The City of Salisbury filed a request for rehearing on Monday, April 13, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ask the agency to reconsider and change its decision to approve Cube Hydro’s (Cube) plan for improvements to Salisbury’s critical water supply infrastructure along the Yadkin River.
On March 12, the agency approved the plan, which Cube submitted on Sept. 18, 2018. In its approval, the agency failed to include any of the conditions or modifications repeatedly requested by Salisbury and its engineers, which Salisbury contends are required for the plan to comply with Cube’s federal license and with a water quality certification issued by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The federal and state requirements mandate a Sedimentation and Flood Protection Plan for Salisbury’s water supply infrastructure that is well-engineered and achieves the same benefit as plans that have previously been submitted to and reviewed by FERC as part of the relicensing process. Those plans include alternatives for relocating Salisbury’s water supply infrastructure outside of the flood zone and flood-proofing the water supply infrastructure in its current location. The federal license requires that such a plan be reviewed and approved by FERC before it is implemented.
The federal and state requirements are in place to address sedimentation and flooding issues caused by High Rock Dam. More than 10 years ago, Salisbury commissioned expert studies of the sedimentation issues caused by the dam and took the unusual step of asking FERC to obtain independent scientific peer review of the City-commissioned studies. FERC did so and concluded the studies were reliable. In 2007, FERC published a Final Environmental Impact Statement that explained in detail how High Rock Dam severely disrupts the natural sediment transport function of the Yadkin River, which causes the massive High Rock sediment delta that increases the severity and frequency of flooding at the pump station, damaging and risking critical Salisbury water supply infrastructure.
According to the rehearing request, the approved plan is not well-engineered and does not come close to achieving the same benefit as any of the plans that have previously been reviewed by FERC. Significantly, the Cube flood protection plan still allows for access road flooding and pump station flooding.
To account for the flooding allowed under the approved plan, certain electrical equipment and pump motors within the pump station would be relocated above flood levels and a mezzanine would be constructed within the pump station to access the elevated equipment. The pump station floor and other equipment would be under water during a flood event. The plan does nothing to mitigate flooding of the access road. In order to access the pump station during a flood event under the approved plan, Salisbury personnel will be required to boat to and swim or wade within the pump station to observe equipment or make repairs. Even if the plan can be properly permitted, it is unsafe and impractical for Salisbury employees.
In February 2020, a storm with a return frequency of only about 10 years produced flood waters that nearly reached the pump station’s elevated operating floor and forced a two-day shut-down of the pump station. The High Rock Dam caused the peak of the flood waters on Feb. 8 to be 10 feet higher than it would have been without the dam, thereby endangering Salisbury’s water supply and forcing the pump station shut-down from February 7–9.
Early last month, Salisbury City Council adopted a resolution requesting that the state and federal governments immediately require the implementation of their flood protection measures to prevent the disruption and destruction of infrastructure that is essential for the operation of Salisbury’s water supply system. The flood threat would be eliminated if the federally-required and state-required flood protections measures were in place. The required protections are not in place now and, according to the rehearing request, are not a part of the Cube Plan.
In its rehearing request, Salisbury contends that the Cube plan cannot be implemented because it violates various siting and design standards, is not in compliance with state requirements incorporated into the federal license, and is not based on sound and prudent engineering as required by federal law. Salisbury requests that FERC correct the deficiencies of the Cube plan, require Cube to obtain permitting and approvals for the plan by the end of this year, and require that the plan be completed by June 2022.
Salisbury’s water supply system provides potable water and fire-fighting flows for 52,000 North Carolinians in Salisbury, China Grove, Cleveland, East Spencer, Granite Quarry, Rockwell, Spencer, and unincorporated areas of Rowan County. It also is an emergency water source for Statesville, Kannapolis, Landis, and Faith.
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