April 24, 2007
By Dan Hust
MONGAUP VALLEY - Its purchase of Mirant NY-Gen's properties isn't complete yet, but Alliance Energy Renewables has promised to refill the Swinging Bridge Reservoir "to the levels prior to the dam repair."
That comes with three caveats that it is safe to do so, that Mirant itself won't have already completed the refill, and that Mother Nature ultimately determines the reservoir's level. "Alliance recognizes the critical recreational and economic value of the reservoir to the community," explained Alliance spokesperson Jane Rubinstein.
Swinging Bridge's level has been drastically reduced since a sinkhole was discovered in the dam two years ago. Mirant officials have been working since then to fix the dam and slowly restore the water level at what was once Sullivan County's largest public boating lake.
Mirant officials could not be reached for a status report on the refill, but Rubinstein said that process will continue, even if Mirant can't finish it by the time it transfers its assets to Alliance.
"The recreational and ecological value of these properties is a priority for Alliance Energy Renewables," she explained.
Since paperwork is all that is left to complete the sale (which must be done no later than September 1), Rubinstein said Alliance executives are "currently securing a local office, have retained consultants to provide interim and transitional operational support, are hiring permanent staff and will initiate training shortly."
They're also acquiring - and plan to keep - the three operating licenses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a process likely to be finished at the end of the third quarter of this year, said Rubinstein.
That's because "Alliance plans to operate the hydro facilities and to maintain the associated reservoirs and lake," she said meaning not just Swinging Bridge but the entire Mongaup holdings consisting of Cliff Lake and the Toronto, Mongaup Falls and Rio reservoirs.
"Alliance will conduct a comprehensive inventory and evaluation of all the actual hydro assets and facilities and of the related properties," Rubinstein noted. "This will culminate in a prioritized list of actions for repair, maintenance and modification. Among activities already planned by Alliance are routine ground-, air- and water-based monitoring."
And what about the controversy at the Toronto Reservoir, where one of the two federally required public accesses remains closed off due to a dispute between Mirant and private property owner Woodstone Lakes Development?
"Alliance Energy Renewables is obligated to comply with all requirements of the FERC license," replied Rubinstein.
"That having been said," she added, "it is the company's practice to evaluate each issue as it arises and to participate in discussions with the parties involved to attempt to arrive at an amicable solution for all involved.