LIHI Certificate #194 - Meldahl Project, Ohio/Kentucky

Project Name Meldahl
LIHI Certificate No.
LIHI Certificate Term
September 21, 2022 – September 20, 2032
Owner American Municipal Power, Inc.
State Ohio/Kentucky
Location River mile 436.2 on the Ohio River, Clermont County, Ohio/Bracken County, Kentucky
Installed Capacity 105 MW
Average Annual Generation 514,157 MWh
Facility Type Run of river
FERC No. P-12667 issued in 2008, expires 05/21/2058

The Meldahl Project is located on the Ohio River in Bracken County, Kentucky and Clermont County, Ohio, immediately adjacent to the existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam, 436 miles from its source in Pittsburgh, PA. It is the 12th lock and dam downstream from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the Ohio River originates at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers. A series of locks and dams operated and maintained by the USACE regulates pool elevation on the Ohio River for navigation. These dams create 19 pools upstream of the Mississippi River confluence. The entire length of the Ohio River has been altered by channelization and the construction of over 60 locks and dams to accommodate ship traffic since the late 1800’s.

Construction of the lock and dam began in April 1958 and was completed and placed into operation in by December 1964. The project owner owns or maintains four other hydroelectric projects along the Ohio River including: Willow Island (FERC Project No. 6902, LIHI #187), Belleville (FERC Project No. 6939), Cannelton (FERC Project No. 10228), and Smithland (FERC Project No. 6641).

The existing USACE structure, which is not a part of the project, consists of a main lock, 1,200 feet long and 110 feet wide and an auxiliary lock, 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. The dam was completed in 1964 and is a concrete fixed weir with 12 Tainter gates, each 100 feet long and 35 feet high above the sills. The dam is 1,752 feet in length. At the southern end of the gated section of the dam, there is a 372-foot-long concrete gravity overflow weir. The powerhouse is located on the Kentucky bank approximately 550 feet from the last spillway pier to the center of the powerhouse. The navigation locks are located on the Ohio bank.

The hydropower plant includes a 210-foot-wide reinforced concrete powerhouse containing three 35-megawatt (MW) horizontal Kaplan Bulb turbine generating units for a total installed capacity of 105 MW; a 1,850-foot-long intake channel; a 1,850-foot-long tailrace channel; an approximately 5-mile-long, 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission line connecting the powerhouse to a switching station adjacent to East Kentucky Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s Boone-Spurlock transmission line; and other appurtenant facilities. The Project reached full commercial operations in April 2016.

The project operates in a run-of-river mode and impounds a 21,700-acre reservoir. During normal operations, the project can generate electric power with one, two or three of the units 24 hours a day when river flows range from approximately 2,300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to about 65,000 cfs. During low flow periods when the Ohio River is being regulated for protection of federal interests such as navigation, all water discharged from the Meldahl Project is controlled by the Meldahl Lock and Dam Lockmaster. The USACE Huntington District also maintains the upstream navigational pool when discharging any flow through the Meldahl Lock and Dam.

Designated uses for waters within the project area include aquatic habitat, recreation, and public water supply. However, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) has designated the Ohio River as being impaired for fish consumption due to PCB and dioxin like much of the river. The river including the project vicinity, is also impaired for contact recreation due to E. coli contamination.

The Ohio River in the Project vicinity supports a wide variety of warmwater fishes. Game fish include walleye, sauger, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rock bass, catfish, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, crappie, and white bass. Nongame fish include gar, bullheads, skipjack herring, mooneye, chubs, shiners, drum, suckers, gizzard shad, and carp. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission indicates that several species of special concern may occur in or near the Project site, including paddlefish, silver lamprey, and black buffalo. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has deemed the downstream reach of the project as an excellent fishery. No anadromous fish species are present in the project area, though the catadromous American eel has been found in very small numbers. Passage is afforded via the adjacent locks.

Each of the turbines has a trashrack with 8-inch spacing and an approach velocity of 2.1 feet per second (f/s). The powerhouse contains three horizontal shaft bulb-type Kaplan turbines and while fish could become entrained, the very large diameter Kaplan turbines with low rotational speed (62 rpm), four large-diameter blades, wide gaps between the blades, and relatively broad and smooth leading edges of blades minimize blade strike and mortality to entrained fish.

