Hydroelectric Plant relicensing involves dam-based facility on Shenandoah River dating to 1924
When Royal Examiner received a publication request to advertise a federal agency re-licensing request for a project titled “Warren Hydroelectric Plant” along the Shenandoah River some alarm bells went off as to exactly what was being requested to be re-licensed. – Was someone planning to construct an electrical generating facility on a river bank of the already stressed Shenandoah for a project that had been floundering since an initial permit was granted, perhaps years earlier? Would fundamental changes in the river’s usage by surrounding municipalities, available capacities, and potential threats to the river’s already at times fragile health be properly explored?
Initial inquiries to the Warren County government and its Economic Development Authority were met with the same lack of detail on exactly what was referenced in the re-licensing application of PE Hydro Generation LLC, a Limited Liability Company with a Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland address. So, it seemed Royal Examiner’s efforts paralleled county staff’s in seeking answers to exactly what was being proposed for re-licensing here. Our email to the listed PE Hydro contact person was replied to by another official who traced the re-licensing back, first 30 years to 1993; and then another seven decades to the 1920s.
“The Project was constructed in the 1920s and the current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license was issued in 1993 for a 30-year term. Since the license expires December 31, 2023, PE Hydro initiated a process to re-license the Project in accordance with FERC’s regulations in 2018 (additional information on the FERC relicensing process can be found at ferc.gov/licensing). The impacts of the Project were analyzed in the Draft and Final License Applications. Attached is a figure that shows the existing Project boundary, the existing dam and hydro station are located downstream of Front Royal, VA. PE Hydro is not proposing any new structures or changes to the existing operation of the Project,” Director of Licensing and Compliance for parent company Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, Joyce A. Foster informed us.
We first ran this reply by WC EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, who replied it matched the information his board had received. We then called County Administrator Ed Daley seeking additional detail on the dam’s location and function. Daley referred us to Joe Petty, now temporarily pulling double duty as the County’s new in-house EDA director along with his old job as county planning director. Petty was extremely helpful in guiding this reporter through the FERC website to the details we were seeking in a 161-page PDF, with the added advice that what we were after was on several pages within the first 20 pages, give or take, of the lengthy licensing PDF.
This is what we found on page 18:
“PE Hydro Generation LLC … is a subsidiary of Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC … “PROJECT FACILITIES 2.1 – Existing Project Facilities
“The existing project consists of: (1) a 15-foot-high, 483- foot-long reinforced concrete dam impounding a small reservoir with a storage capacity of 900 acre-feet; (2) an 82-foot-long by 30-foot-wide powerhouse adjacent to the north end of the dam containing 3 generating units with a total installed capacity of 750 kW; (3) transmission facilities consisting of the 2.4- kilovolt (kv) Project generator leads; a 3-phase, 2.4/34.5-kV transformer; and an 14,784-foot-long, 34.5 kV transmission line1; and other appurtenances. Power is connected to the electrical distribution grid through a substation step up 2400 V/34.5 kV transformer. Power is then sold to PJM. Since 1924 the Project has operated manually in a run-of river mode. An operator visits the station daily to check on the operation; otherwise the station is unmanned.”
Ms. Foster of Eagle Creek Renewable Energy added some detail, telling Royal Examiner that PJM (acronym for “Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland”) Interconnection LLC is “a regional transmission organization (RTO), that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity. As an RTO, PJM operates a wholesale electricity market that spans all or part of Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.”
Petty told this reporter that his understanding was that the only potential physical change was work on an “eel ladder” to facilitate the seasonal migratory habits of eels inhabiting the Shenandoah River. That observation rang a bell with this reporter, who recalls conversation about the addition of an eel ladder or bridge to the dam several years ago. Again, Ms. Foster of Eagle Creek was helpful in this regard. “The May-October upstream eel ladder is installed in the spring and removed in the fall annually. I believe there was an issue with high flows and some damage to it a few years ago, maybe 3 or 4 years ago but it was in place in 2020 and 2021. The year-round fishway has been in place for many years,” she added of environmental accommodations attached to the project.
