Proposed Hydroelectric Plant at Ashokan Reservoir Raises Concerns

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map of planned project

Plans for proposed electric plant that nobody asked for. Source: Premium Energy Holdings.

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According to the Daily Freeman, Hurley Town officials are urging local residents to participate in the process to determine if developers can move forward with an underground hydroelectric power station on the banks of the Ashokan Reservoir.

Local officials have been caught off guard by the proposal and are critical of the scope and potential environmental impact. Premium Energy, the company behind the plant proposal, has said it will not move forward without local support.

Town of Shandaken Supervisor Robert Stanley has been quoted as saying his town is “vehemently opposed” to the current plan for a variety of reasons, adding that it would remove property from the town’s tax base and block the spawning areas of trout fisheries, something Shandaken is well-known for.

Moonhaw Impact

Astonishingly, the proposed upper reservoir would flood the Moonhaw Road region — which is how we all hike up to Friday and Balsam Cap mountains.

google terrain map
Proposed location of upper reservoir, via Google Maps.

Two alternative sites are proposed as locations for the upper reservoir: Woodland Valley and Route 214 in Stony Clove Notch.

All three locations are completely insane choices.

What We Can Do About It

The second of two public information sessions was held via zoom 3/18/21 at 6:30pm. This meeting was excellent, and laid out a very helpful set of objectives and solid guidance. Here is a recording of the meeting.

New York State has set ambitious goals for renewable energy. These projects are desired and extremely profitable. And there is currently a “run” on locations where such projects can be built. There are already dozens of projects at the permitting phase.

New York State is pushing hard to switch to renewables but this plant would not really be what most people consider truly renewable. Overall, it actually produces a net loss of energy — because it has to pump water uphill to make it fall back downhilll; this is just basic physics.

However, these kinds of power plants are actually very necessary. It’s about power management in terms of peak power requirements during the day, when we all use the most power.

The plant would essentially use inexpensive old school utility power to pump water uphill at night, then use that water on its way back down to power turbines during the day, when it’s needed.

So we do need this. Many such projects are coming online all over the state.

But fucking up the Catskills is a non-starter.

This plan will go nowhere. But we need to make noise. Comments are due by April 12.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) needs us to understand that we understand the issues at hand and the trade-offs that all such projects involve. They’re not interested in NIMBY responses. (The plant at Gilboa overcame objections that were based on unique scenic beauty and value of the area, and so on.)

FERC does not handle feasibility. We need to make clear that this preliminary proposal is poorly thought out and should be denied on is lack of merit.

It is important in our objections that we do not use boilerplate language. That is, don’t copy any email or letter templates you find online. Write your own human response that sticks to a few key issues. The best shots during this preliminary license stage are as follows…

  • legal ramifications — sorry, I did not make good notes on this section
  • this project not kind of innovation DoE is looking for — this is not a “closed loop” project / Premium Energy are lying in their proposal / “this proposal is deficient” / it does not deserve the streamlined application process
  • highly preserved land and stream ecology — the proposed sites in The Catskills are on Status 1 Land / the Department of Energy has said that Status 1 or 2 must be avoided for development / this is a very important point, and will be compelling to both the DoE and to the developers / Premium Energy don’t seem aware that their project will require an amendment to the State Constitution which protects the Catskill Park specifically / trout loss due to sediment / this is where fly fishing began!

It may also be smart to include a reasonable point, namely: we all understand that these projects are valuable and needed but they should be placed where the land is not so well protected. (Only qualified people should mention alternative sites. This means we normals should not mention or propose alternative sites.)

Finally, in this very helpful Facebook post, Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher has some great suggestions for quick to-dos. (But do not copy the sample comments she uses there, as they will have very little weight with FERC.)

Where to Comment

Comments are due by April 12, 2021. You must include docket number P-15056-000 on the first page of your response.

Start here:

Comments can also be mailed to:

  • Kimberly D. Bose
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    888 First St. NE, Room 1A
    Washington, D.C. 20426.

The first page of any filing should include docket number P-15056-000.

More links…

2 responses to “Proposed Hydroelectric Plant at Ashokan Reservoir Raises Concerns

  1. This is the comment I submitted to FERC. Do not copy/paste this text, but do feel free to use it for reference…

    To whom it concerns:

    I am writing about Premium Energy’s proposal for a hydroelectric plant in the Catskills. I live next to the Catskills and know the area well, as I hike in there every week. I know all three proposed locations. I am shocked at the choices, as they are all manifestly unsuitable for a project of this kind.

    Premium Energy’s proposal seems haphazard and sloppy and quickly put together without any real knowledge of the area, of the obvious impacts this project will have on this major tourism area, or of the laws that apply to these projects and the Catskill Park.

    • The Catskill Park is constitutionally protected as “forever wild” and is highy preserved Status 1 Land. The Department of Energy has said that Status 1 or 2 must be avoided for development. Premium Energy seem unaware that their project will require an amendment to the State Constitution which protects the Catskill Park.
    • This region is where fly fishing began in the United States and this project threatens to destroy that valuable legacy with sediment build-up which will decimate local trout habitat.
    • This project not kind of innovation DoE is looking for. This is not a true “closed loop” project. Premium Energy’s proposal is deficient. It does not deserve the streamlined application process.

    Thank you for your consideration of these points.

    Sean O’Dwyer

Your comments are welcome here…

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