LIHI Certificate #24 - Mother Ann Lee Project, Kentucky

The Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station is located at Lock and Dam 7 on the Kentucky River.  This dam is part of a system of 14 lock and dams installed on the Kentucky River between Beattyville in the eastern Kentucky and Carrollton on the Ohio River.  This navigation system established a transportation route deep into central and eastern Kentucky, and provided access to the eastern Kentucky coalfields and many points along the way.  The Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, located near Lock and Dam 7, relied heavily on this river system to ship its products as far away as New Orleans.  In 1836, the Commonwealth of Kentucky constructed the first section of this system with Lock and Dams 1 through 5.  In the late 1800’s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconstructed these first 5 lock and dams, and then extended the system with Lock and Dams 6 through 14.  The entire system through to Beattyville was completed in 1917.

Lock and Dam 7 was constructed in 1896 and 1897 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at river mile 117, near High Bridge at the end of Kentucky route 29 on the Jessimine County side of the river, and near the Shaker Landing on the Mercer County side.

During the 1900’s, rail and truck transportation became more widespread in this region, and the use of the Kentucky River Lock and Dam system declined significantly.  By the late 1900’s, all commercial traffic ceased on the upper system (Locks 5 through 14), and the locks were only used by recreational boaters.  When these locks began to have operational problems in recent years, use of these locks was discontinued.  Today, Locks 5 through 14 have concrete bulkhead walls added behind the upper lock gates to strengthen this weakest link in the dam structure.  Now only Locks 1 through 4 are available for navigation.

While the Kentucky River Lock and Dam system was originally constructed for commercial transportation, over the many years since it was built, a number of other uses for these dams developed.  Today, the dams are critical as the main source of drinking water for most citizens of central Kentucky, including the city of Lexington.  Most of the Kentucky River pools have community water intakes, and the pools that don’t are used for drought water storage.  The pool behind Lock and Dam 7 provides water for most of the citizens of Mercer County, which includes the city of Harrodsburg.  The pools created by the dams are also used for recreation and tourism.  The Lock and Dam 7 pool is used by the Dixie Belle riverboat for tourist excursions for the restored Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill.  The pools are also used by recreational boaters and anglers.

Another use of the lock and dam system was developed in the 1920’s.  In 1927, a hydroelectric plant was added to Lock and Dam 7 (FERC Project No. 539).  This plant, originally named the Lock 7 plant, was operated by Kentucky Utilities (KU) from 1928 to 1999, when the plant was no longer operable.  On April 1, 2004, Kentucky Utilities (KU) filed an “Initial Consultation Document” stating its intent to decommission the Lock 7 Plant and surrender the FERC license for the project.  The decommissioning plan included removal of the power plant. (Note: the plan would have removed only the power plant; the dam would remain for water supply.)  KU received significant public comment (including from environmental groups such as the Kentucky Resources Council, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Solar Partnership and Paddlewheel Alliance), all calling for the plant to be rehabilitated and put back in service instead of being torn down.

Upon KU’s notice to decommission the plant, Soft Energy Associates (SEA) began discussion with KU on the purchase of the project with the intent of renovating the plant.  KU and SEA entered into an exclusive agreement that allowed for a due diligence evaluation of the site.  SEA was encouraged by the comments that KU received from the public and environmental groups (see attached comments) requesting that the plant be renovated by KU or sold to someone else that would save this clean renewable energy plant.  In December 2004, KU and SEA signed a “Letter of Intent” to purchase to plant.  SEA created a corporation, Shaker Landing Hydro Associates, Inc. (SLHA) specifically to renovate the plant. To strengthen its proposal to renovate the plant, SLHA formed a 50/50 partnership with Salt River Electric, a rural electric cooperative in Bardstown, Kentucky.  This partnership, named Lock 7 Hydro Partners, LLC, purchased the Lock 7 plant from KU on December 30, 2005.  Salt River Electric plans to sell power produced by the plant through its Green Power pricing program called “EnviroWatt”.

The Lock 7 plant is located on land once owned by the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill.  Access to the plant by footpath (there is no road access) is over an easement granted by the restored Shaker community at Pleasant Hill.  In recognition of this connection to the Shaker community, the Applicant approached the last active Shaker Community at Sabbath Day Lake, Maine, with the idea of renaming the Lock 7 plant after the spiritual leader of the Shakers, Mother Ann Lee.  With the concurrence of the Sabbath Day Lake Shakers, the Applicant was granted by the FERC permission to rename the plant “The Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station.”

The Lock 7 plant was added to the existing Lock and Dam 7 facility.  The dam is a timber crib structure with a concrete cap.  The lock chamber is built of stone quarried from the rock cliffs near the site.  When commercial use of the lock ceased in the late 1900’s, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) sought to transfer ownership and operations of the dams on the upper Kentucky River (Lock and Dams 5 through 14) to a state entity, the Kentucky River Authority (KRA).  Transfer of ownership of Lock and Dam 7 from the ACOE to the KRA took place in March 2006.

The Lock 7 Project was built in 1927 and completed in 1928.  A license for the Project was originally issued to the Kentucky Hydro Electric Company on August 19, 1926, and was transferred to KU effective December 31, 1928.  The current FERC license was transferred from KU to Lock 7 Hydro Partners, LLC on November 23, 2005.  By March 2006, the necessary paperwork was completed, insurance was in place, and the renovation of the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station began at the end of March.  All three generating units were declared operational on December 30, 2008 and additional renovation work with a total renovation cost of over $3 million, was completed in 2015.  With improved efficiencies from new replacement equipment, we are hoping for an average output of 11,400 MWh per year.

