In re: )
FirstLight Hydro Generating Company) Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, No. 2485-065
The Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. and the Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee of the Franklin Regional Planning Board, acting under the authority of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (herein the “Intervenors”) hereby move for leave to intervene to the above referenced application for temporary amendment of license filed by FirstLight Hydro Generating Company on August 8, 2014, pursuant to the Notice dated September 4, 2014, published by the Commission and Rule 214 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, 18 C.F.R. § 385.214 and related.
I. Statement of Interest
The Intervenors are a nonprofit watershed organization and a regional municipal services and planning organization that have an interest in protecting environmental values that directly and indirectly support the state, regional, and local economies and quality of life in the Project area. The Connecticut River and the rich agricultural soils of the surrounding valley bottom are the resources that define this region of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The ecological and cultural importance of the Connecticut River was recognized by the federal government in the 1990s when the river was designated an American Heritage River and the watershed a National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and most recently in 2012 as the first National Blueway by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
The Clean Water Act and the work of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission have improved the water quality of the river and the infrastructure for fish passage on the dams of the Connecticut River. Over the last three decades, the Connecticut River has been reborn and is again a focus for the identity of the communities on its banks. The river provides water-related recreational opportunities for swimming, boating and fishing, as well as drawing both residents and tourists who enjoy walking, bicycling, hiking, camping, and nature observation along its banks. Within the reach of the Connecticut River known as the Turners Falls pool, FirstLight Hydro Generating Company (“FirstLight”) operates popular campsites, picnic sites, and a tour boat in the project area. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts operates two state-owned boat launches in the reach.
The Intervenors’ interests include the prime agricultural and recreational lands and economy of the valley; the improvement of water quality; enhancing aquatic and related terrestrial habitat; protecting and restoring the several threatened and endangered plant and animal species of the valley; preserving wetlands, undeveloped shore lands, and the many significant archaeological, cultural, and historical sites of the valley; and enhancing the aesthetics of the region. These interests are not adequately represented by other parties to this proceeding.
II. Description of the Parties
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. The Council’s members use and are concerned about the area of the Connecticut River affected by the presence and operation of the Northfield Pumped Storage Project and the Turners Falls Project (FERC Project No. 1889). CRC is an active member of Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee (CRSEC), and as a member of the committee, has been working with the owners of the Project to address erosion in the Turners Falls pool, including development of bioengineering river bank stabilization projects that are part of the Erosion Control Plan ordered and approved by the FERC. CRC advocates for the protection of water quality and habitat on the river, as well as the environmentally-responsible use of the river. As such, CRC has been an active stakeholder participating in the ongoing relicensing of Northfield Mountain, Turners Falls Dam, Vernon Dam (no. 1904), Bellows Falls Dam (No. 1855), and Wilder Dam (No. 1892). CRC has intervened in the Holyoke Dam (FERC No. 2004), Canaan Dam (No. 7528), and Fifteen Mile Falls (No. 2077) projects on the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee (CRSEC) was created by the Franklin Regional Planning Board in January, 1994 as a forum for parties to come together and work cooperatively to address the substantial erosion problems that exist on the Turners Falls Impoundment (the Connecticut River downstream of the Vernon dam is both the pool behind Turners Falls Dam and the lower reservoir for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project). In conjunction with FirstLight (then Northeast Generating Company) pursuant to Article 19 of the Project’s license, the Committee has worked for the past 13 years towards stabilizing thousands of feet of actively eroding shoreline along the Turners Falls Impoundment. Thomas Miner from the Franklin Regional Planning Board is the current chair of CRSEC.
The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) is the Regional Planning Agency and regional municipal services organization for Franklin County. The FRCOG was formed by statute in 1996, after Massachusetts abolished its county government system, as the replacement governmental entity to what was formerly the Franklin County Commission. The Franklin Regional Planning Board is an advisory board to the FRCOG on all regional planning issues and consists of representatives from the 26 towns in Franklin County, Massachusetts. The FRCOG Executive Committee consists of five members — two regionally elected by ballot, two elected by a vote of council members who meet quarterly, and one member voted by the regional Franklin Regional Planning Board. The Chair of the FRCOG Executive Committee is presently Bill Perlman of Ashfield, Massachusetts and the Executive Director of the FRCOG is Linda Dunlavy.
III. Statement of Position and Comments on Application for License Amendment
The Intervenors are concerned that the proposal to increase the generating capacity of the Project for the four-month winter period is unconditional. The requested license amendment does not ask for a change under limited emergency conditions, but for the entire period December 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. Previous temporary amendments were made based on a specific request from ISO-NE and the changes were authorized only under certain emergency operating conditions as determined by ISO-NE . This time, there are no such conditions. While we understand the significant changes in the generating capacity in the ISO region due to the shutdown of Vermont Yankee and the Salem generating station as well as other coal-fired facilities, and we appreciate that electricity rates are expected to rise in the region as a result of these and other structural changes in the energy generation and distribution network, we do not see that those systemic changes warrant bypassing ISO’s oversight and decision-making to meet winter reliability needs. Only when called upon by ISO New England to meet shortages related to winter reliability needs should First Light be allowed to use the additional generating capacity.
FirstLight Has Existing Unused Capacity to Respond to Winter Demand
The following points lead us to believe there is no compelling need for an unconditional temporary license amendment.
• FirstLight says on page 4 of its application that increased operating flexibility would provide significant benefits. However, on page 3, Northfield Mountain is described as “the most flexible station in the region, with the capability to generate from 0 to full output (1,143 MW) in six to eight minutes.” Northfield Mountain already has a high degree of operational flexibility.
• Section E.3.2 of FirstLight’s application notes that Northfield Mountain pumped and generated more frequently in the early 2000’s than in the past several years. FirstLight could return to early 2000 levels this winter with no change in its license.
• FirstLight has said repeatedly that they do not use their system to full capacity, and Figures E 1.0-8 through 11 and Figures E1.0-13 through 16 show that Northfield Mountain did not use the full maximum and minimum upper and lower reservoir limits in the modeled year. In fact, even in the modeled conditions for the temporary amendment, the upper reservoir elevation limits rarely stray beyond the current allowed maximum pool elevation of 1,000.5 feet or below the current minimum pool elevation of 938 feet.
Under its existing license, Northfield Mountain is already a flexible facility, provides benefits to the regional electric grid, and has room to increase generation beyond what it has been doing recently, with no license amendment necessary.
Erosion Impacts
There is a long history of riverbank erosion associated with the operation of Northfield Mountain. FirstLight states in page 13 of its application that the model shows only a limited average difference in the daily minimum water levels and that the range of daily reservoir elevation variation would only slightly increase. It has concluded that the temporary amendment is not expected to lead to any meaningful changes in erosion. Our concern is that Figure E 1.0-17 shows that under the modeled temporary amendment conditions, there will be an increase in frequency of the 2.8-3.0 ft daily fluctuation range, and three new maximum categories: 3.2-3.4 ft, 3.4-3.6 ft, and 3.6-3.8 ft. Though the model assumes conditions for a single, “worst case” year, it appears that the Turners Falls impoundment will fluctuate more under modeled temporary amendment conditions than under baseline. Likewise in some months, the elevation of the Turners Falls pool will be lower on some days than under baseline conditions. Though the model may show a worst-case scenario, any time the river level is brought to a new low or there is a greater range along the banks of saturated sediments, there is the potential for increased erosion. A relicensing study is currently underway to understand the causes of erosion in the Turners Falls pool.
Entrainment Impacts
Section E.3.1.1 of the application acknowledges that fish are entrained during pump-back at Northfield Mountain. Certainly, entrainment is a greater concern during fish migratory periods and during fish spawning seasons. Section E.3.1.1 mentions the presence of resident fish species but does not explain the activity level and/or presence of these species in the vicinity of the Northfield Mountain tailrace. FirstLight says that it is not aware of a substantial number of juvenile American shad overwintering in the Turners Falls impoundment. Relicensing studies will be looking at fish assemblage, fish entrainment, and ichthyoplankton entrainment at Northfield Mountain. Until such time as we have a much better understanding of the entrainment impacts of NMPS, it seems inappropriate to request additional pumping capacity.
As a general matter, it is problematic to request a license amendment in the middle of the relicensing process, particularly to have FERC make decisions about environmental impacts of a proposed operating scenario that may (or may not) influence the proceedings while we are in the process of gathering new and important information about the facility’s impact on the river.

