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CRC comments on Bear Swamp PAD, Scoping Document

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CRC comments on Bear Swamp PAD, Scoping Document

  • CRC

April 16, 2015

Honorable Kimberly D. Bose
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426
Re: Bear Swamp Project No. 2669
Comments on the Pre-Application Document, Scoping Document 1, and Study Requests

Dear Secretary Bose,

The Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. (CRC) is a nonprofit citizen group that was established in 1952 to advocate for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its four-state watershed. We love to celebrate the River and its tributaries. On December 19, 2014, Bear Swamp Power Company (BSPC) filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Pre-Application Document (PAD) for the relicensing of the Bear Swamp Project. On February 18, 2015, FERC issued Scoping Document 1 (SD1) along with a deadline for study requests.
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, energy production, and preserving the local tax base along the Connecticut River and its tributaries.

The Council’s members use and are concerned about the area of the Deerfield River affected by the presence and operation of the Bear Swamp Pumped Storage Development (Bear Swamp PSD) and the Fife Brook Dam, owned jointly by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group (Brookfield) and Emera Inc,. and operated by Bear Swamp Power Company (BSPC). Peaking flow at this facility as well as those all along the Deerfield River affect the aquatic habitat, water quality, and recreational use of the river. The whitewater releases have made the Deerfield River a very popular destination for whitewater paddlers and tubers. Anglers also regard the river as a resource, but the peaking flows have had impacts on the ability to fish along the river. Balancing the recreational uses, and managing the large numbers of users, is a challenge that we hope can be addressed better in the relicensing process.

CRC is committed to working with FERC and other stakeholders to implement an Integrated Licensing Process for this projects that will positively affect the Deerfield River and its resources for present and future generations. CRC is presently involved as a stakeholder in the relicensing of five hydropower facilities on the mainstem Connecticut River (Turners Falls Dam, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility, Vernon Dam, Bellows Falls Dam, and Wilder Dam), and has intervened in relicensing proceedings and license amendments at the Holyoke Dam (FERC No. 2004), Canaan Dam (No. 7528), Fifteen Mile Falls (No. 2077), Vernon (No. 1904), and Northfield Mountain (P-2485).

We appreciate the opportunity to submit our comments on the Pre-application Document (PAD), Scoping Document 1, and we are also submitting multiple study requests. Our comments on the PAD and Scoping Document 1 are organized by the sections of each respective document. The full text of our study requests are located in an appendix to this letter.

CRC comments on the Pre-Application Document (PAD)

1. Section (Page 4-5) of the PAD describes the conveyance structures associated with Bear Swamp. It is not clear the structure on the Deerfield River is like and how far it extends out into the river.
2. Section (Page 4-6) of the PAD states that the Lower Reservoir (the portion of the Deerfield River impounded behind Fife Brook Dam) is partially fenced and public access is prohibited due to safety and security concerns. More details are needed about the location of fencing, the areas that are denied access, and the specific safety concerns other than the allowed 40-foot fluctuation range of the Lower Reservoir.
3. Section 4.4.1 in the PAD contains Figure 4.4-2 and Figure 4.4-3 showing inflow and outflow from Fife Brook. In order to understand current operations, we would need to see more years of data and viewable at a scale that we can really see how the facility is affecting flow. The graphs provided in the PAD are inadequate.
4. Section 4.4.2 (page 4-23) describes the procedure for transitioning from the 125 cfs minimum flow discharge to a higher scheduled discharge level. The PAD describes bringing the powerhouse up to 3MW and holding it at that level for 15 minutes. First, CRC is interested in knowing what 3MW equates to in terms of flow at low and high pond levels. Second, we would like to see actual operations data over the previous seasons in which this practice has taken place.
5. Section 4.5.2 of the PAD provides data for pumping, generation, and outflow by month for the years 2009-2013. We request that all flow information of this kind include the years 2005-2015.
6. Section 4.5.6, future development. If the proposed rehabilitation and upgrade of the two 40-year old pump-turbine units would impact the Lower Reservoir fluctuation patterns at all, BSPC should describe effects.
7. Section 5.3.3 (page 5-31) describes flow duration curves for the Charlemont Gage included in Appendix H. Flow duration curves are needed for the section of river just downstream of the Fife Brook Dam and for the inflow coming into the impoundment from the next facility upstream.
8. Section 5.4.1 should provide any information on the presence or lack thereof of American eels in the project area.
9. Section Bald eagle and wild turkey should be added to the list of avifauna present in the Deerfield River watershed.

CRC comments on Scoping Document 1

CRC attended the daytime scoping meeting held in North Adams, MA on March 18, 2015. We hope that future meetings related to this relicensing process will take place in the Deerfield River watershed, either in the project vicinity, or in Charlemont, Shelburne Falls, or Greenfield.
Additionally, we were disappointed that FERC prepared no agenda for the scoping meeting and cut off discussion after two hours. The scoping meeting notice included only a start time, and previous FERC scoping meetings we have attended have lasted until comments were exhausted. There were several subject areas that were not discussed.
4.0 Scope of Cumulative Effects and Site-Specific Resource Issues
FERC has identified the scope of analysis for cumulatively affected resources is the headwaters of the Deerfield River in Vermont all the way down to the Deerfield River’s confluence with the Connecticut River. This project sits in the middle of a highly regulated system of hydropower projects owned by other companies. It is unfortunate that these facilities are not on the same relicensing schedule. When the Deerfield project and Gardners Falls were relicensed in the 1990’s, Bear Swamp’s license was amended. Now we are relicensing Bear Swamp, but the other Deerfield projects are not up for modification. FERC needs to figure out how to synchronize all facilities on the Deerfield.

CRC recommends that the following resources that could be cumulatively affected be added to the ones already identified by FERC:
• Effects of continued project operation on aquatic habitat for migratory and resident fish species, mussels, and benthic macroinvertebrates.
• Effects of continued project operation on recreational use in the Deerfield River.
• Water losses from hydropeaking as described by Yellen and Bout (2015) .

Section 4.2.5 does not identify the aesthetic impact of rip-rapping two miles of the Deerfield River upstream of the Fife Brook dam.

5.0 Proposed studies
The geographic scope of studies should include the upstream extent of the Fife Brook impoundment when Bear Swamp is generating, and the downstream extent should go all the way down to the upstream limit of the Deerfield No. 4 impoundment.

Section 6.0 Request for information and studies
Study requests submitted by CRC are included as an attachment to this letter.
CRC understands that there will be agency submittals for several studies that we are not as an organization proposing. CRC supports the requests for the following studies: Northern Lon-Eared bat acoustic survey; Massachusetts State-Listed Rare Plants, Baseline Data Collection and Assessment of Operational Impacts; and Massachusetts State-Listed Odonates, Baseline Data Collection and Assessment of Operational Impacts.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the PAD, Scoping Document 1, and the study requests. We look forward to our active participation in the relicensing of the Deerfield River projects.

Andrea Donlon
River Steward

ATTACHMENT: CRC Study Requests