Hydro-Electric Proposal and Future Of James River

This morning some people were surprised by this headline in the Times Dispatch: “Application filed for hydroelectric project at Bosher’s Dam”.
If they had attended the author’s talk earlier this week, they might not have been. Tredegar Iron Works and other Richmond industry relied and used hydroelectric power well into the last century.
For myself and perhaps other Oregon Hill residents, this recalls earlier conversations and speculation about riverfront development and ambitions.

Hopefully, regardless of whether the hydroelectric proposal happens or not, it adds on pressure to do something to improve the river’s health and accessibility AS WELL AS forcing Dominion Power to do more with distributed, renewable energy.

Was the City’s utility department authorized to oppose this proposal, submitted in February? And if so, by who?

This also figures into a Kanawha Canal restoration goal that ‘public private partnership’ Venture Richmond unofficially announced earlier this month. I guess the local media is still not ready to report or discuss this yet, but the devil will be in the details- including water levels and water use, recreational opportunities, whether Venture Richmond will respect neighbors’ very reasonable concerns going forward, and costs in relation to other priorities. The City’s Department of Public Utilities manages the Kanawha Canal level as well as the City’s river level. Yes, there’s a Richmond Riverfront Plan, but we all know how these plans are pretty subjective- for example, there’s no Tredegar Green amphitheater in the Plan and there was a previous canal restoration plan that has been thrown aside.

Going back to this hydroelectric proposal, it may be that upriver (and more affluent) neighbors are able to ‘NIMBY‘ it, or maybe the environmental issues with even micro-hydro-electric at this site are too large to overcome, or maybe there is even more interest in the longterm in getting rid of Bosher’s Dam altogether. But the point is, this proposal and others should be part of a more open, public conversation over the future of the James River, local energy/water policy, and our local government.