The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency renewed the wastewater-discharge permit of FirstEnergy Corp.'s Bay Shore power plant by 4.5 years on Friday, one that calls for a 60- to 80-percent reduction in fish kills 18 months earlier than the timeline that had been proposed last spring.
The reductions must be achieved by April 1, 2013 instead of Oct. 1, 2014, the agency said.
“Moving the date up will reduce two peak seasons of fish kills, which are highest during the April to June fish migration period,” according to its release.
The permit calls for FirstEnergy to reduce fish impingement — those which die from being trapped against the plant's powerful intake screens — by 80 percent. The number of juvenile fish and larvae small enough to pass through those grates and get sucked through the plant, or entrained, also must be reduced by 60 percent.
There is no requirement for a $100 million cooling tower. Several residents had demanded one at a hearing in April, citing its effectiveness at reducing water-intake and saving fish, but the utility has said for years that it cannot afford to build one.
The Ohio EPA said it will let FirstEnergy achieve the requirements through unspecified technological improvements and operational changes. The federal EPA has been seeking reductions in fish kills nationwide from power plants.
FirstEnergy is in the midst of a project examining the effectiveness of underwater screen-like devices called reverse louvers, which have been deployed at dams with mixed results but not at a power plant that creates electricity mostly through the combustion of coal.
The permit also provides FirstEnergy a variance from tougher federal rules for mercury releases into the water, giving the utility more time to phase in improvements.
The wastewater-discharge permit is a document that even Gov. Ted Strickland had recognized as a difficult one to write last spring because of Bay Shore's killing up to 60 million fish a year — many of them bait fish that are part of the Great Lakes region's aquatic food chain.
The plant, built in 1955, sits in an modified estuary where the Maumee River meets western Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, one of the Great Lakes region's most valuable spawning areas. It kills more fish than all others in Ohio combined by either pulling fish against intake screens or through the plant, and is one of the largest site for fish kills in the Great Lakes region.