FERC orders shutdown of small Michigan hydropower facilities

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a Nov. 26 order finding that Cameron Gas and Electric Co. is in violation of its license for the 702-kW Smithville and Mix Project No. 11150 in Michigan.

“Cameron has failed to operate the project to control fluctuations of the reservoir surface elevation as required by Article 402 of its project license and a Compliance Order issued on July 27, 2012,” said the Nov. 26 order from FERC. “This order requires the licensee to cease all generation at the project until further order of the Commission.”

In August 2001, commission staff issued a minor license to Cameron for the Smithville and Mix Project No. 11150, located on the Grand River in the City of Eaton Rapids in Eaton County, Michigan.

  • The Smithville Development is located two miles upstream of Eaton Rapids and contains a 167-foot-long, 14-foot-high dam that creates an 80-acre reservoir with a storage capacity of 300-acre-feet. Power is produced at a concrete powerhouse that is integral with the dam, containing three turbines with a total installed capacity of 500 kW.
  • The Mix Development is located within Eaton Rapids’ city limits and contains a 188-foot-long, 7-foot-high diversion dam that creates a 150-acre reservoir with a storage capacity of 500-acre-feet. A 35 to 100-foot-wide, 500-foot-long canal bypasses the dam to a power storage pond that leads to a powerhouse, containing two turbines with a total installed capacity of 202 kW.

On Aug. 7, Cameron filed a response to a FERC show cause order. Cameron asserted that it operates the project in a run-of-river mode, as required by FERC, and that due to the design of both developments, the project cannot be operated in any other way. Cameron argued that Article 402 is “poorly written and does not take into account the very significant design differences between the Smithville and Mix developments.” Cameron stated that the deviations are largely due to weather driven flows and releases from an upstream dam. Cameron contended that the license contains conflicting and ambiguous language. To remedy this alleged ambiguity, Cameron stated that it has worked proactively with resource agencies to amend the impoundment elevation limits in Article 402. Cameron also stated that while it is not perfect, it generally believes that it is in compliance with the reporting requirements.

Said FERC in its Nov. 26 order: “Cameron’s arguments raised in its August 7 response are without merit. The Commission issued the license for the project thirteen years ago, and since that time, the requirements of Article 402 have remained the same. If Cameron felt there was conflicting and ambiguous language, it should have sought clarification or rehearing of the license. When Cameron accepted the license for this project, it accepted the responsibility to operate the project in compliance with all of the terms and conditions included in the license. Cameron has a long-term and extensive history of noncompliance at this project, and has done very little to correct the situation.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.