FERC upholds flooding decision against GRDA in fight with city of Miami


At its meeting last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld a decision ending the long-standing flood feud between the city of Miami and the Grand River Dam Authority. It again denied Miami’s claims against the GRDA but at the same time ordered the GRDA to do more to prevent the nagging and historic flooding that has hit the city over the decades.

GRDA contends if it has to buy more rights to thousands of acres of land near Miami, it will affect ratepayers.

FERC originally handed Miami a victory in January when it determined the Pensacola dam project had increased flooding around the City of Miami. It also ordered the GRDA to study whether it should begin acquiring more property rights to carry out flood control. The Pensacola Dam was built as a result of  the 1939 project on the Neosho River in Craig, Delaware, Mayes and Ottawa Counties of northeast Oklahoma.

FERC determined on Jan. 18 that the GRDA had “violated its license by failing to acquire necessary flowage rights on lands flooded due to project operations at the Pensacola Hydroelectric Project No. 1494.” An estimated 13,000 acres of non-federal landlocated outside of the project boundary were prone to flooding.

A month later, the GRDA asked for a rehearing. Last week, FERC said it continued “to reach the same result” and would not change the order.

Adding to the challenge was the 2019 Pensacola Act passed by Congress which focused on the licensing jurisdiction of the project. The GRDA contended there had been no substantial evidence that its operations caused upstream flooding and it was not required to bring more land into the project boundary.

However, FERC decided there was evidence presented by the City of Miami to “conclude that the project has increased flooding around the city.” The GRDA in the most recent appeal of FERC’s decision argued that if it is required to acquire additional lands outside the project boundary in order to address the upstream flooding, “any cost associated with this acquisition will be borne by its ratepayers, many of whom reside in disadvantaged communities.”

FERC responded, saying the GRDA’s concerns are premature because the Commission did not direct GRDA to acquire any additional land rights but “only to prepare a report which will identify specific parcels of land that have been affected by flooding upstream.”

In last week’s decision, FERC said any analysis of whether the GRDA must acquire more land “is not appropriate until a fuller picture of the flooding impacts around the City has been established by GRDA.”