The project lands consist of roughly 82 acres. Construction of the hydropower project required the clearing and excavating of 60 acres of land. Upon completion, the project owner consulted with state agencies and USACE to restore the area with native seed mixes and vegetative cover. The project owner also enhanced the riparian areas of along Banklick Creek and the Licking Creek River throughout Kenton County, Kentucky in coordination with USACE.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Fanshell, pink mucket, ring pink, sheepnose, orangefoot pimpleback, clubshell, rough pigtoe mussel, snuffbox mussel, spectaclecase mussel, Northern riffleshell mussel, rabbitsfoot mussel, gray bat, Indiana bat, Northern long-eared bat, bald eagle, black-billed cuckoo, cerulean warbler, Kentucky warbler, prairie warbler, prothonotary warbler, red-headed woodpecker, rusty blackbird, wood thrush, Northern harrier hawk, blue corporal dragonfly, running buffalo clover, and American eel. Consultation with regulatory agencies during the planning of the hydropower project, along with the project’s run-of-river operations, minimizes the likelihood of adverse impacts on the listed species.

Historic resources in the project vicinity include one property, the Meldahl Locks and Dam, and one potentially eligible site (BK- 432) in Kentucky. The Kentucky State Historic Preservation Officer concluded that the hydropower project would not affect these properties.

Recreational resources at the project include angling access, a fishing pier, picnic areas, shoreline access, restrooms, and parking areas. Half a mile downstream is the Big Snag Creek sandbar, a popular recreation site used for fishing, camping, and picnicking. The project owner installed submerged undulations in the project tailrace above and below the fishing pier to enhance fishery habitat and sport fishing. Public access is provided free of charge.

Compliance Status

The Certificate includes the following facility-specific conditions:

Partially satisfied in 2023. Condition 1: Within 6 months of Certification, the facility Owner shall contact the Meldahl Lockmaster regarding facilitation of USACE mussel surveys downstream of the Project Tailrace in accordance with the existing Memorandum of Operating Agreement (MOA) between the USACE and the Project.  Pursuant to the MOA, the facility Owner shall coordinate temporary operational changes with USACE Huntington District staff when provided timely notice of a USACE-planned downstream mussel survey. In annual LIHI compliance submittals to LIHI, the facility Owner shall provide:

  • A summary of pertinent notifications received from the District, along with subsequent coordination with District staff;
  • Any related consultation with USACE, FWS, and state resource agencies; and
  • A summary of any changes made to Project facilities or operations to protect listed mussel species.

Condition 2:  In accordance with license Article 413 as modified herein for purposes of LIHI certification, if previously unidentified archeological evidence, Native American cultural items, human remains, or historic properties are discovered during the course of operating or maintaining the Project, the facility Owner shall stop all land-clearing and land-disturbing activities in the vicinity of the properties and immediately consult with the SHPO, USACE, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

2023: No material changes or compliance issues were identified.  The project remains in compliance based on the annual review.  For Condition 1, the project reported consultation with the Lockmaster thus partially satisfying the condition – only annual reporting is required.  For Condition 2, the project reported no activity.

2022: Annual reporting for the current Certificate has not yet taken effect.

Certification History

March 29, 2023: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has issued a final decision on the certification of the Meldahl Hydroelectric Project.  The certification term is September 21, 2022 through September 20, 2032.

February 21, 2023:  The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved Low Impact Certification for the Meldahl Hydroelectric Project (pending LIHI #194). The application and review report are found below. This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented on the initial application during the 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the Project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to with “Meldahl Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476. All requests will be posted to the website. The applicant will have an opportunity to respond and any response will also be posted. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on March 23, 2023. If no appeal requests are received the certification term will be September 21, 2022 through September 20, 2032.

September 26, 2022: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Certification of the Meldahl Hydroelectric Project.  LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s application materials below. 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 “Meldahl Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 407, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received on or before 5 pm Eastern time on November 25, 2022 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.

Certification Files

2023 Certification

Key Documents