Some of the most popular lakes in Wisconsin result from the impoundment of large rivers by hydroelectric dams and produce artificial lakes or flowages that can be hundreds to thousands of acres in extent. The management plans for these water bodies can be of keen interest and importance to the landowners and recreationists who inhabit them. Yet, these water users have often been missing from the dam relicensing process and plan review. Now, Cheryl Laatsch of DNR’s Bureau of Watershed Management has in the works efforts to give these parties a stronger voice in the process.
With oversight of hydroelectric licensing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the federal agency responsible for issuing and renewing hydroelectric dam licenses which are valid for 30 to 50 years. In addition, the license holder, often an electric company, must create a management plan for the dam and resulting impoundment. Increasingly, many impoundment management plans include provisions for managing aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Further, Cheryl’s handiwork should reduce paperwork and redundancy through teamwork and partnerships. For example, the license holder’s management plan might call for AIS monitoring within the impoundment. Instead of hiring a staffer or consultant, the license holder could instead help fund the efforts of county AIS coordinators who are already monitoring invasive species. Likewise, the license holder might support lake groups that are monitoring water quality.
Three to five decades is a long time in which to accurately anticipate the management needs of a water body. Consequently, lake groups and AIS coordinators might want to be actively engage with the management of these water bodies, and participate in the public process for FERC licensed hydroelectric dams in order to offer their perspectives and expertise.
Further, lake groups will want to be familiar with the project boundary of the hydroelectric dam because the license holder is responsible for various management actions within the project boundary. This boundary commonly extends beyond the waterline. Lakefront property owners would benefit from knowing where project boundaries lie and the FERC requirements therein. Further, the FERC license addresses issues important to lake enthusiasts such as water levels, dam operations, repairs and maintenance, recreation, timber management, wildlife, land management, fisheries and the management of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. In addition, FERC deals with the management of drawdowns and fish kills.
To get a sense of the scale of the lake and AIS management opportunities, consider that some 206,000 acres of surface waters occur at 147 dam sites monitored by DNR and 135 of them have management plans.
The ultimate goal of Cheryl’s efforts is to use better data sharing to increase efficiency and improve the science guiding management of these important water resources.
If you are interested in becoming a FERC ally, Cheryl invites you to contact her to learn more, get involved and be part of the FERC network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 387-7869.