Recommended requirements if temporary amendment is approved.
If FERC approves the temporary amendment, the amendment period will take place during the study phase of the FERC relicensing process for this facility. Though the temporary amendment may not impact any ongoing study, FirstLight indicated in its October 2012 Pre-Application Document (PAD), Section 3.4.4, that it will be evaluating the potential to utilize more storage in Northfield Mountain’s upper reservoir as a potential modification. Given the systemic changes in the generating capacity of the region and that FirstLight will be filing its Preliminary License Proposal by December 5, 2015, nine months after the proposed license amendment expires, and it may or may not propose a more permanent modification using more storage in the upper reservoir, the Intervenors recommend the following:
1. Northfield Mountain would be authorized to use its proposed additional generating capacity only when the ISO-NE issues a Master/Local Control Center Procedure No 2, which is an alert issued by the ISO-NE “for the entire region or for a local area to notify power system personnel and wholesale electricity market participants when abnormal conditions on the region’s power system exist or are anticipated.” (See http://www.iso-ne.com/markets-operations/system-forecast-status/current-system-status/alert-descriptions).
2. FirstLight has said it will submit hourly reservoir levels to FERC on a monthly basis. Rather than submitting a hard-copy table of hourly data as it has done in the past, FirstLight should also prepare graphs and a summary describing how the river is fluctuating, and how this differs from typical winter conditions.
3. FirstLight has said it will conduct pre-amendment and post-amendment transect surveys at 20 locations along the impoundment. We support this effort and recommend that the surveys be submitted to FERC and project stakeholders, along with a narrative, in a report compiled within a few months after the temporary amendment expires.
IV. Service and Communication
Service of process and all other communications concerning this motion and the above-referenced project should be made to:
Kimberly Noake MacPhee, P.G, Natural Resources Program Manager
Franklin Regional Council of Governments
12 Olive Street, Suite 2
Greenfield MA 01301

