Greenfield, MA – The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), Appalachian Mountain Club, American Whitewater and other recreation partners thank everyone who participated in two Portage Parades in past weeks. The parades were held on Saturday, July 10 at the Turners Falls Dam in Turners Falls, MA and on Saturday, July 17 at the Bellows Falls Dam in Walpole, NH. In MA, parade marchers proved a 20-minute walkable portage around the Turners Falls Dam is possible. In NH, parade marchers proved how extreme the current portage route is along the busy Route 12 roadway. “The events sent a message to dam owners FirstLight and Great River Hydro,” said CRC Executive Director, Andrew Fisk, “that better recreation plans, including improvements to these portage routes, are needed as part of their current applications for renewed operating licenses.”
Hydroelectric facilities like the Turners Falls and Bellows Falls Dams create obstacles to river recreation. Hydro companies are required to accommodate for recreation as part of their operating licenses. “Excessively long portages around these dams and poorly maintained put-ins are examples of the lack of investment the companies are making in publicly accessible recreation,” said Kristen Sykes, AMC Director of Southern New England Conservation Projects and Partnerships.
“This is your opportunity to speak up for the river and call for investments that match the recreation needs of the 21st century,” said CRC River Stewards, Andrea Donlon and Kathy Urffer. “These hydro companies are using the public’s river and we need to highlight recreation investments they should be making as part of new operating licenses that will be finalized soon and will remain in place for the next 50 years. It’s critical that we all speak up NOW in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence these licenses.”
“People need to advocate for access to and protection of recreational resources. It doesn’t happen without you,” said Faith Salter, AMC Director of Volunteer Relations. “Do not be intimidated about participating in the process. What you bring to the table is what you know about the river and what it needs to thrive and to support a thriving community. You can compel the hydro companies to be more specific about the funds they will commit to support not just the maintenance of existing infrastructure, but the improvement and expansion of opportunities to enjoy the river.”
“If the owners of the dams took a different approach and were more welcoming, it would go a long way both in terms of their perception and in the ease of recreation for everyone to go around the dam and travel down the river,” notes Turners Falls parade-marcher Tim Lewis, who has paddled the length of the Connecticut River, a journey many people travel to the region to experience.
Since late 2012, five hydroelectric facilities in the heart of the Connecticut River have been in the process of renewing their operating licenses in a process known as relicensing. Great River Hydro owns the Wilder, Bellows Falls, and Vernon Dams in Vermont and New Hampshire. FirstLight Power owns Turners Falls Dam and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage in Massachusetts. Together, these five hydro facilities impact more than 175 miles of the Connecticut River. Once issued, their licenses will be in place and dictate the terms of how these hydro facilities will operate for the next 30-50 years.
About Connecticut River Conservancy
Since 1952, Connecticut River Conservancy has been the voice for the Connecticut River watershed, from source to sea. They collaborate with partners across four states to protect and advocate for your rivers and educate and engage communities. They bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of your river and its tributary streams. Healthy rivers support healthy economies. To learn more about CRC, or to make a contribution to help protect rivers, visit ctriver.org.
About Appalachian Mountain Club
The Appalachian Mountain Club is dedicated to the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the outdoors. www.outdoors.org
About American Whitewater
American Whitewater is a national non-profit 501©(3) river conservation organization founded in 1954 with approximately 6,000 members and 100 local-based affiliate clubs, representing whitewater enthusiasts across the nation. American Whitewater’s mission is to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. The organization is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.