FERC report recommends higher water levels for Lake Martin

Experts at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have concluded that a proposal by Alabama Power to raise the winter level of Lake Martin by 3 feet should be included in a new federal license for Martin Dam.

The experts also endorsed a proposal to extend the summer water level at Lake Martin into the fall, when there is ample water.

imageThe conclusions are part of FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Lake Martin, which the agency issued Thursday. The FEIS is a critical element in Alabama Power’s multiyear effort to renew its license to operate Martin Dam.
“We are very pleased with this outcome, and want to thank the thousands of Lake Martin stakeholders who’ve supported the proposal to raise the lake level,” said Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power chairman, president and CEO.

“The Final EIS takes us a step closer to making this very significant, operational change in how we manage water levels at Lake Martin,” said Matt Bowden, Alabama Power vice president of Environmental Affairs. “Raising the winter lake level and extending the summer pool will greatly enhance the recreational opportunities and aesthetics of Lake Martin for residents and visitors.”

The Process

Alabama Power has been working with stakeholders, local leaders and multiple public agencies since 2006 on relicensing the Lake Martin hydroelectric project. Approval of the FEIS is a milestone in the complex relicensing process.

The FEIS endorses Alabama Power’s proposal to maintain the water level on Lake Martin during the winter months up to an elevation of 484 feet, mean sea level (msl), instead of the current 481feet. The report also endorses the company’s proposal to try to maintain the lake at the higher summer level of 491 feet msl for up to six weeks longer in the early fall – through mid-October – when certain criteria are met. Under current guidelines, the company lowers the lake level beginning Sept. 1.

An earlier Draft EIS from FERC did not recommend the higher winter lake level, or the longer summer pool, as proposed by Alabama Power and supported by many lake stakeholders. Alabama Power conducted extensive additional studies, under FERC’s guidance, and over 600 Lake Martin stakeholders attended a FERC public meeting in support of higher lake levels. After considering the additional information and concluding that modifying the lake level offered substantial recreational benefits with negligible downstream impacts, FERC staff now agrees with the company’s proposal.

“We appreciate all the hard work of our stakeholders, the FERC staff, other public agencies and community leaders,” said Jim Crew, Hydro Services manager for Alabama Power. “For nearly a decade, we’ve worked in partnership with so many people who support efforts to relicense Lake Martin. We look forward to receiving a new license for Lake Martin in the near future.”
Typically, after FERC releases a Final EIS, approval of a new hydroelectric license will follow within a few months. Once FERC issues a new license for Lake Martin, the company can move forward on managing the reservoir using the new lake level guidelines. The new license is expected to extend for a period of between 30 and 50 years.

A copy of the final EIS is available in the e-library section of FERC’s website under Docket P-349-173.
For more information about Alabama Power’s reservoirs, please visit www.apcshorelines.com.

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