We think we can all agree that the Muskingum River is a thing of beauty. The Indians knew that, the settlers knew, the boaters who enjoy the challenge of coming through the locks, the campers who line the river banks all summer know. The eagles are coming back, the otters have shown up, and many species of fish live in the waters, along with extensive clam beds.
This river is the only one with a series of hand-operated locks still in use in the nation! It has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
So ... what is the problem? Someone is "messing with" our river.
In November, a Boston-based renewable energy company named Free Flow Power Inc. applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permits to install seven hydroelectric power plants in the river ... on the dams situated from Zanesville to Devola. They request a 50-year license. They distributed a disc of data and drawings. One section is withheld as it contains non-public information and is privileged. We know not how many discs were put out but we did not get one and we have property on the riverbank in Lowell just a few doors from the dam. There was no effort by the company to inform citizens and they held no public meetings or hearings. Hmmm ... could it be they hoped we would not know the details until they already got the permits?
Construction of the hydroelectric plant at the Lowell Dam (and probably likewise for all the others) is a horror story. The only access road to the site is Water Street, barely wide enough for two cars to pass The road would never hold up under the tons of rip rap and materials coming in on trucks. There is no place to store these materials at the site.
Houses line the riverbank side of Water Street. It would appear from the drawings that the outflow area containing rip rap would be right under at least two of these houses. Access to the river by the property owners who use it regularly would be lost. Fishing from the Lowell side of the dam would be gone.
They claim that they can move the extensive clam beds - where to and would the clams survive that?
The power generated estimates appear to be pretty low for all the damage that will be done at these seven dams and to the river in its entirely. The environmental issues concern us greatly and the recreational use which brings in considerable financial gain to our communities would suffer.
Now it's time to discuss the biggest concern of all: the loss of a huge piece of local history, to each of these seven communities. Do we want that? Once it is dug up and gone, it is gone forever. It can never be fixed or replaced. It was left to us. We must see that it is left for future generations.
If you are as concerned as we are, please drop us a note at the address given below and let's get our heads together to save our river. Let's do it soon before the permits are issued.
Bill and Ellie La Follette