 acres with a 94-foot head, capable of producing 17.5 megawatts of electricity. Neither hydro operation has an appreciable impact on water levels, with a maximum fluctuation of about one foot.
The boundaries of the projects can be amended during the relicensing process. The Tomahawk project boundaries were amended last year to include only lands within the 100-year floodplain. Previously, most of the city of Tomahawk was within the project boundaries.
To learn more about the relicensing effort of the Grandfather Falls and Tomahawk hydro facilities, access http://www.wisconsinpublicservice.com/company/hydro_relicensing.aspx