So, if the river’s fish and eels are happy with the project as presented, what could we humans have to worry about from an electrical generating operation in place on the Shenandoah River in Warren County since 1924, coming due for another 30-year operational licensing? Little to none, it would seem. – And we’re betting info on any refurbishing of the dam originally placed nearly a century ago is lurking in those 161 pages of the Warren Hydroelectric Project re-licensing summary, or other related documents on the FERC website. We’ll let you know when we find them – or maybe we should just bother Ms. Foster again, or not. She, like Petty, has been very helpful. And we promised her that “eel ladder” question would be our last – at least for today.
Michal Ashby, children’s librarian receives the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award
On March 15, 2023, Michal Ashby, children’s librarian at Samuel’s Public Library, received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award. “For Outstanding and Meritorious Service to Humanity,” the award was presented by Lodge 2382 of Front Royal.
“The award from Elks Club was the most significant professional honor of my life,” Ashby said. “The people I have met in that group have been some of the sweetest people I have ever met. Their selection of me for the award has positively impacted my life for years to come. Their generosity humbles me.”
This honor does not come out of the blue. Ashby has been instrumental in helping the library maintain a partnership with the local Elks Club for some time. “They are passionate about literacy and have been contributing to our programs for years,” she said. “Like other civic organizations such as Kiwanis Club and Rotary, they make a huge difference in our community.”
To anyone who knows her, it is obvious that Michal Ashby is a passionate human being driven by many goals. One of her greatest passions is the adult and teen volunteer base that serves the library. “Without a foundation,” she said, “a house wouldn’t stand.” She sees her volunteers as being that foundation. “They help us with everything from weeding our children’s garden, cutting out crafts for story-time, shifting books, shelving movies, and doing light cleaning. Sometimes they even offer to dress up in a costume for a special program!”
As Ashby talked about her passion for the library and the community in which it stands, it became evident why she received the award. “Every day, I am reminded why I serve this community,” she said. “Every day, I see parents who thank us for what we do, children who ask us about good books, and teens who tell us how much the library means to them. Our community drives my passion for our department and the library.”
Ashby has served the library since 2006. In that time, the children’s staff and the teen volunteer program have grown. The library has achieved many goals, adding regular art, gardening, and science programs to complement its literacy-based programs. It now maintains a children’s garden, a Storywalk at Eastham Park, and a variety of community partnerships. “I am proud that these things have happened during my ‘stewardship’ of the children’s department,” Ashby said. She also said that her current goal “is to increase our presence and our impact in the community,” chiefly through partnerships with organizations that choose to do programming with the library.
The passion of Michal Ashby extends to every part of her life. Her hobbies include gem mining, rock hounding, history, genealogy, and reading. “I am an avid reader,” she said. “Recently, I have been enjoying our non-fiction. I love to read about space, geology, and Egyptology. Children’s books are quick reads in comparison to adult non-fiction. I also recently have been re-reading the classics such as 1,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.”
Bringing the community every interest imaginable with a built-in mechanism for reaching out to other libraries, Samuel’s is truly a product of evolution in the eyes of those who remember presenting their selection of loans to a librarian, as they can now handle the check-out process themselves with the assistance of cutting-edge computer technology. Despite such improvements, the library continues to be a friendly place where magical things can happen, protected by the stewardship of people like Michal Ashby.
Laurel Ridge celebrates expansion of manufacturing and trades lab space on Middletown Campus
Laurel Ridge Community College leaders, employees, and instructors were joined by elected officials, industry partners, economic development representatives, chamber of commerce members, and private donors Friday morning to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the newly-expanded Alson H. Smith Hall on the college’s Middletown Campus.
