A flurry of activity accompanied the start of April, as FirstLight Power, the owner and operator of Turner’s Falls dam and Northfield Mountain, released a Flows and Fish Passage Settlement Agreement. This agreement is between FirstLight and several agencies and organizations that have been involved in negotiating a new license to determine how the hydropower facilities will be operated for 30-50 years; CRC has been active in these talks but made the decision not to sign the agreement (keep reading to learn why).
The Flows and Fish agreement was submitted to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), the agency responsible for issuing a final license to FirstLight. At the end of 2022, FirstLight blew by yet another deadline to submit a settlement agreement to address how the license would incorporate issues of fish/flow, erosion, cultural resources and recreation. At the beginning of the new year, FERC gave the company until March 31st to submit an agreement on all these topics. As you can see, FirstLight has only submitted an agreement related to fish passage and flows for habitat and whitewater recreation. It remains to be seen if there will be progress on any more agreements, but in the meantime, FirstLight’s submission to FERC has opened a public comment opportunity and we are asking YOU to write to FERC to weigh in on what you support and don’t support about the Flows and Fish agreement.
Here is how to submit comments to FERC (due May 26th*)
We’re including some of our thoughts on the agreement below, but we encourage you to incorporate your personal perspective in your comments to FERC to demonstrate how these projects impact you and your community.
CRC’s perspective on the Flows & Fish Agreement
Some of the good stuff in the agreement:
- More water in the river during springtime to protect fish during the migration season
- Timed water releases to ensure whitewater paddlers have an opportunity to enjoy the Connecticut River, while still protecting species of concern
- Fish passage infrastructure that helps fish migrate up and down the river more quickly and more easily than before
- More gradual flow releases below the canal to minimize the impact of sudden fluctuations in river levels
Some of the bad stuff:
- In summer months, the river will receive only about half the amount of water needed to provide enough flow for fish and macroinvertebrates
- That great fish passage infrastructure we mentioned before won’t be installed until nearly a decade after the license in finalized, in total 20 years after this process began
- The barrier net to protect fish from getting killed in the Northfield Mountain intake (tube that draws water up the mountain) doesn’t do much of anything to protect young fish and eggs from getting killed
- No mention of FirstLight’s obligation to manage invasive species in the area
- FirstLight is seeking a 50-year license term. This timeframe cannot account for how our climate and ecosystems will change over the next several decades
Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be keeping you updated on the process and opportunities to weigh in. To stay up to date on what’s coming up next, you can subscribe to our hydropower specific email newsletter here.
Oh, and by the way, did you read about the release FirstLight isn’t sending a press release about?
*The Commission strongly encourages electronic filing. Please file comments using the Commission’s eFiling system at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp. Commenters can submit brief comments up to 6,000 characters, without prior registration, using the eComment system at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp. You must include your name and contact information at the end of your comments. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FERCOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, (866) 208-3676 (toll free), or (202) 502-8659 (TTY). In lieu of electronic filing, you may submit a paper copy. Submissions sent via the U.S. Postal Service must be addressed to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. Submissions sent via any other carrier must be addressed to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 12225 Wilkins Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20852. The first page of any filing should include docket numbers P-1889-085 and P-2485-071.