Connecticut River Conservancy

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A Connecticut River Day of Mourning: STANDOUT this Sat. Apr. 2

Posted by on 30 Mar 2022 | Tagged as: 1872, Connecticut River, Connecticut River blog, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Death-Sewer, Eversource, FERC, FirstLight Power, Greenfield Recorder, Jesse Leddick, Julie Crocker, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Mark Tisa, Martin Suuberg, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, New Hampshire, NMFS, no license to kill, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, NU/WMECO, PSP Investments, Public Sector Pension Investments, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Source to Sea Cleanup, State of Delaware, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, USFWS, Vermont, Vernon Dam Fishway

A CONNECTICUT RIVER DAY OF MOURNING:

NO RIVER SHOULD EVER DIE IN THE DARK!

Standout on: Saturday April 2, 2022, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WHERE:Turners Falls, on the TF Gill/Montague Bridge just off Rt. 2 East above the Connecticut River in Massachusetts.

A heartbreaking, river-betraying, FirstLight-filed Agreement in Principle has been signed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, and MA Natural Heritage, and sent to FERC.

It’s a CAPITULATION, a soulless document WITHOUT PRINCIPLE.
* READ IT at the END OF THIS POST.*

Come, WEAR BLACK, stand up for the SOUL of OUR RIVER:
Saturday, April 2, 2022, 11 am – 1 pm.

Please, everyone who has ever fought for the truth about this river, the life of this river—all of you who have marched, stood out, written and shouted publicly “NO LICENSE TO KILL” for our ancient Connecticut and its living waters, come to the Gill/Montague Bridge above the River on April 2nd.

https://vtdigger.org/2022/03/30/karl-meyer-a-connecticut-river-day-of-mourning-will-be-held-april-2/

We will stand in honor of the soul of this Valley–above FirstLight’s TF dam, controlled from inside Northfield Mountain, 5 miles away. We’ll be across from US Fish & Wildlife Service-funded and MA Division of Conservation and Recreation-run, Great Falls Discovery Center. Each one of these entities is culpable for allowing a four-state ecosystem to be turned into our river’s 23-mile MORTUARY by Northfield’s brutality in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Come, stand together and bear witness. NO RIVER SHOULD DIE IN THE DARK!

Please WEAR BLACK, and perhaps bring signs that name the names of those responsible. If you have an old shoe box or something small that can stand-in as symbolic coffin for the 20 miles of dead river here, cover it in black and place a single-page cut-out of a DEAD FISH inside–to illustrate the murderous continuation of Northfield’s license. Symbolically, we’ll feed a few into a shredder as witness to this failed ecosystem.

Northfield Mountain, Northfield MA, graveyard where Our Connecticut River Ecosystem Dies… Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

WHY?: Because the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, the most murderous, wasteful, river-reversing parasite ever licensed to kill on New England’s Great River was betrayed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species, and the National Marine Fisheries Service on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2022. Behind closed doors they signed a heartbreakingly-grim Agreement in Principle (AIP) toward granting a new FERC license that will re-enshrine and continue the most brutal, murderous, river-reversing flows and ecosystem-dismemberment—occurring unabated here in Massachusetts since Northfield came on line in 1972.

This document, *LINKED AND INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS POST*, is literally an agreement WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, as they are our guardians of the Public Trust—encumbered to protect our river, its fish and the coming generations who must depend on a living river ecosystem. In a cheap bit of grandstanding, the Connecticut River Watershed Council(CRC), in business since 1952—who should have stopped this killer from being built 50 years ago, made a show of walking away without signing this AIP. After signing another one..

Fifty years late they appear to have found the courage to mildly label Northfield as a killer–after staying mum and taking the power company’s cash for decades. Here is Director Andy Fisk’s new-found outrage about this River’s conveyor belt of death, a half century after the fact: “…Northfield Mountain has been operating for many years without any protection against fish being killed by the turbines.” Wow Andy, nice catch… It’s killed virtually EVERYTHING it’s sucked in–during all the 50 years the Connecticut River Watershed Council/Conservancy has been in business…


The deadly, suctioning, parasitic intake of FirstLight/PSP Investment’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project–the most efficient electric predator ever sanctioned to operate in this 4 state ecosystem. Photo Copyright © 2022 by Karl Meyer

In their watchdog claims of 70 years, they are perhaps the most complicit. They never did a protector’s job; never took the corporations or state and federal agencies to court for violations of some of the most basic environmental laws and river and fish protections dating back to 1872. This new “in it but not of it” posture should be wholly condemned. It’s a CRC version of alternative facts. They are a failed NGO, one that has let 50 years of the unconscionable annual slaughter of literally 100s of millions of fish eggs, juvenile and adult fish and developing larvae of some 24 different species from 3 states be suctioned to their deaths by Northfield, built by CRC’s great benefactor and BFF, NU/Eversource, in 1972. No staff lawyers, no bark, no TEETH!