A 3,500-square-foot addition has recently been completed at the facility, which also houses the college’s dental hygiene clinic, a black box theater, and a nursing simulation lab. Now, it has plenty of space for three mechatronics (advanced manufacturing) labs and labs for welding, HVAC, electrical, and heavy equipment operator programs.
An $800,000 GO Virginia grant helped provide the state-of-the-art equipment needed for the mechatronics program, Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said prior to the ribbon cutting.
“When you take a tour of the labs, you will see a lot of impressive equipment with sleek robotics and controls,” she said. “This is the kind of high-tech resource and training that will help make the Northern Shenandoah Valley an attractive location for new businesses or for current business expansion.”
Manufacturing is the second-largest industry sector in the region, said Jeanian Clark, vice president of Laurel Ridge Community College Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education. The more than 90,000 manufacturing jobs in the region have average salaries above $50,000, she said. Still, about 3,100 more positions need to be filled, and if they were, according to Clark, they would bring an additional $1.4 billion in economic output.
She shared the following statistics about the increasing need for trades specialists within the Laurel Ridge service region:
- There are 40 jobs posted for the HVAC industry. HVAC techs have an average annual salary above $55,000.
- More than 30 additional electricians, with an average salary above $60,000, are needed.
- Nearly two dozen welding jobs are open. Those positions average more than $50,000 annually.
- Just shy of 100 construction trades positions are open, with an average pay of nearly $50,000 a year.
“We are fully committed and passionate about supporting the current and future growth of our community and the workforce,” said Vice President Clark.
Del. Bill Wiley was one of several speakers at Friday’s event. Wiley is a real estate broker and is the business development manager for Howard Shockey and Sons Inc.
“I can’t say enough in terms of the need for this,” he said. “Our area is all about this type of work.”
Mike Powell, senior manager of maintenance at Trex Co. Inc., said many of his employees received training through Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions.
“Laurel Ridge is a critical part of our region’s workforce development,” he said. “I have firsthand knowledge of the experience they gained here. That has really refined our team’s technical abilities.”
There is grant funding available through programs such as FastForward and G3 to cover much of the costs of the trade programs for qualified Virginia residents. Learn more at LaurelRidgeWorkforce.com/funding. Visit LaurelRidgeWorkforce.com for more information on trades programming.
EDA in Focus
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
Royal Examiner asked several local officials who participated in Thursday evening’s Shenandoah Rail Trail presentation what they thought of the project, the public turnout, and feedback about the project. Front Royal Mayor Lori Cockrell introduced the evening’s event and some Rail Trail Partnership and local officials present for it, including Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. We queried both the town mayor and county economic development director on their perspectives.
“I think the partnership prepared an excellent event. It provided information as well as opportunities to ask questions and share concerns and input. There was a large group of engaged people in attendance. I think I counted between 120-130 people,” Mayor Cockrell began, adding, “I was very encouraged by all the positive feedback I received. I even spoke with people who have previously lived in other communities with rail trails who have moved to our area. They were excited about having an opportunity like this locally.
“I also spoke with people who had concerns because they lived on property that borders the rail corridor. I think they had valid concerns. I connected them with members of the partnership who could gather their concerns and hopefully address them moving forward. That’s what last night was all about, getting the community’s input,” Cockrell concluded of the ongoing process of developing a citizen-friendly project.
County Economic Development Director Petty concurred with the mayor’s overall perception: “I thought the meeting went well and there was a good turnout. I was able to have open conversations with members of the community that are in support, have questions, or concerned with the project; and look forward to continuing those discussions with all of them in the future. I believe meetings similar to last night are important in order to engage with the public,” Petty said of the project’s developmental process.
“I also spoke with individuals regarding the economic impacts as defined in the Economic Impact Analysis, and how we can further highlight and explore the local benefits as well as expand on the regional benefits,” Petty concluded.
