FERC rejects app for another permit on Coon Rapids hydro project in Minnesota

Saying that the developer didn’t make enough of a case for extraordinary circumstances, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 20 rejected an October 2015 application from BOST1 Hydroelectric LLC for a second successive preliminary permit to continue its exclusive study of the feasibility of the Coon Rapids Dam Hydroelectric Project.

The proposed project would be located at the existing Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River in Hennepin and Anoka counties, Minnesota.

In October 2010, BOST1 received a three-year preliminary permit for the Coons Rapids Project. In September 2013, the commission staff granted a two-year extension of the permit term. In granting the two-year permit extension, Commission staff considered BOST1’s substantial progress toward filing a license application as evidenced by its filing of a Pre-Application Document and a Notice of Intent to file a license application using the Traditional Licensing Process. That permit term ended on Sept. 30, 2015.

The Federal Power Act does not specify how many preliminary permits an applicant may receive for the same site. However, the commission only grants a second request for a longer permit term, whether by means of a successive permit or extension of the permit term, when the permittee has demonstrated that “extraordinary circumstances” or factors outside of its control prevented it from filing a license application.

“BOST1 has failed to meet that burden,” said the Jan. 20 FERC ruling. “During its extended permit term, BOST1 filed timely progress reports, described its efforts to collect information that would be used in a license application, and a draft license application. In its filings, including its successive permit application, BOST1 states that it needs additional time to complete a few additional studies (i.e. Entrainment/Mortality Study and Three-Dimensional Hydraulic Modeling) and, more importantly, to negotiate an agreement with the Three Rivers Board to use the dam and other property. Neither of BOST1’s reasons, however, constitutes extraordinary circumstances or factors beyond its control that prevented it from filing a license application. Difficulties completing studies and negotiating the use of existing dam facilties are common challenges for hydropower developers.”

FERC noted that this denial does not constitue a judgment on the merits of BOST1’s proposed project, or prejudge in any way whether the commission would ultimately issue a license for the project. Holding a preliminary permit is not a prerequisite to pursuing a development application and BOST1 remains free to pursue development of the Coons Rapid Project and to file a final license application.

There is an old powerhouse at the site that at one time contained five vertical Francis turbine/generator units. The units were removed in 1966, and subsequently the powerhouse was converted into a recreation/observation area. The new plan for the site has been for a HYDROMATRIX (HM) plant that will be situated in the stilling basin area downstream from the two spillway sections of SPAN 9 (section between pier 9 and 10) and SPAN 10 (section between pier 10 and the Southwest abutment). The HM plant will feature two powerhouse sections (newly constructed retaining walls) located between spillway Span 9 and Span 10. Each turbine would have a rated output of 590.3 kW at a net head of 17.7 feet. A total of 16 units will result in a maximum plant capacity of 9.45 MW.

BOST1 had said it has entered into a purchase option agreement with the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) to acquire, construct and operate the project. BOST1 said it and WMMPA will jointly negotiate with the Three Rivers Park District for an approval to use park land.

A project contact is: Douglas A. Spaulding, BOST1 Hydroelectric LLC c/o Nelson Energy, 8441 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 101, Golden Valley, MN 55426, (952) 544-8133, doug@nelsonenergy.us.

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.