A Tlingit and Haida Regional Electric Authority (THREA) board member said this week the non-profit plans to forfeit its competition with a Haines company for priority status on the Walker Lake hydroelectric project.
THREA has been jockeying with Southern Energy, Inc., owned by John Floreske of Haines, for the project’s preliminary permit since THREA applied for a competing permit in June.
Board member Larry Beck said in an interview Monday THREA intends to withdraw the permit application. “At the moment, we have enough other things to take care of rather than work on that,” Beck said.
THREA was reorganized to an electric cooperative known as Inside Passage Electric Cooperative, Inc. (IPEC) in 2004.
Floreske claims THREA was recently resurrected for the sole purpose of unfairly taking advantage of a federal municipal preference rule, which gives priority to permit applications submitted by public entities over private ones.
Beck would not elaborate on why THREA has decided to pull its permit application.
“It probably is not in THREA or IPEC’s best interest to continue a race to see who gets to do that project,” he said.
The two organizations have been lobbing attacks at one another since THREA applied for the competing preliminary permit in June, with both entities submitting long documents to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) touting their own organizations and disparaging the other.
On March 1, Floreske filed a request for FERC to give the Walker Lake project “nonjurisdictional status.” If granted, FERC would exit the picture and state agencies would be responsible for permitting the project.
FERC must be consulted at the start of proposed hydroelectric projects.
Beck said Floreske’s filing did “not really” influence THREA’s decision to pull its permit application.
IPEC CEO Jodi Mitchell and THREA board chairman Richard George did not return multiple calls for comment.
On May 15, the Haines Borough filed a letter of support requesting FERC grant Floreske’s application for non-jurisdictional status. Mayor Stephanie Scott said the borough supports the expeditious development of the project because it will reduce reliance on diesel power.
“FERC is another layer of regulation and licensing, and it’s expensive, so it adds expense to the project. It also adds time... I would like to see this project come online as quickly as possible,” Scott said in an interview last week.
The borough also filed a letter with FERC supporting development of the Walker Lake project on April 29, 2012. Scott said the borough would not express a preference for either THREA or Southern Energy.
Floreske said he had spoken to Beck about Walker Lake, but would not elaborate on their discussion. He said he appreciated the borough’s support of his filing for non-jurisdictional status, but said he didn’t know if it would influence FERC’s decision one way or the other.
A project falls outside of FERC jurisdiction if, among other conditions, it doesn’t occupy public lands or reservations of the U.S., it isn’t located on navigable waters of the U.S., and it doesn’t utilize surplus water or water power from a federal dam.
FERC has not yet ruled on the issue.