FERC Rejects GRDA Shoreline Management Plan – Fish & Wildlife Wins


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied GRDA’s efforts to have their (SMP) Shoreline Management Plan approved when FERC’s Environmental Assessment Report was issued this week, challenging the most important aspects of GRDA’s proposed “SMP” plan.

In a nut-shell, FERC does not accept the SMP as submitted to FERC by the Board of Directors and staff of GRDA, and expects a rework of the plan.

In support of the Fish & Wildlife Department’s concerns throughout the study FERC says, “We recommend GRDA implement protection mechanisms similar to those identified in the Responsible Growth-Wetlands Inventory SMC for all areas FWS or Oklahoma DWC identified as sensitive.”

After over a decade of wrangling with FERC over whether or not GRDA should do a Shoreline Management Plan, GRDA appropriated over $650,000 and hired Kleinschmidt Associates, Pittsfield, ME, to develop a plan to protect Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees from over development that would harm property owners, wildlife conservation, and the habitat so valuable to the future of all who are shareholders of this incredible resource, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

Klineschmidt and the staff of GRDA organized the Grand Lake community into study groups that developed sophiscated positions on subjects of Land Use Classifications, Allowable Use, Permitting, and others. Although representatives of environmental groups were active on the committees, businessmen and businesswomen were seldom in attendance, and a document that was strong on environmental protection evolved.

Shortly before all the Stakeholder groups completed their study and were to forward their findings to the GRDA staff and Board of Directors, some local business leaders rose up in opposition to the Stakeholder Committee findings, and led an aggressive effort to get GRDA staff and Board to throw out the 4 year old effort and the Stakeholders Group’s findings.

The leaders of this effort, GLUE, (Grand Lake United Enterprises) headed by former Chronicle owner Rusty Fleming, the South Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Chronicle of Grand Lake, and OK State Representative Doug Cox and Marina & Yacht Club Owner Joe Harwood were successful in their efforts to get the SMP totally rewritten by the staff of GRDA almost overnight, and within a short time the “new” plan was approved by GRDA staff and Board, then submitted to FERC. Kleinschmidt Associates contract with GRDA was terminated.

Much discussion was held around the lake about the “new plan” which deleted most of the restricted development categories, and left most of the decision making on “permitted uses” to GRDA’s Board of Directors. Reliable sources have stated that at the conclusion of the “re-write”, Kevin Easley, GRDA CEO is reportedly to have said, “FERC in no way is going to sign off on this” and as you can see by FERC’s response, Easley’s political wisdom was right… one more time.

Rusty Fleming of GLUE said in an e-mail notice to his members this morning, “If past performance is any indication, GRDA senior staff will roll over for FERC and just tell the public they had no choice. There is a thirty-day window for public comment. If Easley and the GRDA board shows no inclination, which I doubt they will, to fight this to the end, we need a plan to turn up the heat. If that includes petitioning the governor for more proactive board members and management personnel, so be it.

Public comments on the FERC proposals will be accepted until September 14th.

Here is a summary of FERC conclusions & recommendations, and the explanations of abbreviations used in the report.
FERC = Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
GRDA = Grand River Dam Authority
FWS = U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
DWC = Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
SMP= Shoreline Management Plan, a required plan by FERC

Conclusions & Recommendations:

Shoreline Classifications:
“We recommend that GRDA revise the SMP, in consultation with US Fish & Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and interested stockholders, to develop sub-classifications and/or reclassify the shoreline areas designated as Responsible Growth to differentiate between more limited development (i.e., residential) and more intense development (i.e., multi-purpose/commercial) and to identify existing public recreational access areas and future proposed public recreational access areas at the project. In addition, we recommend that GRDA develop associated management goals, objectives and allowable uses for each sub classification to more clearly define allowable uses and management goals associated with each sub-classification.”

“We recommend that GRDA file, for commission approval, any proposed change to the approved shoreline management classifications. These classifications are integral to the SMP and should not be changed without further review”

Dredging and Water Quality Monitoring:
” We recommend that dredging activities be prohibited in Wildlife Management areas.
We recommend GRDA develop supplemental SMP provisions for water quality monitoring in coves where “heavy boating” use occurs. The provisions would identify what constitutes heavy boating use in coves, the timing for initiation monitoring and the water quality parameters to be monitored, and the frequency and duration of monitoring. The provisions would be developed in consultation with FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service and Oklahoma DWC.”

Sensitive Areas:
“GRDA has based its shoreline classifications on its GIS database, local knowledge of both GRDA staff and stakeholders, and site-specific verification.
We recommend GRDA implement protection mechanisms similar to those identified in the Responsible Growth-Wetlands Inventory SMC for all areas FWS or Oklahoma DWC identified as sensitive.”

Vegetation Management and Riparian Buffers:
“We recommend that in consultation with FWS and DWC, GRDA develop supplemental SMP provisions quantifying the effects of permitted vegetation removal, and mitigating these effects through protection enhancement of riparian vegetation.”

“Based on limited information provided in the SMP, we conclude that wetland values in Wolf Creek, Carey Bay, and Monkey Island areas are similar to wetlands area classified as Stewardship in Drowning Creek, Duck Creek and Horse Creek. We find that the wetland resources in Wolf Creek, Carey Bay and Monkey Island should be provided similar protection, despite additional development pressures.”

“We recommend that GRDA should be required to annually file with the Commission, a wildlife mitigation report providing detailed descriptions of any planned mitigation efforts….
We recommend implementation of GRDA’s proposed annual survey for bald eagle nesting activity.”

Recreation Management:
FERC recommends that a GRDA conduct a new carrying capacity study, and develop a new recreation management plan for Grand Lake.

Shoreline Management Plan Updates:
The shoreline management plan would be updated every 6 years after consultation with FWS, OK DWC and interested stakeholders.

• A PDF of the report from FERC
SMP Shoreline Assessment

• A PDF of the entire Shoreline Management Plan from GRDA as submitted to FERC June 11, 2008 is available at GRDA.com

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