CHAMBERS CO., Ala. (WRBL) – The Chattahoochee River flowing through parts of East Alabama and West Georgia is facing historical changes as Georgia Power begins the process of decommissioning and removing both Langdale and Riverview Dams, which includes Crow Hop Dam and the Riverview powerhouse by 2023.
This week, December 18th, Courtenay O’Mara with Hydro Licensing and Compliance at sent out a letter of notification to residents letting them know Georgia Powers plans for the future. The letter explains Georgia Power has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to surrender the licenses for the two hydroelectric projects located on the Chattahoochee River – the Langdale Project, located in Georgia east of Valley, Alabama, and the Riverview Project, located one mile downstream from the Langdale Project. The Riverview Project also includes Crow Hop Dam and the Riverview powerhouse.
The letter states FERC licenses for the Langdale and Riverview Projects will expire on December 31, 2023. In the surrender applications, Georgia Power is proposing to decommission and remove the dams associated with these projects. The letter says removing the dams will benefit aquatic life.
“Removal of the project dams will benefit aquatic species by enhancing the area’s riverine shoal habitat consistent with Georgia Power’s ongoing environmental stewardship efforts and will provide a scenic and unobstructed stretch of river for local communities and visitors, including enhanced river connectivity for natural, recreational paddling experiences,” O’Mara states in the letter.
Kendall Andrews, a lifelong Valley resident, and AU civil engineer disagrees with removing the dams for several reasons. Andrews owns waterfront property on the Chattahoochee and created a Facebook group for a concerned group of citizens who feel strongly against the actions of Georgia Power.
“There is a large angling community in this area, it is likely with the dams gone, boat access to the river will be gone. If you ask anyone that fishes the stretches of river between the dams they will tell you the quality of fishing you find there, is unlike anywhere else. Georgia Power has released many statements that claim fishing will improve, but that is not necessarily the case,” Andrews said.
Andrews is particularly fearful for the future of the Shoal Bass. Andrews says Georgia Power officials claiming the species will benefit by removal of the dams. However, Andrews noted Georgia Power made the same claims back in 2013 when dams were removed in Columbus, Georgia. Andrews says the removal was devastating to the Shoal Bass, which vanished and officials are now having to re-stock the native fish.
Henry Jackson is Executive Director with the Chattahoochee River Conservancy. He supports the dams being removed for safety and environmental reasons.
“We’ve been working with Georgia Power on this project for two years, and we are very excited to see it moving forward. Low head dams are dangerous and create unnatural habitat ripe for invasive aquatic species. This will restore the habitat to a natural state with more natural flow patterns. It will take time, but the river will be safer, fishing will improve, and ecological diversity will be saved,” said Jackson.
Georgia Power expects decommissioning activities would begin in Spring 2023, pending Commission approval and expects the Commission to issue public notice 30 days in advance of taking action on the proposal while providing an opportunity for the community to provide input in the FERC process.
Andrews believes several questions need to be answered and encourages local residents to prepare and attend a FERC community meeting at some point next year.
“I hope that everyone that has the same concerns as myself will attend and voice their opinion. Anyone that wants more information may join the Facebook group, Middle Chattahoochee River Dams (Langdale and Riverview),” said Andrews.
Finally, Andrews says removal of the dams means deconstructing and deleting a part of history from the Chattahoochee Valley.
“Much of the city’s historic structures have been torn down, such as the textile mills and the Riverview gym. These dams are a part of the heritage of the City of Valley, generations have enjoyed the recreation they provide. It’s something that sets us apart from other places,” Adams said.
Most everyone agrees Langdale and Riverview offer some of the most breathtaking views along the Chattahoochee. Adams believes there is a movement to change the way of life and recreating along these sections of the river.
“The idea of doing this to create a “recreational paddling experience” has really upset a lot of people, myself included. If someone wants to whitewater raft, they will go to Columbus. The drawing power that this stretch of river has is the great fishing opportunities it provides that currently exist. A lot of the community feels that outside interests are being placed in front of their own. I personally know many people that drive over an hour just to put in at Shawmut or Langdale boat ramp for the chance to catch one of the many big fish that live there,” Andrews said.
Georgia Power says more information on the surrender applications for the Langdale and Riverview Projects can be found online at this link: https://elibrary.ferc.gov/IDMWS/search/fercgensearch.asp
Documents related to the Langdale Project will be located in Docket Number P-2341.
Documents related to the Riverview Project will be located in Docket Number P-2350.
Residents may also subscribe to FERC’s online docket to receive notifications of future public documents related to this effort. The web address for FERC’s eSubscription service is https://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp
The surrender applications are also available for inspection and reproduction during regular working hours at Georgia Power’s business office, located at 241 Ralph McGill Boulevard NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308.
After January 7, 2019, copies of the surrender applications will be available at the H. Grady Bradshaw Library located at 3419 20th Avenue, Valley, Alabama, 36854. In Chambers County, Alabama, and at the Troup-Harris Regional Library, located at 7511 Georgia Highway 116, Hamilton, GA, 31811, in Harris County, Georgia.
To be added to the Georgia Power Langdale and Riverview license surrender electronic stakeholder contact list, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, physical address, email address, and contact phone number.
News 3 will continue to follow the story and bring you updates as they become available.