In 2022, CRC finally makes a bland public statement recognizing that at Northfield there are “fish being killed by the turbines.” That half century of slaughter is on their watch.

Getting back to the public trust, the new Agreement WITHOUT Principle was signed under the directorship of US Fish & Wildlife Service Region 5 head Wendi Weber; Mark Tisa sanctioned it as MA Division of Fish & Wildlife Director, Jesse Leddick inked-in directly as leader of the MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, and Julie Crocker, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service ESA Fish, Ecosystems and Energy Branch Chief also agreed to let that promissory note of their legal intent to a new Northfield license be signed.

And who are they selling our ecosystem out to? Why it’s come-lately venture capital’s FirstLight Power, a subsidiary of Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investments. PSP/FirstLight arrived as big-budget bargain investment shoppers, buying up the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station and Turners Falls Hydro Projects at basement rates in 2016. Then, in a marvelous vulture-capital-esque move, they quickly divided their MA assets in 2018, and reregistered them into Delaware tax shelters. Now–with the cowardly 50 years of no-show protection from federal and state agencies here, FirstLight will have the killer keys to 20-plus miles of the Connecticut—impacting three New England states, for decades.

As their constituents, they have failed US. At a time when the Earth is foundering, they’ve agreed to allow a river system to be strangled, reversed and culled of virtually all its aquatic life daily at Northfield. Meanwhile PSP/FirstLight will likely have execs walking off with hefty million dollar bonuses and golden parachutes, as our public trust agents stay in the shadows as abject failures.

After 50 years, this murderous slaughter is being renewed AGAIN, on their watch!

If these agencies were corporations, obligated to produce RESULTS for the benefit of all of us as public trust constituents—there would be massive outcries for resignations from the likes of Ms. Weber, Mr. Tisa, Mr. Leddick, and Ms. Crocker. Instead, they’ll likely have the option to retire years before their abject failure on behalf of the Connecticut River in three states becomes fully visible. Perhaps a few will do the right thing now, plus Mr. Fisk.

* * LASTLY: HERE is that Agreement in Principle–the document signalling the ABANDONMENT of a LIVING CONNECTICUT RIVER ECOSYSTEM
CLICK ON THIS LINK:

* * * RiverSALE-20220318-5004-1 * * *

More Connecticut River citizens’ defense

Posted by on 13 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, American shad, Clean Water Act, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River blog, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Endangered Species Act, EPA, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC license, FirstLight, fish kill, Holyoke Co. v Lyman, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, migratory fish, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, NU/WMECO, P-2485, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Source to Sea Cleanup, US Fish & Wildlife Service

THE CONNECTICUT RIVER’S CITIZEN DEFENSE continues:
While FirstLight’s secret January license “settlement” talks continue–centered around leaky net ideas and spit-and-glue window dressing at Northfield Mountain, the public is demanding that its 50 years of devastation cease.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybwy8MBiy9I
* * NOTE: ABOVE is a link to a Wilbraham Public Library ecology lecture series I was asked to take part in last November. The title of my presentation was: “LIVING RIVERS FLOW DOWNSTREAM.” IT IS A KEY HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE to understanding why we live in a broken ecosystem… * *

https://www.gazettenet.com/my-turn-meyer-LastLightCtRiver-44127152

FirstLight led closed-door bargaining with state and federal fish and environment agencies are continuing here in MA, while an ongoing flood of citizen testimony to end Northfield Mountain’s license to kill continues at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

THOSE DEMANDS–from no less than 77 people since November 13th, are also sending a very clear signal to the MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, MA DEP, the US Fish & Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries Service:

DON’T SELL OUT New England’s Great River for another half-century!

