The Shafer and Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corporation (SFLECC) recently filed a request for a rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on an order by the FERC Commissioners to make the temporary License FERC issued to NIPSCO in 2014 for the Norway-Oakdale hydroelectric project on the Tippecanoe River permanent. The FERC Order ostensibly supports the request of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for more water to be let out through the Oakdale Dam in times of abnormal low river flow into Lakes Freeman and Shafer. The purpose of the directive is to support endangered species of mussels.
Strangely, the decision by the Commissioners is counter to recommendations by FERC’s own staff for changes in the temporary license – changes that would have provided for more water for the lower river in times of abnormal low flows from upstream by reducing power generation at the Oakdale Dam, thus avoiding extreme lowered lake levels.
Under the Temporary License, Lake Freeman was lowered 23 inches in 2014 causing closure of the Lake to boaters. Just this past week, during a declared abnormal low flow period, under the temporary License NIPSCO dropped the Lake 3 inches. After several periods of rain It has since returned to traditional levels. Access and boating on the Lake is curtailed when the water level drops 12 inches or more from its target level of normal 612.45 ft.
SFLECC President Lee Kreul and SFLECC’s Lake Levels Task Force Chair John Koppelmann stated that, “Obviously we are very disappointed in the FERC Commissioners ruling to make the 2014 Temporary License permanent. We want them to reconsider their actions. Over the last five years, despite countless man hours, money spent and the financial support from the governments of White and Carroll counties, the city of Monticello and the Twin Lakes and the public, we have come up short of our goal to seek agreement from the FERC Commissioners that the natural flow of the river and holding the Lake levels constant, was the best alternative for all parties. We have no doubt that, with their Order the Lakes will continue to suffer minor and major drops in levels for lengthy periods, and closures of Lake Freeman, especially during the summer months, will occur. We also must consider that the waters of Lake Shafer could also eventually be tapped.”
Among the points in their Request for Rehearing SFLECC lists several major errors by the FERC Commissioners in their ruling:
- The Commissioner’s ruling ignores the fact that FWS in its’ Biological Opinion admitted that the FERC’s Staff Alternative for operation of the Oakdale dam was “not likely” to jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered mussels or adversely affect their habitat. Yet FWS insisted that their approach to controlling flow is superior and demands it be used.
- The commissioners erred by automatically accepting FWS self-proclaimed hydrological methodology as embodying the “best science” available and ignored testimony by other noted hydrological scientists with contrary views. Also, contrary to Federal law it (FWS), did not detail the qualifications of FWS personnel who developed the FWS methodology.
- By Federal law the Commission is not obligated to automatically accept FWS’ self-proclaimed “best science”. To do so is contrary to the Commission’s responsibility.
- The Commission erred by not considering the riparian rights of property owners around the Lakes, denying the property owners access to the Lakes fronting their properties.
- The Order violates the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution due to the inequitable treatment of owners of property along lake Freeman in comparison to property owners on Lake Shafer.
Clink on the following link to view the request: Request for Rehearing
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR SFLECC
Lee Kreul, President – firstname.lastname@example.org (765)412-2984
John Koppelmann, Lake Levels Task Force Chair – John@Johnsellshomes.com (574)583-3171