Hydro-electric plant being planned for Red River


   An announcement last fall by a Boston-based company for plans to build a $130 million hydro-electric plant at John H. Overton Lock & Dam should be welcomed news, but it caught officials who should have been “in the loop” by surprise.
   FFP New Hydro LLC (FFP NH) acquired Red River Hydro last year and said it plans to build the hydropower plant on Red River, near the Avoyelles-Rapides parish line.
   “This was the first we have heard of it,” Ken Guidry, executive director of the Red River Waterway Commission (RRWC), said at the time of the announcement. “No one has contacted us about the project -- which is a surprise.”
   He said last week that he still hasn’t been told officially of the project and only knows what he has read.
   Larry Sayes of Effie, the RRWC board member for Avoyelles, said the announcement was also the first he had heard of the project. Sayes contacted the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) to see if they had any additional information, but that organization told him they had also not heard anything about a hydropower project on Red River.
   Guidry said the RRWC has been working with another energy company for lock & dams 3, 4 and 5 between Alexandria and Shreveport. FFP NH has a preliminary permit for a hydropower project at the Lindy Boggs Lock & Dam (L&D No. 1).
   “Talks to build hydro-electric plants at those sites have been on-going for years,” Guidry said. “If a hydro-electric plant is put in place at the Overton Lock and Dam, it would be a huge benefit for the area.”
   Red River Hydro has a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a project at the Overton Lock & Dam, which is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Rapides Parish. The project is expected to have a generating capacity of 52 megawatts, enough to power about 52,000 homes. 
   A spokesperson with US Renewables Group in Los Angeles said the company is hoping to have the plant built in 2018 or early 2019.
   FFP NH plans to spend the next 18-24 months in the final engineering and design phase. The construction phase would follow that, and would also take about 18-24 months.
  “Development of the project will create hundreds of jobs during construction, operations and maintenance,” Ramya Swaminathan, FFP NH chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The clean, reliable electricity produced by the project will be enough to power thousands of homes and will be a long-term resource for the region.”
  Paul Jacob, chief commercial officer at Rye Development, said the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway is a strong hydropower resource, from a hydrological perspective. FFP NH seeks opportunities to add hydropower to existing dams. Overton L&D is an ideal candidate for such a project. Jacob said FFP NH holds a preliminary FERC permit for a project at the Boggs L&D in Brouillette, just downstream from the Overton Dam. The company is conducting a feasbility study of the site.
   The hydro-electric projects would not affect the operation of the locks and dams.
  FFP New Hydro LLC has 23 hydropower development projects for dams in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana and Louisiana. The projects would produce over 260 megawatts. FFP New Hydro is owned by affiliates of US Renewables Group and Crestline Investors Inc.
  The L.A.-based US Renewables Group is a large investment firm focusing on the renewable energy industry. It has more than $750 million of capital under its management.
   Crestline Investors is an alternative investment management firm based in Fort Worth, Texas, and manages $9.9 billion for institutional investors.
   While the waterway project was in the engineering and design phase, there was an option to construct hydro-electric generating plants in the dams as they were built. The decision was made to forego that option.