* Read the latest public testimony targeting Northfield lethal ecosystem destruction entered into the FERC record further below.*

BUT FOR THE LONG VIEW, HERE’S A LITTLE ILLUMINATING HISTORY:

Only living rivers flow downstream. But that’s not what you find on the Connecticut River in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Here, 150 years after the US Supreme Court guaranteed safe upstream and downstream passage of migratory fish to and from New Hampshire and Vermont—and a full half century after the enacting of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station continues to chew-through, reverse and obliterate the key living ecosystem functions of New England’s critical central artery here in northern Massachusetts.

The grim prospects of allowing Northfield to be built were widely known by federal and state agencies half a decade before it began its deadly, net-power loss, river-reversing ecosystem damage. Here, from the same agencies that are today’s MA Fish & Wildlife, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the entities still publicly responsible for environmental enforcement and river fish protection), are their words from a key, signed, 1967 document:

“Statement of Intent for a Cooperative Fishery Restoration Program for the Connecticut River Basin”

“Based on the present fragmentary data available on the Northfield Pump Storage Project, it appears that this project poses definite limitations to an anadromous fish restoration program. These limitations involve the physical loss of eggs, larvae, and young fish of both anadromous and resident species, and an orientation problem for both upstream and downstream migrants attributed to pumping large volumes of water. Studies, designed to minimize the potential adverse effects to fishery resources, should be undertaken in development of the design for the Northfield Pump Storage Project. In related studies, fish screens, barriers and deflectors, and flow regimen must be thoroughly investigated.”

Those agencies’ inaction, their failure to protect–while instead indulging in a massive frenzy to recreate an extirpated salmon hybrid in place of a fish not seen here since 1809, proved disastrous for the river’s still-living fish runs and species in this four-state ecosystem. Today, absurdly, a deadly Northfield Mountain soldiers on, while—50 years later those same agencies dicker with foreign owners over emplacing a new band-aid of a barrier net—one full of holes, upstream of that deadly, river-reversing suction.

In the “library” at the Connecticut River Watershed Council—today’s “Conservancy”, there is a boxed, mid-1960s promotional document from WMECO/Northeast Utilities. NU is today does business as Eversource, the perennial chief sponsor of the Conservancy’s Source to Sea Cleanup. That half-century old box contains a glossy booklet promoting the future construction of a Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. The booklet includes several scenarios and options to premise how of its net-loss power pumping operations might be deployed.

One of them was a glaring red flag for the river, its fish, and an entire ecosystem…

The Watershed Council HQ has a private library within…

THAT SHUTDOWN OPTION, never implemented, was that Northfield’s impacts would be so detrimental to the river and life cycles of its migratory fish that it would have to be shut it down during fish migration season. But here again, no watchdog ever emerged to stand up and fight for a living Connecticut River in Massachusetts. Basically, the only protection ever offered was a net to protect their mythical, teeny, hatchery-bred baby salmon, leaving all the river’s other species to fend for themselves.

Thus Northfield’s gargantuan and lethal water and fish appetite still strangles New England’s four-state ecosystem today. And, half a century later, those same public agencies are allowing a power company to dangle the grim bait of temporary fish barrier net before them once more.

ABOVE IS AN EPA-ORDERED “silt barrier” mandated to be kept in place at FirstLight’s Northfield intake after they were caught flagrantly and clandestinely dumping a mountain of muck directly into the river for over 90 days straight in gross violation of the Clean Water Act. Looking closely, you can see it has FAILED, its anchors useless, and its floats flapping in the breeze along the shoreline downstream of Northfield’s sucking intake. Photo taken 10/2/2010.

Even two years after Northfield came on-line the Federal Power Commission–today’s FERC, still had not been given answers to information they’ requested of WMECO–today’s Eversource, including describing flows on a reversing river. This is a Xeroxed document from FERC:

20010120-0656 FERC PDF (Unofficial) 09/10/2014: January 22, 1974, from the Federal Power Commission to WMECO:

Robert E. Barrett, Jr.,President.
Western Massachusetts Electric Company
West Springfield, Massachusetts 01089

Dear Mr. Barrett:
The Commission staff is presently preparing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Turners Falls Project (No. 1889) and requests the following information:
(1) In the revised Fxhibit W of the application (page 43, second paragraph), reference is made to the continuing resident fish study being conducted in Turners Falls Reservoir. Please provide a copy of the results obtained since the last Progress Report. If the study has not been completed, please indicate the date you expect a report to be available.

