WOODBURY, Conn. (AP) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a 40-year license Thursday for Andy Peklo's hydroelectric dam project beside his home on the Pomperaug River.
In its written decision, the commission denied a request from opponents of the project seeking a formal hearing, concluding there were no issues of fact that could not be resolved through the application's written record.
In addition, FERC rejected accusations from opponents that Peklo intentionally submitted false information.
"While there have been instances where Mr. Peklo provided deficient or incorrect information, either the information was not material to the proceeding or Mr. Peklo resolved the issue by providing the required information," the commission's decision said. "In any event, there is nothing to suggest that Mr. Peklo knowingly and willfully misled the Commission."
Peklo expressed satisfaction with that conclusion, coming five years after beginning the approval process.
"I feel there is a certain amount of vindication," Peklo said. "That I'm not a bad boy. I'm not a monster."
The commission did require Peklo to reduce his planned energy generation to allow a regular flow of water over the dam for aesthetic purposes, a compromise Peklo said he would need to evaluate before moving forward with the project. Peklo had originally proposed reducing flows over the dam so as to eliminate any flow on about 212 days of the year.
In addition, the commission required Peklo to construct fish and eel ladders and to create a public access safety plan, a noise-monitoring plan, and a debris management plan.
The commission estimates the project will generate an annual average of 264.4 megawatt-hours and concluded that the changes to the project area would be minor and not negatively affect neighboring property values.
Lee Sherwood, a Pomperaug Road resident who opposes the project, derided the integrity of the approval process and said he was not surprised by FERC's decision.
"This remains an endeavor that benefits no one and requires sacrifice by many with no gain," Sherwood said. "If seen to completion the neighborhood of Pomperaug and the town of Woodbury will lose one of its most iconic spots. All for the sake of one man and a means of justification of a detached, uncaring bureaucracy in Washington."
The commission's economic analysis of the project estimated that the first year's generation of power will cost $19,897, or $75.25 per MWh more than the $164.22 per MWh cost of Connecticut Light & Power's Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program.
Peklo declined to discuss the economics of the project. He must submit plans for financing the project at least 90 days before any construction begins.
The commission refused to rule on disputes between Peklo and his detractors over whether Peklo has all the necessary property rights to construct, operate, and maintain the project, calling such issues a matter for the courts, if necessary. The commission said Peklo has five years to acquire all the necessary rights, setting a deadline for him to provide an update in four years.
In response to complaints that Peklo's project would reside in a residential and not a commercial district in violation of the town's zoning regulations, the commission said that the Federal Power Act takes precedence.
"Generally, we expect our licensees to comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws, where possible, including obtaining any necessary permits required to be obtained prior to project construction under local zoning classifications and ordinances," the commission said. "However, to the extent that state or local regulations make compliance with our orders impossible or unduly difficult, the FPA preempts such regulations."
Peklo expressed relief at the ruling while bracing for any additional obstacles thrown by his neighbors.
"I'm glad it's over," he said. "We'll go on from here."