COLUMBUS — Loup Public Power District filed a motion to temporarily halt provisions in its updated hydroelectric license with mixed results.
Ten years after the utility initiated the relicensing process for its hydroelectric system, Loup received its new order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on May 22. The order included provisions LPPD President and CEO Neal Suess said would severely hinder the district’s generation capabilities.
The district and its attorney, Nancy Skancke, filed an emergency motion for stay and began a request for another hearing with FERC, which sent a response June 9 saying it would give the district additional time to submit drawings and exhibits before monitoring begins.
However, FERC denied a request to delay a provision that requires the utility to stop diverting water from the Loup River into the canal that serves the hydroelectric system under certain conditions. That provision forces LPPD to stop diverting water into the canal for 72 hours when the water temperature in the Platte River reaches 93 degrees at the Louisville gauge.
During Tuesday's board meeting, Suess presented a graph showing temperature readings over the past month. A lack of rain at the western end of the Loup River has reduced flow levels, allowing the water temperature to reach 85 degrees at a few points in June.
A concern for the utility is demand for electricity generated by the hydroelectric system as well as irrigation water pumped out by farmers increases during the hottest months of the year, when LPPD may be forced to shut down the canal.
FERC needs a quorum of three commissioners before it can rule on LPPD’s request for a rehearing. There are currently two commissioners with one stepping down at the end of June.
Once FERC has a quorum it has 30 days to rule on LPPD’s request.
Skancke told the board the most likely scenario will be a tolling order that gives FERC between four months and a year to consider the request.
Another possible avenue is through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Regional director Noreen Walsh, who is based in Denver, contacted Suess to discuss the district’s objections to the order. Suess told the board a better option would be if Walsh can get Loup, Fish and Wildlife and FERC representatives in a room to discuss an amended order.
In the meantime, canal operators are monitoring river temperatures in case they need to stop diverting water into the canal. Loup sent letters to irrigation users to warn them about potential restrictions.
Board member Jim Donoghue said some members of the Genoa-area Farm Bureau told him they want to start a letter-writing campaign opposing the canal rules.
After the Fourth of July holiday, Suess said Loup will put together a compliance plan for the other provisions to submit to FERC.
In other business, construction is complete on the second phase of the Creston Ridge Wind Farm. The three additional wind turbines went into operation on June 21. The seven total turbines generate 13.7 megawatts of electricity, which is approximately 6 percent of the district's peak demand.
Under its wholesale power purchase agreement with Nebraska Public Power District, Loup can receive up to 10 percent of its peak demand from sources other than NPPD, so Suess said there are other renewable projects planned in the near future.