June 14, 2019

Honorable Kimberly D. Bose Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426

Re: CRC comments on the Newbury hydroelectric project (P-5261) Proposed Study Plan

Dear Secretary Bose,

The Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. (CRWC), now doing business as the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), is a nonprofit citizen group established in 1952 to advocate for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its four-state watershed.  The interests and goals represented by CRC include, but are not limited to, improving water quality; enhancing habitat for fish and other aquatic biota; safeguarding and improving wildlife habitat; protecting threatened and endangered species; protecting wetlands; preserving undeveloped shore lands; enhancing public recreation and promoting recreational safety; protecting aesthetic values; protecting archeological, cultural, and historical resources; fostering sustainable economic development; and maintaining the potential energy benefits of a hydroelectric project in the Connecticut River watershed.

CRC has reviewed the Newbury hydro-electric facility Proposed Study Plan (PSP) dated May 2019. Please consider our comments on the Proposed Study Plans below.


Green Mountain Power states in the PSP, “The general purpose of the studies for the Newbury Project relicensing are to gather pertinent resource information pertaining to potential Project-related resource effects.”[1]  CRC thinks it is logical then that Green Mountain Power (GMP) includes some basic macroinvertebrate sampling in the Habitat Evaluation and Aesthetic Flow Study in the by-pass reach in order to compare the macroinvertebrate assemblage in the project area to the other existing macroinvertebrate sites in the Wells River that are sampled on an ongoing basis by VT DEC.  Even though “VDEC is the water quality certifying agency in Vermont and did not request the need for a macroinvertebrate study”[2] that does not preclude CRC’s ability and inclination as an advocacy organization to request more comprehensive information, nor does it preclude FERC from doing the same, in an effort to fully understand and protect our public resources.

Given the extended length of the FERC license period, evaluation of the presence and health of the macroinvertebrate population may be more useful in understanding the effect of project operations over time. Monitoring of aquatic biota can be helpful in determining low-level stresses in ecosystems and improvements in habitat are more easily detected using biological assessments. As indicated in the PSP, “The Wells River is classified by the state of Vermont as Class B(2) for the aquatic habitat designated use and is designated as cold-water fish habitat.”[3]  The Vermont Water Quality Standards provides Use-specific Management Objectives and Criteria by Class for aquatic biota and wildlife and establish standards for Class B(2) waters as follows: “Change from the natural condition for aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages not exceeding moderate changes in the relative proportions of taxonomic, functional, tolerant, and intolerant aquatic organisms.”[4] Without some assessment of the current assemblage of macroinvertebrates in the bypass reach it is difficult to know if project operations are affecting the aquatic biota.

Given Green Mountain Power’s role as the only utility in the nation to be designation a Certified B-Corp, the standards and expectations of that certification compel the company, “That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered, and that, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.”[5] CRC encourages the company to adhere to these lofty goals and requests that they enhance this study by sampling for macroinvertebrates in the bypass reach to provide both a baseline of data for the license period and provide some real evidence to ascertain if project operations impact macroinvertebrate assemblages in the project area.


Any survey of freshwater mussels in the Connecticut River basin should include consideration of dwarf wedgemussels.  CRC understands that U.S Fish and Wildlife Service would require that the survey be done by a certified dwarf wedgemussel surveyer.


In lieu of a recreation study GMP proposes to enhance the Wells River Wildlife Area upstream of the project and to “meet VTFW, VDEC, and CRC at the Wildlife Area for a site visit during the 2019 field season… and jointly discuss any potential site needs and/or potential improvements.” [6] CRC welcomes the invitation to be involved in these discussions. CRC and the state agencies have some understanding of the feasibility of recreational improvements in the area, and suggest further outreach including having this site visit open to the public and that GMP do direct outreach to the local recreational community. One aspect of a recreational study provides for the opportunity to engage the recreational community in these decisions.  Given the circumstances, CRC is not opposed to the absence of a formal recreational study but we would strongly encourage GMP to engage the local community on recreational needs. It is our understanding that in addition to the Wells River Wildlife Area, there is a public rail trail, there may be issues with the portage for boaters getting out of the river at the head of the impoundment, and there is an information kiosk owned by the town adjacent to the Wells River at 5 Railroad Street that also might benefit from some enhancements.

The PSP states, “Upon consensus of recreation needs, GMP will develop a Recreation Management Plan that defines recreation enhancements scope, enhancements schedule, and future maintenance protocols.”[7] As we indicated in our comments to the Preliminary Application Document the FERC guidance for recreation at hydropower projects states, “Licensees must also keep in mind that the demand for recreation is not static; it is an evolving process. Periodic review of a project’s consistency with recreation demands is required to ensure that the public need for recreational opportunity is being met by existing and proposed facilities.”[8]  While we understand that there is limited recreational opportunity at the facility itself, the presence of the dam impedes access by anglers and boaters’ ability to freely paddle through on the river. Given this, CRC encourages GMP to make a commitment to revise the Recreation Plan every 10 years over the course of the license in case additional opportunities for recreational improvements arise.

In addition to the comments provided above, please note that CRC supports comments submitted by the natural resource agencies, including but not limited to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We are very grateful for Green Mountain Power’s sustainable leadership and encourage them to use this opportunity to increase their engagement and reach.  We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments.  I can be reached at kurffer@ctriver.org or (802) 258-0413.


Kathy Urffer
River Steward

Jason Lisai, Green Mountain Power Corporation
John Greenan, Green Mountain Power Corporation
Katie Sellers, Kleinschmidt Associates
Jeff Crocker, VTDEC
Eric Davis, VTDEC
Pete McHugh, VTFWD
Melisa Grader, US FWS
Jud Kratzer, VTWFD
Bob Nasdor, AW
Brian Fitzgerald, VNRC

[1] Proposed Study Plan. Newbury Hydroelectric Project FERC NO. 5261. Green Mountain Power Corporation, Rutland, Vermont. Kleinschmidt Group, Pittsfield, Maine. May 2019, page 3-1.

[2] Ibid. Page 3-3.

[3] Ibid. Page 3-5.

[4] State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Department of Environmental Conservation. Vermont Water Quality Standards. Environmental Protection Rule Chapter 29A. Effective January 15, 2017. (Available online: https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/documents/wsmd_water_quality_standards_2016.pdf ). Page 25.

[5] The B-Corp Declaration of Interdependence. Accessed online at: https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps

[6] Proposed Study Plan. Newbury Hydroelectric Project FERC NO. 5261. Green Mountain Power Corporation, Rutland, Vermont. Kleinschmidt Group, Pittsfield, Maine. May 2019, page 3-2

[7] Ibid. Page 3-2.

[8] Recreation Development at Licensed Hydropower Projects: Division of Project Compliance and Administration, Office of Hydropower Licensing, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington DC. March 1996. Page 14.