“Wet The Dries”
Hawks Nest Dam was built in the 1930’s to divert the New River through a 3.5 mile tunnel dropping 167 feet for the purpose of generating 25 hertz power to be used in the smelting plant in Alloy, WV. The Hawks Nest Development generates approximately 541,845 MWh annually which is sold to WV Alloy / Globe Metallurgical. Additional power is purchased off of the grid from AEP.
The dam and hydro are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to Hawks Nest Hydro, LLC a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy. The current operating license was issued on Dec. 11, 1987 and expires on Dec. 31, 2017. Hydro must file its application with FERC for a new license no later than Dec. 31, 2015.
The formal start of the re licensing process is the Pre Application Document(PAD) This is a source of existing, relevant, and available information related to the project. A survey questionnaire was sent to approximately 100 parties requesting information relating to the project. A total of 13 parties responded to the survey including West Virginia Professional River Outfitters (WVPRO) witch represents 11 other groups that received the letter. These include Wildwater Expeditions, WV Adventures, The Rivermen, Songer Whitewater, River Expeditions, New & Gauley River Adventures, Extreme Expeditions, Class VI River Runners, Adventures on the Gorge, Mt State Anglers, Alpine Ministries and Ace Adventure Center. WVPRO will work closely with WV River Coalition, Plateau Action Network, New River Clean Water alliance, WV Hospitality & Travel Association, National Committee for New River, and America Outdoors.
WVPRO intends to participate in the FERC re licensing of Brookfield Energy Hawks Nest project. Concisely, the goal of WVPRO is to obtain conditions in the new license to provide seasonal flows downstream of the Hawks Nest Dam which are adequate for commercial and private whitewater recreation. Enhanced commercial access and general public access, at both the Hawks Nest Dam and in the vicinity of Gauley Bridge, are also goals of WVPRO in the re licensing.
Hawks Nest Dam diverts up to 10,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) from Hawks Nest Lake through the tunnel and hydro plant leaving a 5.5 mile section of the New River, commonly known as the “Dries” inaccessible for much of the year. Any water over 10,000 CFS continues down the natural river channel after going through the gates of Hawks Nest Dam. WVPRO and its constituents hope to have a compromise with the utility and determine a release schedule that will open up many new opportunities for recreation linking the towns of Fayetteville, Ansted, and Gauley Bridge and increasing the opportunity for tourism related development.
With the re licensing in 1987, the Arch Moore administration adopted a minimum flow of 100 CFS through the 5.5 mile bypass. The 100 CFS minimum flow is released through a ten foot trash gate on the river right side of the dam. WVPRO supports the study of a change in the minimum flow that will better serve the aesthetic, ecological, and recreational use of the bypass.
WVPRO requests that Hawks Nest/Brookfield conduct studies within the scope of the re licensing which will fully evaluate the operational aspects of enhancing the 5.5 mile bypass of the New River below the Hawks Nest Dam for commercial rafting, fishing, and other recreation activities. WVPRO requests that the utility conduct a Level 3 study in coordination with DNR and the National Park Service. Although no numbers exact and need study, diverting water from the hydro tunnel for six to eight hours a day and three to five days a week could restore the bypass for the future. During the summer months, Memorial Day to Labor Day over 150,000 whitewater enthusiasts, climbers, hikers, anglers, and bikers will come to southern West Virginia to enjoy the New River Gorge.
WVPRO intends to partner with the Fayette County Commission, WV Division of Tourism, state and local Chambers of Commerce, and state government to show the economic impact of this project. In an initial study of flows during the summer months it has been concluded that a flow of 3,000 CFS released seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day would use very small amount of the flows that generate power at the hydro. With the Glen Ferris plant due to come back online in the near future, the power generated there should offset the deficit of electricity by our proposed release. The plant at Alloy will not have to purchase any more power from the grid that it currently does. WVPRO supports clean renewable power, local industry, and a strong Fayette County. The smelting plant at Alloy is a cornerstone of the economy, and it is critical that no jobs are impacted by this project. It is our view that new jobs can be created and more Fayette County communities can benefit from expanding the recreational opportunities in the New River Gorge.