New operators plan for $7 million in upgrades at city's hydro plant

Changes are coming to Columbiaâ??s Canal Hydroelectric Facility.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- The city TMs Canal Hydroelectric Facility is still flowing after nearly 200 years, and while it has not generated the power the officials hoped for when it took over the plant in 2002, it TMs now water under the bridge.

With the arrangement we have, says City Manager Steve Gantt, we are guaranteed a positive cash flow every month.

After several months of negotiations, Gantt signed a 25 year service agreement on Tuesday with Lockhart Power Company, a small public utility in the Upstate which will serve as the operators of the city TMs Canal Hydroelectric Facility.

They were exactly what we were looking for, Gantt adds.

Officials hope Lockhart will be able to pump new life into the aging building, providing not only a revenue source to the city but also a tourist attraction.

When you see their facility in Lockhart, it's absolutely beautiful, says City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann. It TMs very well-maintained, but they also make it about of the community.

We aim to preserve the historical character of the facility and meld it in with the surrounding buildings that are already there, according to Bryan Stone, Chief Operating Officer of Lockhart Power Company.

Upgrades to the facility are estimated to cost up to $3.5 million dollars, and Lockhart may spend up to that same amount in follow-up projects.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012.

In addition to the rehabilitation of the plant, Lockhart paid the city an initial $5 million and will make as much as $18 million worth of payments during the term of the service agreement.

We think economically there is a great benefit for the city over time without much risk, Stone says.

Lockhart will sell the power it generates from the plant to SCE&G at a set rate. The city will receive a portion of the profits. Gantt believes revenues will be better than before since Lockhart plans to have all seven of the facility's turbines spinning once again.