FERC grants GRDA Pensacola license variance for Grand Lake elevation.

Vinita – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the Grand River Dam Authority’s request for an amendment to its operating license for Pensacola Dam and Grand Lake.

That amendment means GRDA will no longer be required to lower Grand Lake from 744 feet to 741 feet beginning in mid-August.

FERC issued the order on Tuesday, August 15. It will remain in place throughout the remainder of GRDA’s existing license, which runs through March 2022.

“We are very pleased with FERC’s decision,” said GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “This will allow us to hold the elevation of Grand Lake at a level that is much safer for recreation not only during the busy Labor Day holiday but throughout the latter portion of the boating season.”

Sullivan added that the decision by FERC is also notable because it is one of the first, if not the very first, actions on the part of the new commission. Normally a five-member commission, FERC had been without a quorum for six months until two new members — appointed by President Trump — were recently approved by the United States Senate and sworn into their positions last week.

“We are also very appreciative of Senator Inhofe, not only for his support of our amendment request but also his efforts in restoring a quorum to FERC,” said Sullivan. “We were able to meet a critical deadline on this issue.”

Instead of lowering the lake from an elevation of 744 feet to 741 feet, the amendment means the lake will only be brought to 743 feet through mid-September, before dropping to 742 feet for the fall and winter months.

In its request to FERC, similar to temporary variance requests made in previous years, GRDA stressed the recreational safety problems caused by the three foot drop in lake levels, as well as the negative impact it has on the area’s economy during a popular summer boating holiday.

“We continue to seek a long-term solution to the lake level issue which would give us more operational control over the lake, while balancing all of the other stakeholder concerns of hydroelectric generation, flood control and recreation,” he said.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.