"An Odd Way to Go About Something": Mighty Dade Hydroelectric Project Wreathed in Mystery

June 4, 2019

Topo map from the FERC permit application for the proposed "Freestone Pumped Storage Hydo Project." Below are the general and detailed area maps from the application.


When The Chattanooga Times Free Press ran a front-page story on Monday about a massive renewable-energy hydroelectric facility to be built in Dade County--one that would require the construction of two dams and two water reservoirs--it was the first The Dade Planet had heard about it. It was not something that had come before the Dade Industrial Development Authority (at least not during the public part of its meetings), the Trenton City Commission or the Dade County Commission. And Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley said he hadn't heard a word about the project, either, until a Times Free Press reporter called him researching the story last week.


But from what the county boss reported today, the ambitious hydroelectric project comes as a surprise to yet another important sector of the population: “They haven’t even talked to the landowners," said Rumley.


The Times Free Press article draws its information about the project from a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit application, a public document available online at the FERC website. The permit comes complete with maps of the area where the facility is to be built. Comparing those to the Dade County tax map, it is evident that the two parcels of Dade land the project would require belong to a Pamela Smith and a Carl Usry. 


Ms. Smith, said Rumley, had called him this morning after reading the Times Free Press article and had talked to him angrily until he had made her understand he knew nothing about the project, either. It was as if, said Rumley, any Dade couple learned from reading the newspaper that someone was planning to build chicken houses on their property. "You would say, 'Who do you think you are? We own this land.' That’s what’s happening here," said Rumley.


He added that if the property owners did decide to sell in such a situation, "they'd say, yeah, we'll sell--we want $20 million." 


The Planet has tried to contact Ms. Smith without success; nor was The Planet able to contact Carl Usry. These parties are invited to contact The Planet (423/364-4386, or news@dadeplanet.com).


 “Why would you not notify the property owners before you started planning a project?” said Rumley. "It seems an odd way to go about something.”


The Smith and Usry properties are on Castle Rock and Nickajack roads, respectively, the former more or less right above the latter, at the extreme northwest corner of Dade County in the Cole City area, accessible only through Tennessee or Alabama, and close to Nickajack Lake. “It would be ideal [for the project] because of the water source," said Rumley. "The Tennessee River is real close. The height is one thing, too. You’ve got the bluff and then a straight shot off the bottom.”  


Now, that's a lake...

In a completely unrelated controversy, since the Dade County Commission brought the matter up in June 2017, the county has been in an uproar about whether or not Dade should build a small drinking water reservoir on Lookout Creek. The project described by the FERC application calls for the construction of not one but two reservoirs, one on the higher land and one on the lower. The upper reservoir would have, according to the application, a surface area of 84 acres containing 1,259.92 acre feet of water and storage volume of approximately 410,544,540 gallons.


The lower reservoir would have a surface area of 31.4 acres and storage volume of 1,883.87 acre-feet.


The facility would generate electricity through a hydroelectric plant, but would not necessarily depend on the Tennessee River for water. As per the application, quoted here verbatim:


"Nickajack lake may be utilized as an initial water source. The project is closed loop as such we do not anticipate cycling water through the lake."


The application references a three-year permitting process, with studies that might cost $150,000 to $400,000. Ultimately, it says, the facility would generate approximately 351,482.98 MWh (megawatt-hours).  


Asked his gut feeling about whether the project really will materialize in Dade County, county boss Rumley could only say: “Who knows, until they come and lay everything on the table? Who knows who the people are?”


As to that, the FERC permit application was filed by an Adam Rousselle II as agent for Renewable Energy Aggregators, 2113 Middle Street Suite 205, Sullivans Island, S.C., 29482, email address arousselleii@reaggregators.com, phone number (215)485-1708. The Planet has phoned and emailed Rousselle but has so far received no answer.


Readers may see the FERC application for themselves at www.ferc.gov--the docket number for the Renewable Energy Aggregators permit application is P-14967.


Will two dams, two reservoirs and a closed-system hydroelectric generation facility ultimately be built in Dade County? The Dade Planet cannot prognosticate, only promise to pass on whatever intelligence it is able to gather on the subject.

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