License renewal process under way at Toledo Bend

TOLEDO BEND (AP) — The expiration of licenses for the authorities that run the Toledo Bend reservoir is almost a year away.

But the renewal process has begun.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses the Sabine River Authorities in Louisiana and Texas to operate Toledo Bend

because of the reservoir's hydropower generation.

The Times of Shreveport reported that extensive studies have been conducted over the past four years related to any concerns

that should be addressed before the license is renewed. Clean water, historic preservation, endangered species, fisheries

habitat, downstream flooding and shoreline management are just a few of the areas of interest.

The public will get to weigh in on those concerns during the coming year.

The SRA already has met a number of

deadlines related to the relicensing process and more await. The latest

was on Aug. 1

when the authorities submitted a settlement offer with an

assortment of Louisiana and Texas groups to answer concerns about

water quality and flow below the reservoir's spillway into the

lower Sabine River.

"They had some demands they wanted. We opted to compromise," said Carl Chance, SRA-Louisiana liaison for relicensing.

For the most part, the day-to-day operation

of Toledo Bend — after FERC issues the new license — likely will go

unnoticed

by the public. For example, no changes are foreseen that would

substantially affect recreational use by fishermen and boaters.

But when it comes to building boathouses or commercial structures along the reservoir's shores, changes already are under

way in anticipation of tighter regulations in the FERC license.

Even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

has had no actual say on the reservoir's operations, the SRA is in

negotiations

with the agency to allow it to be the permitting authority for

construction of structures up to a certain size and dredging

of canals up to a certain volume.

Also, a compromise with agencies concerned about activities below the dam will require the release of more water from the

spillway during certain times of the year. The goal is to improve the flow for fish and other downstream resources.

To accomplish that, the generators will have to run a few more hours on the weekends to keep the Sabine River at a certain

height, particularly during the critical spawning months.