Mayor Cockrell concurred on the importance of the Economic Development Analysis:
“One area that was not focused on during the event was the specific numbers that came out of the Economic Impact Analysis. Benefits to our community were shared, but I think if citizens had the opportunity to see actual predicted numbers, actual dollars, they might be even more enthusiastic about the project!” she concluded with an exclamation point by email.
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
EDA in Focus
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
On Thursday evening, March 23rd, representatives of the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership gathered with local municipal officials from the Town of Front Royal and Warren County at the community meeting room of Front Royal Fire & Rescue Company 1 on Commerce Avenue for an informational presentation and community feedback opportunity.
The Shenandoah Rail Trail project would convert abandoned railroad lines to community and tourist-friendly “walking, hiking, jogging, cycling (non-motorized it appears) and more” non-intrusive recreational uses. The proposed project would connect, not only communities from Front Royal/Warren County on its northeast to Broadway in Rockingham County at the south end of the trail, but also sections of each community to each other.
“Up and down the route, the trail connects students to school, employees to work, customers to shops, diners to restaurants, and community members to parks, rivers and historic sites,” a pamphlet available to attendees notes in its summary of the project. Of the planned path, it adds: “The rail corridor, once a community and economic hub of towns from Broadway to Front Royal, has not seen trains as far back as 1989. The tracks are now overgrown and, in some areas, completely unusable.”
The project includes the communities of Front Royal, Strasburg, Woodstock, Tom’s Brook, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Timberville, and Broadway. Of the benefit to the
average Shenandoah Valley citizen of these communities, the Shenandoah Rail Trail group observes that many of the existing trails in National Parks and elsewhere “are remote and, by the nature of the terrain, suited for advanced trail users.
“Our rail trail is flat, primarily rural and scenic, and easily accessed from many towns and neighborhoods. It will be a safe and easy way to get outside to walk, run or roll with family members of all ages and abilities.”
The rail trail group also points to potential economic benefit from realization of the project in improving easily accessible amenities for area citizens – a plus for companies looking to locate in areas that provide “a high quality of life to the folks they employ” — and those folks could include locals recruited by new businesses moving into the valley.
The friendly nature of a flat, scenic walking, hiking and biking trail can also attract regional tourists, expanding the customer base for local shops, restaurants, and other businesses accessible from the rail trail.
Learn more by visiting <shenandoahrailtrail.org>
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
Randolph-Macon Academy participates in the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade
For the first time since COVID, R-MA participated in the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade. Cadets soaked in the big city as they marched the streets in perfect time. Approximately 30 blocks were covered during the parade as they passed huge skyscrapers all the way to Central Park.
Music Director, Michael DeMato remarks, “It’s an amazing feeling to be back at this parade after missing several due to COVID. We are looking forward to many more in the future.” DeMato helped organize the NYC adventure and brought wonderful excitement to the cadets as he shared stories of growing up in Queens.
In addition to the marching band, we had a parade unit under the direction of Col Mark Allen and CMSgt Ken Evans (both retired), led by C/LTC Henry Scott including a flag corps composed of all 50 state flags! Students did an amazing job holding the flags proudly throughout the whole parade route.
The band was led by Drum Major Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Sarina Winters. Winter’s leadership was a joy to watch as she led the band through the streets of New York City. At times she stopped forward marching to allow pedestrians to cross the street as seen in the following video.
Following the parade, students toured NYC seeing various museums, local restaurants, Times Square and other big-city sights, including the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. St. Patrick’s Day weekend will be something these young cadets will remember forever. Go Jackets!
FRWRC celebrates local women and 2023 Dare to Dream grant recipients
The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) announced its 2023 Dare to Dream grant recipients and Elaine Bromfield Memorial Scholarship recipients during a celebratory Dare to Dream Breakfast Award Ceremony. The FRWRC awarded a total of $12,000 in grant and scholarship money to 10 local women, all with goals and dreams to better their lives, the lives of their families and the lives of other women in the community.