(2) In Exhibit W (pages 19, 20, and Figure 5), the conditions expected to produce flow reversals in the Turners Falls ‘Reservoir as a result of Northfield operation were set forth. Since the Northfield Mountain Project became operational, which of the conditions described have been observed to produce reverse flows? Based on operational experience, are there any observed or anticipated changes in the patterns, durations, or velocities of the flows described therein? Your early response in providing this information would be appreciated.
Very truly yours,
Secretary

On October 16, 1974, WMECO’s lawyers finally replied in the negative to the Federal Power Commission’s questions, stating they still had not implemented the required study which would offer answers to questions about the impacts of reversing the flow of the Connecticut:

“Staff also inquired whether the Company had a study on the effect of hydrology caused by the pumping of Northfield Mountain project this year. The Northfield Licensees have not made a formal study but are accumulating data with respect to Pond elevations, flows and other operating data.”

EVERYBODY KNEW 50 YEARS AGO: yet nobody came to the Connecticut’s rescue…

BUT TODAY CITIZENS are standing up for the living river owed future generations. SEE BELOW for the latest entries into the FERC public record…

BUT FIRST, here’s how it can be done:
Go to: www.ferc.gov; then to “Documents and Filings”; then click on the “Quick Links” tab for FERC Online on the right; and then to “eComment” on the page that opens. Follow directions for “Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings (P – Project Number),” and BE SURE TO use Northfield’s FERC project number, P-2485, to enter your comments.

HERE ARE THE LATEST:

Document Accession #: 20220111-5033 Filed Date: 01/11/2022
Elizabeth J Erickson, Colrain, MA.

As a long time resident of Franklin County I have for a long time been very concerned about the environmental and ecosystem destruction at Northfield mountain because of the power generating plant there. I have been following the research about the decline in fish populations in the Connecticut River nearby because of the turbines and am strongly opposed to the reicensing of the First Light hydropower plant there. I’m actually shocked that the relicensing is even being considered given all that is now known about how destructive the plant is. Please deny any future license of power generation of Northfield Mountain.

thank you,
Elizabeth Erickson
Colrain, Massachusetts

Document Accession #: 20220111-5005 Filed Date: 01/11/2022
John Hoffman, Shelburne Falls, MA.

I am writing to ask that you deny a continuation of the license for FirstLight Hydro Generating Company. The project began as a way to make use of excess power from the Vernon Nuclear Power Plant. That plant is now closed. This license is now simply a vehicle for FirstLight to use its capitol to make a profit.

That profit comes at the expense of the Connecticut River, one of the glories of New England, and the source of outstanding agricultural soils in the Connecticut River valley. Now that we possess a vastly more sophisticated understanding of river ecology, the damage to the river is elaborately documented.

By sucking large volumes of water out of the river and then disgorging them back, the company erodes the river banks which in turn damages water quality. The turbines through which water is sucked destroy aquatic life, from adult fish, to their young and down to their eggs.

This is a primitive way to treat a river. No company in our present era should be allowed to inflict such damage. This river is a part of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. We the citizens ask you to protect the invaluable ecosystem of our preeminent river and deny FirstLight its license.
Future generations will thank you.

Document Accession #: 20220111-5004 Filed Date: 01/11/2022
Molly Freeland, Gill, MA.

To whom it may concern,
I am a resident of Gill Massachusetts and I request that you do not let Northfield Mountain Pump Station renew their license. The pump station is killing all life it sucks up from the river. Millions of fish are dyeing every year, including endangered short nose sturgeon. The pump station causes major erosion in the river banks which then spreads pollution. The pump station is escalating climate change when we need to be looking to renewable energy sources. Please say no to the pump station for our children, grandchildren, all life and the planet.
Sincerely,
Molly Freeland

Document Accession #: 20220111-5002 Filed Date: 01/11/2022
Irma Lorraine Pearson, Greenfield, MA.

If we, residing in the Democratic heart of our country, cannot save the only large river we have, and all the life in it, we are putting our imprimature on the destruction of our planet for the sake of building private fortunes.

The cautionary tale of Midas and his gold works very well here.
Let’s try another path, of freeing the rivers of dams and reversals, and saving 50% of our ecosystem as wilderness.

THIS CONNECTICUT RIVER DEFENSE IS SPOT-ON!

