PPL Holtwood’s plan to transfer up to 1,260 additional acres of land to the Lancaster County Conservancy for preservation and public use has moved one step closer to reality.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved PPL Holtwood’s request to transfer ownership of the land. The land is located along the lower Susquehanna River both upstream and downstream of PPL’s Holtwood hydroelectric plant.
In its decision, FERC, which regulates operation of the Holtwood facility and all hydroelectric power plants in the United States, said the plan is “in the public interest” and enjoys broad support from federal, state and local agencies. PPL Holtwood previously transferred more than 320 acres to the Lancaster County Conservancy, a move that did not require prior FERC approval.
“This decision paves the way for preservation of this beautiful stretch of land for generations to come,” says Dennis Murphy, vice president and chief operating officer of PPL Generation’s Eastern Fossil and Hydro group. “We’ve been excellent stewards of this land for more than a century. It is home to fantastic views, wildlife habitat, recreational trails and more. We know it will be in good hands as we pass it along, and we’re confident this public-private initiative will only enhance its value to the region.”
“LCC is grateful to PPL and the many national, state and local partners who have supported this wonderful example of a private-public initiative,” says Kathie Shirk Gonick, director of Land Protection for the Lancaster County Conservancy. “Government, nonprofit and private partners have worked together for more than 10 years toward permanent protection and continued stewardship of the natural, cultural, recreational and scenic resources within the Susquehanna Riverlands. This landscape has an incredible past, significant natural resources, wonderful scenic views and incredible recreational opportunities that will now be protected for future generations.”
PPL Holtwood intends to sell the land to the Lancaster County Conservancy and then donate the proceeds of the sale to a restricted endowment fund that will be used to manage the greenway. The total sale is expected to produce about $6 million for the fund, which will be used to maintain and enhance the land for public enjoyment. PPL will not profit from the transfer.
In addition, PPL Holtwood expects to provide an annual donation to LCC to further support management of these lands.
"We are pleased that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of these lands,” says Todd McNew, Pennsylvania state director of The Conservation Fund, a partner in the project. “Their permanent protection will provide countless recreational opportunities, bolster the development of the recently created John Smith National Historic Water Trail, and help to improve water quality throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Completion of this project will represent the most significant conservation victory along the lower Susquehanna River to date and will set a precedent for future land conservation along the river in both Pennsylvania and Maryland."
Land approved for transfer includes such features as the Pinnacle Overlook, Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve and Kelly’s Run areas.
The land transfer decision comes as the Holtwood plant continues a $438 million expansion of its hydroelectric facility. The expansion includes a new 125MW hydroelectric plant adjacent to the existing 108MW plant, improvements for fish passage and construction of a new whitewater feature for outdoor enthusiasts.