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Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEISs)

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Relicensing of the Martin Dam Hydroelectric Project No. 349
Issued: June 6, 2013

Commission staff prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the relicensing of the Alabama Power Company’s (Alabama Power) existing 182.5-megawatt Martin Dam Hydroelectric Project (Martin Dam Project). The Martin Dam Project is located on the Tallapoosa River in Tallapoosa, Coosa, and Elmore Counties, Alabama. The project occupies 1.39 acres of lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

On June 8, 2011, Alabama Power filed an application to relicense the Martin Dam Project. Alabama Power proposes to continue to operate the project in a peaking mode and to make the following modifications to project operation: (1) to provide higher reservoir levels for recreation during the winter and to help ensure that Lake Martin reaches its summer pool level by the end of May each year, raise the winter flood pool by 3 feet, and raise the operating curve and drought curve proportionately during the same timeframe; (2) to help minimize downstream flooding, revise operation for flood control by reducing outflow from Martin dam during certain conditions when the reservoir elevation is decreasing; (3) to provide higher reservoir levels for recreation during the fall, extend the flood control curve to elevation 491 feet from September 1 to October 15 under certain conditions; and (4) to facilitate seawall and boat dock maintenance and construction under the proposed a 3-foot increase of the winter pool elevation, lower the reservoir elevation during the winter months to 481 feet every 6 years. In addition, Alabama Power proposes measures for operation during low flow or drought conditions.

Alabama Power proposes several non-operational, environmental measures including: (1) implementing the measures of the 401 water quality certification, which requires maintaining the state standard for dissolved oxygen (DO) when the project is generating, and monitoring water temperature and DO in the tailrace; (2) developing a reservoir water quality monitoring plan prior to implementing the proposed 3-foot increase in the winter flood pool; (3) finalizing and implementing a study of the distribution and abundance of American eels, in the Tallapoosa River from the project tailrace to the mouth of the river; (4) developing and implementing a Wildlife Management Program for project lands; (5) implementing a Nuisance Aquatic Vegetation and Vector Control Management Program, and preparing a plan to monitor potential increases in nuisance aquatic vegetation in Lake Martin resulting from the proposed 3-foot increase in winter pool; (6) implementing the proposed Shoreline Management Program; (7) implementing the proposed Recreation Plan; (8) modifying the project boundary to reflect existing and proposed management land uses and management strategies.

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) assesses the effects associated with operation of the project and alternatives to the proposed project. The staff recommendation is to relicense the Martin Dam Project with Alabama Power’s measures to protect and enhance water quality, fisheries, wildlife, and recreation resources with some modifications. Staff does not recommend of Alabama Power’s proposed increase in the winter flood pool elevation because the reduction in flood storage would result in an increase in flood elevation downstream of the projects. The proposal to raise the winter pool by three feet could affect 23 structures that are not affected under existing operations. Without the winter pool level increase Alabama Power’s proposed water quality monitoring in the reservoir and lowering the lake level for dock maintenance every six years becomes unnecessary. Staff also does not recommend Alabama Power’s proposal for the conditional fall extension, because it would be irregularly implemented, would provide only modest benefits to recreation, and may reduce downstream flood protection. Staff recommends the development of a drought management plan with more detail than Alabama Power proposes. Staff recommends most of Alabama Power’s proposed environmental measures, without modification, except the study of the distribution and abundance of American eels in the Tallapoosa River from the project tailrace to the mouth of the river. Instead, Staff recommends that Alabama Power trap eels annually at the Martin dam to determine if eel passage may be necessary.


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