Posted by on 18 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-1889, P-2485, Relicensing, State of Delaware, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, wildlife refuge

THIS NOTEWORTHY and pointed river defense was sent into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on 11/17/2021 and entered into the public record–summarizing the 49 years of ecosystem devastation wrought by the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. PLEASE READ SHAYLA FREELAND’S FULL FERC FILING FURTHER BELOW.

FirstLight–running the licensing show, has scheduled confidential, endgame license “settlement” talks with the US Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, and MA Division of Fish & Wildlife and the MA DEP for this December 2.

IF THERE WAS EVER A MORE IMPORTANT TIME for the public to make its case for a living future for this river ecosystem, THAT TIME IS NOW.

Comments can be written, then copied and pasted into the FERC record by going to www.ferc.gov; then find E-Comment in documents and filings–then be sure to know and INCLUDE in your filing the FERC “project number” for both Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage: P-2485, and Turners Falls dam and hydro operations: P-1889. Note that other people have taken simple further steps by publishing their comments on-line, on web pages, and, importantly, sending out to enter the record in the PUBLIC media.

Shayla’s strong, thoughtful and personal summary puts any filing or public statement made by either the Connecticut River Conservancy or The Nature Conservancy about Northfield’s massive river destruction in Massachusetts to shame. Further, it leaves our public trust agencies–including the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and MA DEP cowardly silent and liable for a river that’s now staring at a full CENTURY-LONG death sentence in Massachusetts.

By not stepping up, they collaborate on a broken ecosystem and the collapse of one of the Earth’s key cooling arteries. These entities have had 49 years to stand up, to speak out against this deadly machine, to end its killing–to intervene at any number of junctures. None did. Thus, the lethal, heart-stopping pumping at Northfield continues, chewing through the lives of hundreds of millions of eggs, larvae and juvenile migrant and resident fish alike every year.

In a just world this endless, massive fish kill would have been prosecuted decades ago. But not here–not in Massachusetts, where all these entities will meet in secret with FirstLight on December 2nd to decide a river’s fate. Silence and secrecy in a democratic society bear a very close resemblance to complicity and their 49 years of a failure to protect…

In stark contrast, here is a brave person is speaking for future generations–and their right to have a living planet. Thank you Shayla!

“My name is Shayla Freeland and I live in Gill. As some of you might know there is a power plant in Northfield called the Northfield Pump Station. There have been many people trying to prevent Firstlight, the owner of the pump station, from renewing their 50 year license to continue making electricity at the expense of our river. On the bridge over the Connecticut river, crossing into Turners Falls, there have been two protests against this license. Many people have invested their time and energy to try and convey how bad this process is for the environment. Personally I agree with everyone who is trying to prevent this. I live in Gill right next to the river and the dam (Firstlight also owns) so I can see first hand the destruction the station is causing. I am able to see and smell the problems.

The stench that comes from that part of the river can be absolutely horrendous. The turbines of the pump station suck in life and throw out death. When they put up the dam the other side gets very low in water and the sun fries up the bits of fish creating the horrible smell. Below the Turners Falls dam there is also an ancient Shortnose Sturgeon spawning ground and the same thing happens to them as the bits of fish. They fry. They rote. They go rancid. As you can probably tell this is not a naturally occurring problem, it’s a problem caused by Firstlight.

In the night they suck water from the Connecticut River up the Northfield Mountain when electricity is cheap. To get the water up the mountain they have to burn fossil fuels to power the pumps. Not only are they polluting the earth with this dwindling resource (because they made a choice between easy money and protecting our home) they are completely killing and destroying our rivers ecosystem. During the day when demand is high they let the water back down the mountain. As it does this it is going through turbines (which creates the electricity)chopping and killing animals. Twenty-four species have the wonderful chance to meet the
deadly blades of the turbines.Now Firstlight is about to renew their fifty year license.

So they pollute the earth, kill the animals and the river’s ecosystem, but hey they’re making easy money and we’re getting electricity so it’s okay right? No, it’s not. And the electricity they are making doesn’t even get used by the people in this area. It’s getting stored as backup for some city. Not only is the electricity not being used by the local population, but Firstlight is not paying any taxes to the town. They are an LLC based in Delaware so they are not obligated to pay us taxes.

This pump station has no benefit to the people living in this area. We are not getting electricity or taxes. It’s deadly turbines are killing fish and preventing them from helping our river prospure. Firstlight should not be allowed to get their license renewed because all they do is
pollute the planet, kill animals and destroy the Connecticut’s ecosystem, which in turn will affect us too.