The existing Lock No. 7 Hydroelectric Project consists of:

  • a concrete substructure, about 116 feet long, with a 36-foot-long solid concrete section and an 80-foot-long hollow dam/spillway, containing trash racks, six intake gates, three turbines, and discharge facilities;
  • a 93-foot-long, 25-foot-wide and 16.5-foot-high superstructure/powerhouse located above the spillway, supported by hollow concrete piers, with three 680 kW generating units having a total installed capacity of 2,040 kW;
  • a forebay about 120 feet long and 100 feet wide;
  • a substation located on the west bank;
  • a foot bridge, about 85 feet long, connecting the substation with the powerhouse;
  • a 34.5 kV, .4,540-foot-long transmission line, with a right-of-way ranging from 50 feet to 200 feet wide (about half of this line is owned by the applicant, the rest is leased from KU); and,
  • appurtenant facilities.

The Lock No. 7 Powerhouse is of an unusual design in that the Powerhouse with generators and electrical equipment is situated on piers.  The piers contain shafts that are over 40 feet long that connect the turbines, which are built into the hollow section of the dam, to the Powerhouse which is located on top of the piers.  The Powerhouse is elevated well above the river (operating floor El 554 vs. El 514.6 for spillway crest).   Even with the Powerhouse being situated almost 40 feet above the upper pool of the river, it was flooded in 1978 (maximum flood of record) leading to subsequent rewinding of the generators and replacement of the switchgear.

Each of the three  turbines at the Lock No. 7 hydroelectric project is an open flume, fixed blade propeller type turbine with a long turbine shaft – more than 40 feet.  Each turbine is controlled by a Woodward gate-shaft, electro-mechanical governor that actuates the operating ring on the turbine.

The Owner has created significant new educational opportunities about cultural, historical and STEM-related aspects of the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Facility. These include offering tours of the plant and presentations about the history of the facility, the founders (Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers,) and renewable energy in general. They initiated a project with a local 4th grade class – Bloom Elementary – to allow students to paint the generators with local fish species and taught the class about renewable energy and the history of the project, effectively transforming the project into a Children’s Art Gallery. The Applicant furthermore donated an old runner off the plant to the Jessamine County Parks and Recreation Department to display in an adjacent park, and plans to add interpretative signage to discuss how the runner was in operation from 1927 – 2014, and how the operations of the Kentucky Lock and Dam system impacted settlement in this region of Kentucky.

Several years ago, Mother Ann Lee was the subject of a documentary detailing green measures being undertaken in the state of Kentucky. This video, featuring owner and operator David Brown Kinloch, will guide you through a tour of this LIHI certified facility!

Project Name Mother Ann Lee
LIHI Certificate No. 24
LIHI Certificate Term August 11, 2016 - August 11, 2026
Owner Lock 7 Hydro Partners LLC
State Kentucky
Location Located at river mile 117, Lock & Dam 7 on the Kentucky River in Kentucky.
Installed Capacity 2.209 MW
Average Annual Generation 8,535 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-539 issued 1992, expires 2022

Certification History

January 13, 2017: On December 5, 2016, LIHI Executive Director Shannon Ames issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-539) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. A 30-day appeal period was open through January 5, 2017. No requests for appeal were received. The Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Project is now deemed certified by LIHI. The effective date for the Mother Ann Lee project is August 11, 2016 for a ten (10) year term (see below for explanation), which will expire on August 11, 2026.

For this certification, LIHI approves PLUS standards for two criteria (3 were submitted; LIHI allows for a maximum of 2). The certification is therefore approved for a 10-year term (5-year standard term plus 3 years for the first PLUS standard and 2 years for the second PLUS standard). The Mother Ann Lee certification includes the following two conditions:

  • Condition 1.  The facility owner shall provide LIHI with a brief annual report describing time periods when turbines are operated to increase aeration in the past year and the minimum dissolved oxygen concentrations downstream observed during those periods.  This report on aeration operations shall be included with the annual compliance statement to LIHI.  A copy of the letter report that has been sent in past years to the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water, will be sufficient to satisfy this condition.
  • Condition 2.  The facility owner shall continue work with Jessamine County Parks and Recreation Department to make recreational enhancements to the project area.  The owner shall provide a brief summary of progress in this effort annually along with the annual compliance statement due to LIHI.  The owner shall also provide LIHI with a final report on the recreational enhancements within one (1) month of their completion.

September 30, 2016: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric project.  The application materials can be found in the Files section below.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Mother Ann Lee project continues to meet the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2016 application materials posted on the project page.  Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Mother Ann Lee Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, PO Box 194, Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on November 30, 2016 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.

September 9, 2016:  The Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric project has been granted an extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is December 31, 2016. See the extension letter for explanation below.

December 28, 2012: The Mother Ann Lee Project has been recertified as low impact for a five year term, effective August 11, 2011 and expiring August 11, 2016.

March 28, 2007: The Mother Ann Lee Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term.

October 11, 2006: Lock 7 Partners LLC has submitted an application for certification of the Mother Ann Lee Project. A public comment period for this application will remain open until December 11, 2006.