Andrea Donlon
Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc.
15 Bank Row
Greenfield MA 01301

V. Conclusion
For the reasons stated above, the Intervenors conclude that the unconditioned temporary amendment request is not in the public interest. Given the potential impacts on erosion and entrainment, the fact that the facility is in the middle of relicensing, and the ability of the project to provide additional power under its existing license, an unconditioned temporary amendment application seems unjustified and untimely.
We respectfully request that the Commission provide us party status in this proceeding and deny the unconditioned temporary license amendment requested by FirstLight.
DATED this Dated this 3rd day of October 2014, on behalf of the organizations we represent.

Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director
Franklin Regional Council of Governments
12 Olive Street, Suite 2
Greenfield MA 01301

Andrew Fisk, Executive Director
Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc.
15 Bank Row
Greenfield MA 01301


I hereby certify that I have this day served the foregoing document, the Motion to Intervene for Project 2485, the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, submitted by the Intervenors, upon each person designated on the attached service list. Dated this 3rd day of October, 2014.


Andrea Donlon
Connecticut River Watershed Council
15 Bank Row
Greenfield MA 01301
Telephone: (413) 772-2020 x. 205
E-mail: adonlon@ctriver.org
On behalf of the Intervenors:

Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee of the Franklin Regional Planning Board, Acting under the authority of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments
Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc.,
FirstLight Hydro Generating Company
John Howard, Director FERC compliance
Northfield Mountain Station
99 Millers Falls Road
Northfield MA 01360

Julia S. Wood
Van Ness Feldman, LLP
1050 Thomas Jefferson St., NW
Washington DC 2007
(202) 298-1938

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
John Warner, Ecological Services
N.E. Fish and Wildlife Office
70 Commercial Street, Suite 300
Concord NH 03301-5087
(603) 271-2541

Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission
Kenneth Sprankle
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
103 East Plumtree Road
Sunderland MA 01375
(413) 548-9138 x. 121

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
John C. Sargent
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
New England District
696 Virginia Road
Concord, MA 01742

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
David Foulis
MA DEP Western Regional Office
436 Dwight Street
Springfield MA 01103
(413) 784-1100

Robert Kubit
MA DEP Central Regional Office
627 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
(508) 767-2854

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Caleb Slater, PhD., Anadromous Fish Coordinator
1 Rabbit Hill Road
Westborough, MA 01581
(508) 389-6331

ISO New England Inc.
Peter Brandien, Vice President, System Operations
ISO New England Inc.
One Sullivan Road
Holyoke, MA 01040
(413) 535-4000