PEMBROKE, Maine — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will stage three public meetings this week to collect input on a proposed $70 million tidal energy project on the Pennamaquan River south of the Washington County community of Pembroke.
As conceptualized by Utah-based Halcyon Marine Hydroelectric, the Pennamaquan Tidal Power Plant would be the technological centerpiece of a 1,616-foot tidal “barrage,” or low dam, that would stretch between Leighton Neck and Hersey Neck at the point where the Pennamaquan River flows into Cobscook Bay.
The facility would utilize proprietary “tidal wing” technology that combines power generation during both the flood and ebb tides with a pumping system so that the tidal levels within the cove rise and fall to their natural 18.5-foot levels, an approach engineered to minimize shoreline environmental impact.
The technologies involved were developed by Halcyon Marine’s founder, physicist Ramez Atiya of Salt Lake City, and are patented in the U.S., China, Mexico and the Russian Federation. In its filings with FERC, the company estimates the facility would generate 80,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually. That would represent about eight-tenths of one percent of Maine’s annual energy requirements.
The project was first proposed to FERC in November 2010 and is similar to a barrage proposed for Half Moon Cove that would extend from the terminus of Toll Bridge Road in Eastport to the terminus of Old Eastport Road in Perry. The Half Moon Cove project would tap into a 950-acre water surface area, as compared to a 692-acre Pennamaquan River tidal area.
“This is an exciting, first-of-its-kind project that would be applying new approaches to tidal energy production,” said Andrew Landry, a Portland-based attorney who represents the Halcyon Marine project. “If successful, it will have potential in playing a large role in providing renewable energy in the future. It’s a new approach that has significant potential around the world.”
FERC staffers will meet with the public, project advocates and state environmental and energy regulators at three scoping sessions, beginning with a 1 p.m. site review in Pembroke on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the boat ramp parking lot on Boat Ramp Road, located off Garnet Head Road. That meeting will be followed by a 6 p.m. scoping session at Pembroke Elementary School gymnasium. A third session will follow at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s regional office at 106 Hogan Road in Bangor.
FERC staffers and representatives of various state regulatory agencies also will be meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 24, with Passamaquoddy tribal officials at the Pleasant Point reservation. That afternoon meeting was described Tuesday by tribal Gov. Clayton Cleaves as a “workshop” organized to discuss the tribe’s environmental concerns about the Pennamaquan tidal project and other fisheries management issues affecting the waters that surround the reservation.
Cleaves requested the meeting in a Sept. 14, 2012, letter to FERC’s Division of Hydroelectric Licensing. In that letter, he said “a cursory review of the [preapplication document] indicates the project might have an impact on migratory species, which should be addressed in relation to tribal aboriginal rights to tidal waters.”
He also said in his letter that the meeting “will take the place of any consultation which should have been taken before the FERC filing by Pennamaquan Tidal Power.”
Cleaves said Tuesday in a telephone interview that the Passamaquoddy nation has been “screaming for consultation for a number of years” on state and federal fisheries management policies.
“We want to make certain that consultation is on the table before they write up whatever laws they will put together,” Cleaves said. “At the moment, we have really good cooperation from a number of agencies, but at times our own laws and conservation rules surpass, and are more superior to, those generated by the state.”
Cleaves said the Passamaquoddy people are particularly concerned about how such projects affect the migratory spawning behavior of alewives, which have been an important food source for centuries within Cobscook Bay and along the St. Croix River watershed.
Landry said the project’s developers have made an effort to keep the Passamaquoddy nation informed throughout the FERC application process.
“We’ve kept the tribe in the loop from the very first document we filed,” Landry said Tuesday. “FERC has carved out this meeting with them.”