(CN) – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of a company’s plan to shut down a hydroelectric power plant in North Carolina and transform a dammed lake into a free-flowing river was not arbitrary or capricious, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
Jackson County, N.C., the Town of Franklin, N.C. and the Friends of Lake Glenville Association challenged commission orders allowing Duke Energy Carolinas LLC to surrender its license to a hydroelectric powerhouse and dam, known as the Dillsboro Project.
The lower court denied their petition for review, saying the commission illegally split up four different water projects in its review process. But the appeals court found that the commission considered all of the projects in a single environmental assessment.
In addition, the appellate panel said, the commission appropriately addressed the cumulative effects of the projects.
Shutting down the plant will benefit the environment of the Tuckasegee River area in the long term, U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson ruled, even if it causes short-term environmental damage.
Removing the facility may temporarily injure the habitat of the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel, but by opening up the river, it will open up 9.5 miles of upstream river habitat for the mussels, the ruling states.
The dam removal will also cause greater upstream and downstream fish movement, according to the opinion.