FERC relicenses 43.2-MW Nantahala, last of six Duke relicenses

WASHINGTON 3/1/12 (PennWell) -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has relicensed the 43.2-MW Nantahala hydroelectric project, the last of six Duke Energy projects in North Carolina to be relicensed under terms of comprehensive settlement agreements.

Duke and stakeholders crafted agreements over three years to resolve issues associated with relicensing Nantahala (No. 2692), 26.175-MW East Fork (No. 2698), 24.6-MW West Fork (No. 2686), 980-kW Bryson (No. 2601), 1.04-MW Franklin (No. 2603), and 1.8-MW Mission (No. 2619). The settlement included surrendering and breaching the 225-kW Dillsboro project (No. 2602) in 2010.

The Nantahala project includes a dam and reservoir on the Nantahala River in western North Carolina, a powerhouse containing a single generating unit, and three small diversion dams on Dicks and White Oak creeks.

In its relicense proposal, Duke sought no new capacity for Nantahala. It proposed to operate the projects according to terms of the settlement agreements, with measures for protection, mitigation, and enhancement of resources affected by the project. Duke is in the process of implementing numerous enhancements that are to cost $10.5 million.

"This final new license is a credit to all who worked together to develop comprehensive plans for balancing numerous water needs," Duke Vice President Steve Jester said. "We value their insight and are deeply grateful to their commitment to this effort."

As relicensed with mandatory conditions and FERC staff modifications, FERC estimated Nantahala's power would cost $2 million, or $9.51 per megawatt-hour, in the first year of operation. That would be $4.99 million, or $23.21 per MWh, less than the cost of alternative power.

Duke purchased the seven Nantahala Power & Light projects, on the Nantahala and Tuckasegee rivers, from Alcoa 1988. In 2000, Nantahala changed its name to Nantahala Power and Light, a division of Duke Energy Corp.

Tuckasegee River and Nantahala River agreements provided for removal of the 12-foot-tall, 310-foot-long concrete masonry Dillsboro dam, on the Tuckasegee River. Dam removal opens 9.5 miles of the river to aquatic resources.

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