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October 2018 – Hydroelectric Relicensing Update

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October 2018 – Hydroelectric Relicensing Update

The hydropower relicensing process continues for the Wilder, Bellows Falls, Vernon, and Turners Falls Dams and the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station along the Connecticut River. Here’s the status of the process.

VT/NH facilities, owned by Great River Hydro

Review Continues on Study 9, Instream Flow Study
Additional agency and stakeholder meetings were held with Great River Hydro on June 8, August 7, September 11, and October 16.  On August 7, VT State ANR staff presented habitat information based on data collected for Study 9 to explain the reasoning behind possible flow regimes and effects on aquatic species.  This included some discussion of returning some flow to the riverine section around Bellows Falls currently referred to as the bypass reach.  On September 7, Great River Hydro presented an overview of energy markets that may be affected by changes in operations and instream flow as well as some of the regulatory constraints and possible operational impacts if flow changes are required.  The discussion on October 16 involved follow up questions and Great River Hydro’s perspective and intentions on some of the material presented in August.  Additional meetings are planned over the coming months to attempt to find some middle ground between improvement in habitat and market and regulatory constraints of project operations.

Other studies underway
Great River Hydro submitted their required Progress Reports for Studies 9 (Instream Flow), 24 (Dwarf Wedgemussel and Co-Occurring Mussel), and 33 (Cultural and Historic Resources) on August 13, 2018. Their next progress report on these studies will be due on or about November 13, 2018 and then again every 90 days until final study reports are submitted.

Recreation Survey and Feedback
Survey results and associated feedback from CRC’s online recreation survey and public forums held in November and December were distributed to stakeholders and towns for further comment. Those comments were integrated and the final summary and survey data were shared with Great River Hydro to provide additional information for the development of their recreation plan.  This document will also be submitted to FERC to be included in the record.

The process from here
What’s next?  Once the final Study Reports for Studies 9 and 24 are submitted there will be an opportunity to comment on those.  When those studies are completed, FERC will commence the “post-filing” process. FERC has not indicated a date for Great River Hydro to file an amended license application at this point, but they have developed a process plan for FirstLight which indicates that an amended final license application will be required at some point after July 2019.  We expect the deadline for Great River Hydro’s amended license application will likely occur around the same time as FirstLight.

Facilities in MA, owned by FirstLight

FirstLight study report meeting held October 9
FirstLight hosted a study report meeting on October 9, as required by FERC’s process plan dated August 10, 2018.  The purpose of the meeting was to allow stakeholders to ask technical questions related to updated filings from the past year or more on six different studies.  Comments from stakeholders are due to FERC on November 23.  There will be one more study report meeting in March of 2019.

The FERC process from here
After the comment periods on the remaining study reports are completed, FERC will commence the “post-filing” process.  FERC has not indicated a date for FirstLight to file an amended license application at this point, but it seems likely that it will be later than July 2019.  CRC continues to advocate for stakeholders to be able to comment on an amended draft license application.

Settlement Discussions Underway
Meetings and discussions among settlement stakeholders and with FirstLight continue.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.
GRH facilities:  CRC River Steward, Kathy Urffer: kurffer@ctriver.org; 802-258-0413
FirstLight:  CRC River Steward, Andrea Donlon: adonlon@ctriver.org; 413-772-2020 x 205

Header Image: Al Braden, www.albradenphoto.com