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Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: Final Comment Period Open for Hydropower Facilities on the Connecticut River

Updated: Mar 15

Aerial view of the Vernon Dam on the Connecticut River, with surrounding green scenery and mountains in the background
The Vernon Dam in Vernon, Vermont, is one of several dams undergoing relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The fish ladder is to the left of the powerhouse. Upstream the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, no longer in operation, is seen on the banks of the River. Photo by Chris Zajak.

The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) has been engaged in advocating for the health of the Connecticut River and the communities in the watershed since 1952. As part of our mission, CRC has been a consistent participant in the relicensing of the Wilder, Bellows Falls, Vernon, and Turners Falls hydroelectric dams, and the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage facility for almost twelve years, working for a better deal for our river and its communities.


These facilities use a public trust resource – your river – to produce power.


In exchange for this privilege and to mitigate for impacts of the dams on recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, migratory and endangered species, water quality, and other resources, FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) requires that hydropower operators provide direct benefits to the public and be protective of the ecological health of the river. These requirements are laid forth in an operating license and the license serves as a public contract that we revisit periodically to examine the facility’s impact on our public trust resource. That time is NOW!


On February 22nd, FERC issued a notice indicating that the final license applications have been accepted as complete and ready for environmental analysis. This notice simultaneously initiated a 60-day period to submit comments and interventions for the projects. The comment period will close on April 22nd, 2024. A comment communicates to FERC local concerns, recommendations, and desires. This provides additional information that FERC must consider as they are making decisions for what will be included in the license conditions for the next 40 years.


The public is encouraged to submit a comment to FERC if you have concerns about how these dams impact the river, the surrounding communities, or your ability to interact with the river.


Public comments can be submitted by anyone or any entity that has an interest.  This includes individual community members, Town committees or commissions, Regional Planning Commission, recreation clubs, etc. CRC staff have been meeting with local town committees to update them on the relicensing and encourage commenting. In addition to supporting the public’s opportunity to comment, and submitting our own comments, Connecticut River Conservancy will be filing a motion to intervene. This allows the intervenor to become a legal party to the proceedings, which grants the ability to request hearings of FERC orders and appeal agency actions.


Kathy Urffer, CRC’s River Steward in Vermont, who has been working on this relicensing for almost seven years says, “These three facilities control the water in approximately 126 miles of river in VT and NH, and the license term is expected to be 40 years long. This relicensing is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape how the hydroelectric facilities mitigate for their impact on the river for future generations.  Don’t miss this opportunity to have your concerns heard by the FERC.”



The Connecticut River Conservancy will also hold a series of virtual office hours about how to comment on the hydropower relicensing process for the five facilities in VT, NH, and MA that are all simultaneously going through this Federal process. During these office hours, CRC’s Director of Policy and Advocacy/Vermont River Steward (Kathy Urffer), and River Stewards in Massachusetts (Nina Gordon-Kirsch) and New Hampshire (Kate Buckman) will be available to answer any questions and help with your comments.


The following will be covered:


  • Issues at stake for fish passage, recreation, erosion, and accountability

  • Instruction on how to submit comments or get involved

  • Questions addressed in Q&A


The office hours can be customized based on who attends and what you most want to address. You can also submit a question to the speakers upon registration.  


The office hours will occur on:

  • Tuesday 3/5 – 1pm

  • Thursday 3/14 – 5:30pm

  • Monday 3/18 – 11am

  • Wednesday 3/27 – 8:30am

  • Wednesday 4/3 – 7pm

  • Thursday 4/11 – 12pm

  • Tuesday 4/16 – 12pm


Click here to register for the office hours or contact Kathy, Kate, and Nina with any additional questions you may have. The 60-day period to submit interventions and comments is OPEN NOW through April 22nd. This will be the last opportunity to comment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for these facilities and influence a license that will last for 40 years.


Contact:

Kathy Urffer – Director of Policy and Advocacy/River Steward, VT

802-258-0413


Kate Buckman – River Steward, NH

603-931-2448


Nina Gordon-Kirsch – River Steward, MA

413-834-9777

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