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The Vidalia Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize Mayor Buz Craft to file an application and process paperwork concerning the partial transfer of the license for the operation of the Sidney A. Murray Jr. Hydroelectric Station.

The application will be delivered to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Craft explained this action follows a “negotiation between Brookfield and unnamed owners of Catalyst,” the owner of the hydro. “We are a co-licensee with Catalyst, and they are making the transfer.”

As a co-licensee, Craft said the town is involved in the paperwork.

“This does not affect our present or future position as it relates to hydro,” he said. “The CEO of Brookfield, a large and strong company” that “owns over 200 hydro plants in the world,” and hundreds of solar and windmill facilities is “going to have a controlling interest in Catalyst.”

He said this will not affect Vidalia’s contract.

Craft said the town hired a law firm from Baton Rouge to guide it through the process.

“I feel completely good about the whole situation,” he said.

Craft said the town’s current contract with the hydro plant expires December 31, 2031. In 2029, the town will the opportunity to execute options to purchase the facility, Craft said.

Alderman Sabrina Dore said she would have preferred that aldermen had been “brought into the loop” about three months ago. She said she trusted Craft in handling the process but had reservations about a mayor having “sole authority to do these things.”

Craft took exception to the comment, saying that he could not comment during negotiations over past weeks and that he was simply doing his job.

According to a story on May 8 on the website of S&P Global, “Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. is seeking permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to acquire a larger stake in a 192-MW hydroelectric facility in Concordia Parish, La.

“Under the two-part transaction, Catalyst Old River Hydro LP will first acquire direct ownership of the Sidney A Murray Jr Hydroelectric power plant from the owner trustee, Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

“Catalyst Old River Hydro was created to build and operate the project, which was granted a hydroelectric license in 1982. It sold its interest in the power plant to Bank of New York Mellon. in 1990 and entered into a lease agreement to operate it, according to a May 7 filing.

“In the second part of the deal, Brookfield Power US Holding America Co., co-owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and subsidiary Brookfield Renewable Partners LP, will acquire a 50% general partner controlling interest in Catalyst Old River Hydro from Ronald Cantwell. This will result in Brookfield gaining voting control over Catalyst Old River Hydro.”

Town Accountant Debra Moak said the town received $5.1 million in hydro royalties in early May.

Craft said the new budget will reflect that $1.1 million will be available for new town projects through hydro monies and that over the next fiscal year another $1.2 million will be available. He said $1.1 million will be used for a rebate to electric customers.

One project to be considered is a pumping station for the slough area of town.

Responding to questions from Alderman Robert Gardner, Craft said the town is seeking grant funding from Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for the work, but that if necessary, and if town citizens agree to make it priority, this could be funded with hydro funds.

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