“Awarding our annual Dare To Dream grants is our most rewarding event of the year and also has the most visible impact on our community,” said Susan Gillette, President of the FRWRC Board. “Over the past two decades, we have witnessed first-hand how these grants directly help women achieve their personal, professional and educational goals that in turn, help women improve their lives, the lives of their families and build a stronger community for all of us! With the support of our community and our dedicated donors, we are thrilled to be able to distribute 10 new grants to area women this year and we look forward to watching these women soar in 2023.”
The room was electric filled with 80 women and guests celebrating the dreams, achievements and perseverance of women in our community. Dr. Tamara Spriggs, of Front Royal Family Practice gave the key note address congratulating the 2023 grantees and reminding women to never give up on their dreams.
The 2023 Dare to Dream Grant Recipients:
DARE TO DREAM GRANTS
- Amy Tehovnik has always had a dream to own and operate a successful dance studio that promotes a fun and educational environment for the arts. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance, Amy performed with several dance companies in Virginia and then in New York City for a worldwide performance with Team Vicious/Noble Steps. As a single mom, life events kept her dream of owning her own dance studio at bay. Amy moved to Warren County a few years ago with her 10-year-old daughter who she credits for rekindling her dream of sharing the art of dance. In addition to her full-time job in designing closet systems, she also volunteers as a dance teacher in a local after school program. She is now ready to grow her business and offer more to the community.
FRWRC awarded Amy Tehovnik a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to purchase a portable music/sound system to use for her expanding dance classes and to build her business.
- Alyssa Holmes is a single mom raising four children on her own, and working multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. She is also a survivor of domestic abuse. A recent protection order granted through the courts has provided Alyssa and her family with more security, freedom, and empowerment than she has had in years. Alyssa is now ready for more than just surviving. She wants to follow her dream of working in the field of real estate and build a better future for her family. She will begin her journey by obtaining a home inspection certificate and connecting with real estate agents through her work inspecting homes.
FRWRC awarded Alyssa Holmes a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to support a 70-hour American Home Inspectors Training course.
- Edilia Beatris Osorio Carranza is a 28-year-old single mom with four children. After several abusive relationships, she has spent the last 10 years working through the judicial system to protect her children. She graduated high school while raising her children and has fought to continue her own education without financial help. She is currently enrolled at Laurel Ridge Community College pursuing a certificate in the Administration of Justice Program. She is also operating her own small, successful cleaning business and working a second cleaning job at night. Her dream is to have a brighter future for herself and family. Edilia wants to be the first one in the family to go to college. Her ultimate goal is to transfer to a four-year college to earn a degree in Criminal Justice and use her own experiences to help other women navigate the judicial system.
FRWRC awarded Edilia Beatris Osorio Carranza a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to help support tuition costs at Laurel Ridge Community College.
- Elizabeth Coffey, a Front Royal native, has been through a year of loss and blessings. She lost her mother, a cousin, and a job, while also welcoming two beautiful granddaughters and building her own business. Liz makes and sells dairy free fruit butters and a childhood nickname was the inspiration for her business name – Petty Betty Treats. Her small business like many others in our community, relies heavily on local farmers markets and festivals to sell her good. The local craft festival and farmers’ markets season runs only a couple months during the year. Elizabeth dreams to use her extensive background in event planning to lengthen the local Fall through Christmas Farmers Markets and Craft Show season to year-long opportunities for herself, and other small business owners.
FRWRC awarded Elizabeth Coffey a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to expand her small business in event planning for local community events.
- Huong Thu Bui “Mia” was born in Saigon, South Vietnam. She followed her husband to the United States in 2005 with her 3-year-old daughter, adapted quickly, learned English, and became a U.S. Citizen in 2009. With money she saved working for a service business in Maryland, she bought Elite Nail and Spa in Front Royal nearly eight years ago. In 2020, when COVID hit, she went through the pandemic with a mindset to ‘make it through’, as this was not the biggest challenge she had faced in her life. Open again, with a remodeled store and loyal and supportive customers, Mia dreams to strengthen her business with a new website and computer software that can help her manage her appointments more efficiently.
