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CRC comments on the Newbury hydroelectric project (P-5261) Pre-Application Document

close up of drop on water

February 1, 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) Pre-Application Document

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 CRWC 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 Pre-Application Document (PAD) dated August 2018 and we attended the Joint Agency and Public meeting on December 4, 2018. Please consider our comments on the PAD below.


The PAD sites water quality data based on macroinvertebrate studies from between 1992 and 2014.  The most recent data from 2014 is from two sites that are 2.1 and 4.4 miles upstream of the confluence with the Connecticut River.   As indicated in the PAD the project is located .9 miles upstream of the confluence.  The only macroinvertebrate data referenced from below the project was sampled in 1992.  Given this relative lack of information, CRC would request that the licensee further examine water quality upstream in the impoundment and downstream of the project including both water quality data and macroinvertebrate sampling.


CRC appreciates that Green Mountain Power continues to provide downstream fish passage.  As currently configured the downstream fish passage seems somewhat problematic in that there is a significant drop from the sluice to the pool below.  We hope the GMP will work with Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Fisheries biologists to reconfigure the downstream passage.


Ten of the 17 native species of freshwater mussels in the state are listed as endangered or threatened.  While the reference sited by Kleinschmidt indicates that freshwater mussels “may occur” in the vicinity of the project, it is incumbent upon the licensee to make sure that our endangered species are protected. Given this, CRC would like to see some sort of freshwater mussel survey take place above and below the dam and in the bypass reach to assess the mussel population that may exist there.  This will also inform appropriate processes for drawdown for maintenance of the facility.


The PAD states, that because of the proximity to the Route 302 and an adjacent steep bank, the “project area is not particularly conducive to recreational activities.” Regardless of the limitations of the project area, the very nature of dams precludes certain types of recreation and access to our public waters and it is incumbent upon the licensee to have a clear understanding of recreational use and needed recreational amenities in proximity to the project area.  The FERC guidance for recreation at hydropower projects says, “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.”[1]  Given this, CRC supports some assessment of recreational opportunities in the project area to fully understand what recreation (bird watching, angling, etc.) might be taking place and whether public recreational use can be enhanced.


The PAD indicates that “the 5 cfs year round [minimum] aesthetic flow…. is problematic in winter months as it turns to ice and prevents deflation of the pneumatic crest.”  While we understand that this problem needs to be explored, CRC contends that the minimum aesthetic flow be maintained, and if needed, increased to help solve the freezing issue.

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 appreciate the opportunity to provide comments.  I can be reached at or (802) 258-0413.


Kathy Urffer

River Steward


Jason Lisai, Green Mountain Power Corporation:

John Greenan, Green Mountain Power Corporation:

Katie Sellers, Kleinschmidt Associates:

[1] 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.


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