Pump Storage Project Redux

By Kent Karriker

Remember the pump storage project that was proposed for Backbone Mountain about a year ago, and then axed because of impacts to sensitive National Forest lands?  Well, it’s back, but in a different location. 

Project proponent FreedomWorks, LLC has filed a new application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of constructing the project on the Allegheny Front, near Bismark, in Grant County.  This proposed location would involve constructing two reservoirs, one on Mill Run, a tributary of Stony River, and another on the North Fork of Patterson Creek.  (See the December 2018 Voice for a basic description of how a pump storage facility works.)  Unlike the previous incarnation of this project, the current proposed location is entirely on private land and would not affect any public land.  The new proposal is being called the Ulysses Pumped Storage Hydropower Project.

FERC has accepted FreedomWorks’ application for processing.  If they decide to issue the preliminary permit, it would allow FreedomWorks to proceed with feasibility studies (a permit to actually construct the facility would be considered later in the process).  Right now, FERC is accepting comments on the preliminary permit application.  But hurry if you want to submit a comment; the deadline is January 13, 2020.  Information on the project and the procedure for commenting can be found in the FERC elibrary (https://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/elibrary.asp).  Choose “general search,” set the date range from 10/01/2019 to the present date, and search for docket number P-15012.  If the preliminary permit is issued, the public will have an additional opportunity to comment during the construction permitting phase.  

The Conservancy is currently evaluating the revised proposal and has not yet taken a position on it.  However, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources raised many concerns in a comment letter that they filed on November 18. According to the Department of Natural Resources comment letter, the project likely would eliminate the trout fishery in the two affected streams, could impact numerous rare species, and would be constructed in an area that contains known caves.