License loss pulls plug on plant Mining museum project now in jeopardy April 20, 2006 BY BILL SWAYZE AND

LAWRENCE RAGONESE, Star-Ledger Staff A proposed $2 billion underground hydroelectric plant in Rockaway Township has lost its federal license, putting in jeopardy plans for a mining museum and historic park. The license was terminated in December, after Mount Hope Waterpower Project LLP failed to move ahead with the project, said J. Mark Robinson, director of the Office of Energy Projects for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Gone with the license is an agreement that mandated preservation of the New Leonard mine complex, and called for funding to preserve the Ford-Faesch Manor House. "All of the conditions in place as part of that license agreement are no longer in play," said Robinson. "When the license ended, so did agreements made by the company with FERC. They are no longer enforceable." The Mount Hope Historical Conservancy, a 14-year-old group dedicated to preserving the old mining operation, say the company has been dismantling some of the structures to rent space to generate revenue. "They have been throwing things out, taking things apart," said Marion Harris, head of the conservancy. "This is not an Erector set. You don't do that to a historic site." The hydro project, which has been in the works since the 1970s, would generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity by spilling water from a manmade, 55-acre reservoir down an 1,800-foot shaft and through turbines. Several companies have tried to make a go of the project but have had difficulty raising funds. A license for the project was granted in 1992 and extended three times due to the intervention of Congress. Last month, Mount Hope Waterpower took the first steps in a long process to get the license back, Robinson said. The mining operation at the Leonard complex ended in the 1970s and the structures and historic remnants remained in good shape, said historians. But the owners of the property have been altering and removing the historic fabric of the site, and renting out sections of the buildings. Hydro project manager Sam Ramiz disagreed, saying what has been taken apart can be restored. He vowed to continue working with the conservancy on preservation even though the formal agreement expired. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who long worked to get the hydro project's license extended and to foster preservation at the site, intends to monitor the process. "I intend to review all the details of the application," he said last night. "I strongly believe it is important that FERC take the historical integrity of the property into account."

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The mining industry in Rockaway Township, which dates to the late 1700s, helped fuel the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The biggest supplier of ammunition to the Continental Army mined iron at the site. The mine buildings that concern the conservancy date to World War II. The New Leonard complex included a system of shops, warehouses and buildings, with a shaft descending 2,800 feet to the various mine tunnels. It is the last standing iron mining complex in the region, said conservancy member David Bogert. "They are supposed to be protecting the site, and they are willfully destroying it," said Bogert. © 2006  The Star Ledger © 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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