Our River has Rights


Controlled from 5 miles upstream by operators inside Northfield Mountain, FirstLight’s impoverished river spill at Turners Falls Dam: its now five, full, grim spawning seasons since FL’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license expired, April 30, 2018. Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

NOTE: text below published in www.vtdigger.org on May 18, 2022.
https://vtdigger.org/letters_to_editor/our-connecticut-river-has-rights/>

In Turners Falls Massachusetts on Saturday May 14th just a small wash of current folded through two bedrock notches in the Connecticut River at a basin known as the Rock Dam pool. It was peak spawning time at critical spawning habitat for the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon. Upriver just a thin spill entered the riverbed via a single open gate at Turners Falls dam, controlled by FirstLight operators at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, 5-miles away. The Connecticut’s giant chasm at the place known to Algonquian Peoples as Peskeomscutt was mostly dry bedrock, with just thin braids of dam flow washing downstream.


The listless, calf-deep shallows at the ancient chasm known as Peskeomscutt below Turners Falls Dam. For a living river the trickling flow from the dam into this basin should be 20x times what you see in this baking riverbed landscape. Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

That lack of flow had assuredly chased the ancient sturgeon from their age old spawning site again. Five years and 5 seasons after FirstLight’s license on the river expired on April 30, 2018, there is still no water for the river or its fish. Why? After a decade of endless Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing procedures, why are hundreds of thousands of American shad lacking river flows needed to reach and pass the dam blocking them from spawning habitat in three New England states since 1798?


The grim “bakers” field of exposed cobbles and starved shoreline at the Rock Dam on the Connecticut–critical spawning and sheltering habitat for federally endangered shortnose sturgeon, and an impoverished upstream roadblock to shad attempting to reach Vermont and New Hampshire habitats. Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

The river and its fish are a public trust. Shad should be feeding us. FirstLight’s little dam spillage is some 20 times less than a basic flow needed to support a living river ecosystem here–one allowing sturgeon to spawn and shad to reach Vermont and New Hampshire.


Reconstruction work being done at the giant sucking intake of FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project–essentially a deadly, energy-wasting, river-sucking, gas-powered machine that extinguishes the life of everything its consumed for over a half century. Since 1972 there has never been a more direct-deadly contraption operating on New England’s Great River. Here at Northfield Massachusetts is where an ecosystem is literally pulled apart by suctioning the four-state Connecticut River backward and uphill for hours at a massive 15,000 cubic feet per second. It’s really exploited as the Connecticut River’s Death-Sewer. Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

In 1872 the US Supreme Court made safe fish passage on the Connecticut the law of the land. Canadian-owned FirstLight is exploiting our river for millions, while laws and requirements go listlessly unenforced by agencies and so-called watchdogs. The Connecticut in Massachusetts has been an environmental disaster since Northfield Mountain began its massive suck and surge operations in 1972. By whose right?