For the Lake Wedowee Property Owners' Association, "Protecting Your Playground" is more than just our motto. It clearly states our mission of safeguarding and improving the quality of the lake environment and the interests of the property owners.
An important aspect of being .a member of the LWPOA includes volunteering to help with many of our ongoing events and services, some of which are shown below:
Lake Wedowee Area Upcoming Events
Lake impact studies required by FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Comm.) continued during 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has not affected the relicensing timeline and Alabama Power’s application will be filed in November 2021. Safety precautions during the pandemic have required that public meetings be replaced by teleconferences but the schedule set by FERC is being met.
Alabama Power continues to post on-line interim study reports and has hosted several conference calls to get public feedback. The information and comments during those virtual meetings are the subject of this update. All documents are available at: http://www.harrisrelicensing.com/_layouts/15/start.aspx#/Relicensing%20Document%20Library/Forms/AllItems.aspx
Several areas of great interest to our members intersect critically and must be looked at as a whole. These are: winter lake level, flood control, erosion and sedimentation (especially downstream of the dam), and downstream fish and wildlife habitat.
Alabama Power is looking at the effects above and below the dam of keeping the lake 1, 2, 3 or 4 feet higher during the winter. No decision or even recommendation has been made on the winter lake level. The primary purpose for which FERC and COE (Army Corps of Engineers) licenses the dam and reservoir is flood control. Power generation and recreation are secondary.
On the lake the quantifiable difference in winter levels is the number of docks and public ramps available for recreation based on the depth at the front edge of structures. Obviously at higher levels more structures are usable in the winter. Alabama power is doing a count of what can be used at different levels based on contour maps and aerial photographs. Aesthetics, an intangible, is not part of the study.
Downstream, different winter levels impact the depth, coverage, and duration of flooding. “Downstream” is the 43 river-mile segment of the Tallapoosa River from the dam to Horseshoe Bend Park. Flood impact modeling is based on a one hundred year flood, how much capacity the lake has to hold back flood waters, and how much water is released through the dam. Obviously a higher winter pool means more water must be released during a flood as the lake’s holding capacity is reduced. A one foot increase in the lake winter level results in slightly greater coverage and depth of flooding downstream. Two feet higher and the impact downstream is greater. At three and four feet higher the impact downstream is tremendous and lasts longer.
Conversely, during low flow periods (droughts), a higher winter pool can better meet minimum flows and user needs downstream.
Downstream landowners are adamantly opposed to any rise in the winter lake level, based on the negative effect flooding has on their property and communities. Summarizing their comments, the lake was “sold” to them as a way of preventing flooding and they are not convinced it is doing so at the current winter level. They don’t want a higher level that will only increase the severity of occasional flooding they already experience. Following heated input, Alabama Power pointed out that the company is looking at the different levels in response to stakeholders’ requests and no decision has been made. My take on this: considering the other impacts that downstream landowners want mitigated, don’t look for the power company to fall on their sword with FERC or COE for a higher winter level. But...a higher winter level might be possible if upstream inflows are below a certain amount. The winter level might vary year to year depending on inflows and other environmental factors. This has happened in the past on a case by case basis.
Another area of downstream concern is the amount of water released during generation and “green plan” pulses and the effects on fish habitat and bank erosion. Since water to the turbines is pulled from 40’ deep in the lake, the water downstream is colder now than before the dam was built, changing the character of the river. Also, no water is released when the dam is not generating. To even out the all-or-nothing flow the company implemented the green plan, which allows for three 10-minute pulses thru the turbines daily, in addition to scheduled peak-load generation. Many landowners downstream and other stakeholders want a continuous flow of 150 CFS (cubic feet per second), roughly equivalent to green plan pulses. This should not affect the lake level as the existing pulses are partially dependent on river inflows to the lake and presumably a minimum continuous flow would be as well. The LWPOA will be watching this closely as a change in non-generating releases could result in lower summer levels.
Natural erosion around the lake shoreline is considered negligible according to study results. Most erosion is caused by boats, over which the power company has no control. Sedimentation, while bad in the areas where the rivers and creeks settle into the lake, cannot be controlled as the sediment flows in from agricultural areas and dirt roads that are not controlled by Alabama Power. Downstream bank erosion, a significant friction point between between landowners and the company, is a topic that must be worked out between them.
At this time relicensing studies are in the final phase. No meetings or conference calls are scheduled at this time but I expect one more round will be scheduled to lay out more study results and get more public input before the relicense application is filed this November. By listening to concerns now and addressing those in the application, Alabama Power hopes to avoid drawn out challenges to the license.
After the relicense application is filed, comments and challenges will be heard. We will be watching closely to see how the application impacts lake property owners, and for ways other stakeholders’ challenges, if any, may affect us.
The LWPOA board welcomes your comments on relicensing.
Lake Relicensing Update, February 2021
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