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Federal ruling ends plan for hydroelectric plant

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says Southern Hy Power took too long getting the project off the ground.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002


INGLIS -- Plans for a hydroelectric power plant here were effectively killed Friday when a federal agency denied a rehearing for more time to begin construction and revoked a 1997 licensing exemption.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's ruling, reaffirming a decision in June that rejected a request for additional time, seemingly exhausted Southern Hy Power Corp.'s plan for a 3-megawatt plant at the Inglis Lock bypass spillway.

The Gainesville company spent more than a decade trying to develop the plant and was fought every step of the way by Inglis residents who said it could lead to flooding and kill fish caught in its spinning turbine.

"I'm so happy," resident Betty Berger, who led the fight, said Friday. "There wasn't anything good about it."

In January, Southern Hy Power asked the commission for an additional year to begin construction. The agency previously had ordered the company to start building by Feb. 8, 2002, and to complete the plant in three years.

Southern Hy Power said it needed more time because it had trouble marketing the project to parties interested in purchasing power or building and operating the plant. It also cited delays caused by numerous appeals filed by opponents.

Federal policy encouraging the development of small hydroelectric power projects would have made it easier for the plant to be built.

But the commission revoked the licensing exemption Friday on the grounds that the project had gone unbuilt for too long.

Southern Hy Power officials could not be reached.

In June, company attorney Sam Pool conceded that the project did not appear to be moving forward.

He said the idea had come along during a time when other energy sources, such as coal, might be cheaper.

But Pool insisted that the concept was good because the plant would not have emissions and would rely on a renewable energy source.

"It's a green power project," he said.

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