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Lumberland takes on Rio Dam operator

Lumberland council member Joe Carr, left, and supervisor Nadia Rajsz congratulate Sofia Martynec for being chosen as Retired Senior Volunteer Person of the Year.
TRR photo by David Hulse

By David Hulse
June 19, 2013

Town officials say the operators of the Rio Dam are working on an upgrade to the dam’s generators, running heavy equipment over dam approach roads without making permit applications or any notification to Lumberland or the neighboring Town of Deerpark.

Upon learning the town’s concerns, project officials claimed that owner Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC was operating under federal oversight and that Lumberland had no authority in permitting the work.

Lumberland Supervisor Nadia Rajsz reported Wednesday that she learned of the project when town highway superintendent Donald Hunt Jr. saw the work and warned of likely road damage from equipment and trucking.

Code enforcement officer David Sparling said Eagle Creek ignored a road-use agreement on Powerhouse Road. The work is expected to generate 720 heavy truck trips.

Sparling said the trucks are now accessing the project from the Deerpark side; he also said that a stop-work order he had issued on the project has been ignored.

Sparling said he has contacted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and on Wednesday was awaiting some statement from FERC. “[Eagle Creek] tends to ignore all questions,” he said.

“It’s a good thing we recognized this before damage was done,” Rajsz said.

A review of Eagle Creek’s FERC application for the project appears to support Lumberland’s position. In February 2012, Eagle Creek applied to FERC to expand the capacity for the Rio Project by adding an 800 kW turbine/generator minimum flow unit for a total installed plant capacity of approximately 10,800 kW.

On page two of that application, Eagle Creek stated, “The applicants will follow the local building ordinance and obtain a building permit and any other necessary permits from the Town of Lumberland prior to the construction. The Eagle Creek Companies will obtain coverage under NYSDEC SPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity.” SPDES stands for State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

“We’re not saying the generator work is bad, we just want them to follow our law,” Rajsz added.

In other business at Wednesday’s town board meeting, Rajsz reported that the town has contracted with a new engineering company, Barton and Loguidice, after the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the former contractor Upstate Labs as a fraudulent facility. Rajsz said the EPA action did not involve penalties to Upstate clients.


Rio Dam history

Eagle Creek purchased the Mongaup Falls and Rio Hydroelectric hydro facilities from Alliance Energy in January 2011. Rio Dam and the Mongaup River hydro system have seen several ownership changes since the turn of the century.

In operation since 1927, Rio was built by the Rockland Light and Power Co. In 1999 its successor O&R transferred its license to the Southern Energy NY-Gen LLC, which became Mirant NY-Gen, LLC in 2004, which was in turn acquired by Alliance Energy Renewables, LLC in July 2007.

In June of last year, New Jersey based Eagle Creek completed its acquisition of Mongaup River system with the purchase of the seven megawatt Swinging Bridge Hydroelectric Project from AER NY-Gen. That purchase included the Toronto and Swinging Bridge Reservoirs as well as Cliff Lake.

The 21 megawatt system of five reservoirs and three generating facilities produces 55,000 MWh of renewable energy per year for downstate New York, according to the company website.