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U.S. lets group conduct Little River hydropower study

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STAR LAKE — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a preliminary permit to ECOsponsible to study the feasibility of a hydro project on Little River in the town of Clifton.

The project would consist of an existing earth dam, reservoir and outlet conduit and a new propeller turbine with a capacity of 1,000 kilowatts, transmission line, substation and accessory facilities.

Estimated annual generation would be 7,446 megawatt-hours.

Dennis J. Ryan, project manager for ECOsponsible Inc., East Aurora, was not available to comment, but he previously said the project would upgrade a flood control dam built for Benson Mines in the middle of the last century into an electricity-generating run-of-the-river hydropower plant.

The New York State Council of Trout Unlimited and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have filed motions to intervene.

The Department of the Interior is concerned about an adverse impact on fish and wildlife that could be caused by the project’s construction and operation.

“Interior states that it would be opposed to any hydroelectric construction or operation that would destroy or seriously degrade fish and wildlife resources and associated habitats in or near the Little River and recommends that ECOsponsible be required to coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider development and operations that would be compatible with existing fish and wildlife resources,” according to FERC’s preliminary permit.

The commission found the concerns premature.

“A preliminary permit does not authorize a permittee to undertake construction of the proposed project and does not grant land-disturbing or other property rights,” the preliminary permit stated. “The purpose of a preliminary permit is to study the feasibility of the project, including studying potential impacts. Should the permittee file a license application, these issues will be addressed in the licensing process.”

Interior wants ECOsponsible to consult with the National Park Service and DEC about the effect of project construction and operations on the movements and reproduction of fish and other aquatic organisms, recreational fishing and navigation, wetland wildlife and flora and other historical resources.

Interior also recommends that ECOsponsible follow bald eagle management guidelines.

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