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Published by: BygByte on Apr 01, 2008
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License loss pulls plug on plantMining museum project now in jeopardyApril 20, 2006BY BILL SWAYZE AND LAWRENCE RAGONESE, Star-Ledger StaffA proposed $2 billion underground hydroelectric plant in RockawayTownship has lost its federal license, putting in jeopardy plans for amining museum and historic park.The license was terminated in December, after Mount Hope WaterpowerProject LLP failed to move ahead with the project, said J. MarkRobinson, director of the Office of Energy Projects for the FederalEnergy Regulatory Commission.Gone with the license is an agreement that mandated preservation ofthe New Leonard mine complex, and called for funding to preserve theFord-Faesch Manor House."All of the conditions in place as part of that license agreement areno longer in play," said Robinson. "When the license ended, so didagreements made by the company with FERC. They are no longerenforceable."The Mount Hope Historical Conservancy, a 14-year-old group dedicatedto preserving the old mining operation, say the company has beendismantling some of the structures to rent space to generate revenue."They have been throwing things out, taking things apart," said MarionHarris, head of the conservancy. "This is not an Erector set. Youdon't do that to a historic site."The hydro project, which has been in the works since the 1970s, wouldgenerate 2,000 megawatts of electricity by spilling water from amanmade, 55-acre reservoir down an 1,800-foot shaft and throughturbines.Several companies have tried to make a go of the project but have haddifficulty raising funds. A license for the project was granted in1992 and extended three times due to the intervention of Congress.Last month, Mount Hope Waterpower took the first steps in a longprocess to get the license back, Robinson said.The mining operation at the Leonard complex ended in the 1970s and thestructures and historic remnants remained in good shape, saidhistorians. But the owners of the property have been altering andremoving the historic fabric of the site, and renting out sections ofthe buildings.Hydro project manager Sam Ramiz disagreed, saying what has been takenapart can be restored. He vowed to continue working with theconservancy on preservation even though the formal agreement expired.Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who long worked to get thehydro project's license extended and to foster preservation at thesite, intends to monitor the process."I intend to review all the details of the application," he said lastnight. "I strongly believe it is important that FERC take thehistorical integrity of the property into account."1

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