Alabama Power owns and operates the hydroelectric Martin Dam, which impounds the Tallapoosa River to create Lake Martin. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – regulates Alabama Power’s operation of Martin Dam, and its effect on the water flow downstream on the Tallapoosa River, as well as any economic, environmental, and other impacts in the Tallapoosa River Basin.
Every 25 years Alabama Power must apply to FERC to renew its license to operate the dam. As you can imagine, it is a really big deal, and a lengthy, red tape filled process. They are required by FERC to perform all kinds of studies – water quality, water quantity, erosion and sedimentation, wildlife impact, economic impact – just to name a few.
Other regulatory agencies, such as ADEM, also get involved, suggesting different studies that they think should be taken into account. Local advocacy groups, such as LMRA, CALM, Lake Watch, and the Lake Martin HOBOs, have all had a keen interest in the process to try and put forth issues that they each feel should be addressed on how Lake Martin is managed.
Input is also sought from average joes like you and me. For instance, yesterday I attended a public meeting in Alex City for those interested in the different “Issue Groups” about the Relicensing Project. I went to the “Water Quality and Quantity Issue Group.” Most of the material was over my head, but the basic gist was that this group is focused on studies about water quality and quantity. Jim Crew, the Alabama Power employee in charge of the Martin Hydro Relicensing Project, gave an overview of the process. They are in the first formal stages of creating that application. They must apply by 2011 to be renewed in 2013.
If you have any concerns whatsoever about Lake Martin and how it is run, now is your chance to get in the loop and let your voice be heard. For instance, if you think that they should only lower the water 5 feet in the winter in the future, visit the Martin Hydro Relicensing Project’s web site. Call Jim Crew at 205–257–4265 or Viki Jackson at 205–257–2211 and ask them how you can get involved. After sitting through that meeting, and talking with Alabama Power officials afterward, I got the feeling that they are honestly doing their very best to involve all the “stake holders” in this and address everyone’s concerns.
Alabama Power has also recently gone to bat for Lake Martin against the Corp of Engineers and other influences that affect Lake Martin’s water level and I applaud them for it. If you have been an APCo hater in the past, thinking that they are part of some shadowy effort to rob you of nostalgia, well, here’s a chance to get them to listen to you. Act now or wait until June of 2036.