by Andrew Fisk, CRWC Executive Director.

The Connecticut River Watershed Council appreciates Vernon Representative Hebert’s engagement with our recent evaluation of Vermont Yankee’s now long-pending application to renew their long-expired thermal discharge permit.  I’m sorry however that he’s rushed into the breach without hearing what our experts said, understanding the law or listening to the valid questions being asked by state and federal regulatory agencies as well as our experts.

What our experts have concluded is that Entergy hasn’t made its case one way or the other about what their thermal discharges are doing to the native fishery.   The law is absolutely clear that it is Entergy’s responsibility to show that their discharge does no damage to the aquatic ecosystem and show that the Connecticut River affected by their discharge – all 55 miles of it – remains suitable habitat for cool and cold-water fish.

That’s right – suitable habitat for fish like American shad and Atlantic salmon.  Not just walleye or bass.  That’s the way the law works, it says you must protect the most sensitive species.

We aren’t playing politics or ideology.  We’re talking about good science and existing law.

Yes, American shad numbers are declining all along the Eastern seaboard.  Yes, there are a lot of likely causes contributing to that beyond alteration of habitat by heating up our rivers.  And yes, fisheries experts agree that a few degrees of warming can adversely affect migration, spawning, and growth of fish such as American shad.

Representative Hebert is pretty cavalier about the temperature changes produced by Vermont Yankee, in effect asking, What’s five degrees or thirteen degrees really matter anyway?  That’s not how the law (or the river for that matter) works, and the present pending permit is a brand new ball game.  This is not rehashing prior court decisions.  This is new information on a pending permit, so Entergy needs to step up and stop relying on its prior flawed information and model.

Here are just a few of the important unanswered questions: Why aren’t the over 16,500 American shad that passed Turner’s Falls last year even making it to the Vernon fish ladder? What is the impact on juvenile shad downstream migration in the Connecticut River from Entergy’s thermal discharge? How do all of VY’s operating scenarios interact with all of Vernon dam’s operating conditions over all range of weather and flow conditions?

These are not questions we are making up just to harass VY.  These are things required by law to be answered and before there is irreparable damage to the aquatic ecosystem of the Connecticut River.

Unfortunately Entergy and its consultants are stalling for time, refusing to release their computer model, avoiding their own report’s conclusions that the plume is 55 miles long (not the half-mile they say it is), and delaying required study reports that will begin to create a credible case for Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources to review.  Until Entergy makes that case, it shouldn’t be dumping its thermal pollution in our river.

What’s Entergy afraid of?  Good science means having someone check your work and repeat your results.

Oh, and by the way, we’re happy to discuss our experts’ bona fides.  If they are good enough for state, interstate, federal, and private sector clients for the last 30 years, they’re good enough for us.

As one of the largest utility companies in the country, Vermont Yankee should be able to figure out a way to stop using our river as a dump. The neighborhood is watching. If you want to join the neighborhood watch go to coolitentergy.org.

 

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CONTACTS:

Andrew Fisk, Executive Director, afisk@ctriver.org 413-772-2020 x208 or 413-210-9207 (cell)

Richard Ewald, Planning & Development Director, rewald@ctriver.org 4130772-2020 x206

Based in Greenfield, the Connecticut River Watershed Council works to improve water quality and native fisheries in the Connecticut River’s 11,000-square mile watershed in the four states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Through its web site and publications – such as the popular Connecticut River Boating Guide – the 60-year-old nonprofit organization promotes conservation, recreation, and a sensible balance between the needs of human and natural communities.  www.ctriver.org