FRWRC awarded Huong Thu Bui “Mia” a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to purchase a laptop and software to support her successful nail spa.
- Jazmine White is full time biology student at Bridgewater College. In addition to her studies, she works as a student ambassador at her college, and serves as a student mentor and orientation leader. Jazmine makes multiple trips home to Front Royal each month to help care for her mother after a surgery. Jazmine’s dream is to become a veterinarian. Knowing the cost of her dream, she plans to work for a few years after completing her current degree to save money for Veterinary school.
FRWRC awarded Jazmine White a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to support her tuition and book expenses at Bridgewater College.
- Jordan Booterbaugh is a young woman with many dreams. She lived overseas for several years during her childhood, and desires to explore the world again through art and culture with adult eyes. After attending PAVAN Governor’s School during her high school years, Jordan decided to combine her love of art and people. She began a face painting business focusing on events and parties. She says her full-face intricate designs often pull children out of their shells as they transform into their favorite superhero or animal. She is eager to expand her business with face painting templates and an online learning platform designed for art businesses.
FRWRC awarded Jordan Booterbaugh a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to purchase an iPad Pro to support her art and face painting business.
- Sarah Veitenthal was born and raised in Front Royal/ Warren County. After graduating from college, Sarah started her career at the local Montessori school where her three children also attended. During her time working with children with parents and children together, she developed a deeper understanding of the individual struggles of local families. In 2022 Sarah started her own business supporting families with small children in our community, through various sessions and classes. She also became a certified doula and childbirth educator to connect with families right from the start and help guide their journey through parenthood. Sarah’s dream is to be able to support more families in our area so we can have a healthier community of parents and children.
FRWRC awarded Sarah Veitenthal a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to create postpartum wellness boxes and professional educational materials to connect with new families in the community.
ELAINE BROMFIELD MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIPS
- Isabelle Grupac is a junior at Shenandoah University. She is majoring in biology on the pre-physical therapy track with a minor in physiology. Her goal is to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy, concentrating on women’s health. Isabelle’s dream is to lead women through specialized programs to restore and maintain their health, and to educate the community on these issues that can arise throughout a women’s lifespan. In addition to her rigorous course work, Isabelle serves as a member of Colleges Against Cancer and the Health and Life Sciences Club, and works as a tutor and lab assistant. Isabelle works part-time when she can fit it into her academic schedule to help pay for her tuition, and she lives off campus with her family to help save money on living expenses.
FRWRC awarded Isabelle Grupac a $2000 Elaine Broomfield Memorial Scholarship toward her undergraduate tuition at Shenandoah University.
- Prutha Patel is a Warren County High School Alumni and a first-generation college graduate with a degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently enrolled in medical school at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg. Prutha always knew she wanted to become a doctor. Her parents immigrated to the United States before she was born, impacting the resources that were available to her family. As a child, she remembers not being able to seek medical care because of being uninsured. Her dream is to address the medical disparities that she has personally experienced. Prutha wants to aid the underserved members of the local community, especially women, with treatments and knowledge that will allow them to live a healthy lifestyle.
FRWRC awarded Prutha Patel a $2000 Elaine Broomfield Memorial Scholarship to assist with her medical school tuition and expenses.
About Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) is a 25-year-old non-profit organization, dedicated to providing a support network for women in the Warren County area through programs, information and education. Over the last two decades, FRWRC has provided networking opportunities, spotlighted women leaders in our community and awarded more than $142,000 in grants and scholarships to 191 Warren County women and girls to support education, and professional and personal enrichment opportunities. We empower women to change their world. Visit our website frwrc.org and follow us on Facebook @FRWRC.
Support the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center frwrc.org/donate
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