HERE, is one citizen taking responsibility for a living river system, and for those who come after us…

The Connecticut River, Extinction Rebellion and its local connections…

Posted by on 03 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: cleanup, climate change, climate-scorching, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Eversource, Extinction, Extinction Rebellion, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC license, FirstLight, Greenfield, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, Natural Gas, New Hampshire, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, NU/WMECO, pumped storage, river cleanup, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Source to Sea Cleanup, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Vermont, Vermont Yankee

The Connecticut River, Extinction Rebellion and its local connections…

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

…to EXTINCTION, EVERSOURCE, CLIMATE, FIRSTLIGHT, CO-2 and the “CONSERVANCY”

ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6, AT 11:OO a.m., Extinction Rebellion demonstrators will take to the Greenfield Town Common to rally against the ravaging of the climate and the extinction of species through massive extraction and burning of fossil fuels. This comes exactly two weeks after the NO LICENSE TO KILL rally on the Common. That rally demanded FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station not be issued a new decades-long license to continue killing hundreds of millions of fish and aquatic animals annually–while erasing all natural characteristics of a living river and functioning ecosystem in Massachusetts.

Counter to all common sense–and wildly contrary to popular belief, Northfield Mountain is an electricity consumer. It has been running primarily on climate scorching natural gas since its original electric power source–the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, shut down in 2014.

In fact, looking at the sources powering the ISO-New England power grid this morning, November 3, 2021, Northfield has been laying waste to the river on 72% natural gas, another 11% imported nuclear from the CT and NH coasts, and 8% actual hydro (imported from Canada), plus another 8% from actual renewable sources. Thus, for the last SEVEN years since VY closed, this deadly electric machine has been a major source of CO-2 planetary waste and invisible climate destruction.

Northfield is a river-vacuuming electric toilet, parasitically-powering itself directly off the New England power grid to suck the life out of a 20 mile reach of the Connecticut daily, pulling it backward and uphill to a 4 billion gallon reservoir. That lifeless water is later released in thundering morning and afternoon pulses to become brief, peak-priced, second-hand electricity sold to us ratepayers as their deadly-profitable river offering.

Northfield is not what any thinking person would ever define as HYDRO POWER. Even the industry keeps it in a separate category–as it is actually a net-loss electric glutton that appears in negative percentages on the daily power grid. Nor can its deadly output ever be labeled “clean” or “renewable” energy, despite clever industry marketing.

So, when Extinction Rebellion appears on the Greenfield Common on Saturday–two weeks after the No License to Kill rally against FirstLight-Northfield, it bears pointing out that they will be assembling just yards away from the Connecticut River Watershed Council, today doing business as the Connecticut River Conservancy.


Connecticut River Conservancy’s HQ, adjacent to the Greenfield Common. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Just six weeks back the “Conservancy” had their 25th Source to Sea Cleanup—majorly and annually funded by none other than WMECO/Northeast Utilities–today doing business as Eversource. It was WMECO/NU that actually built FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain–the drop-dead, deadliest machine that continues operating today on an extended Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license (one that expired in 2018), right in the midst of the Connecticut River S.O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge and the platitudinous Connecticut River National Blueway here in Massachusetts. Lacking a real river watchdog and any enforcement of existing environmental law…those designations mean absolutely NOTHING.

Yesterday, November 2nd at polling booths in East Boston, citizens overwhelmingly voted to prevent Eversource from building a new natural gas pipeline in their city, citing climate impacts and lack of necessity. You see Eversource–the Conservancy/Watershed Council’s BFF for ages, is today a major natural gas company, having taken over Columbia Gas—famous for their pipeline explosions in Lawrence, and, just a few years back in Springfield MA, with its own major gas explosion, right downtown.

The Conservancy/Council’s ole buddy Eversource/WMECO/NU–through its long history of deep-pockets-funding and CRC Board memberships, is now planning to build a new natural gas pipeline extension through Longmeadow and into Springfield. It is another grim push toward a critically baking planet—one that Eversource expects to charge ratepayers $33 million to put in place. Currently, the City of Springfield has demands out for the accruing years and some $44 million in back taxes it says Eversource has not paid. Springfield citizens are now pushing back on the giving Eversource yet another free pass through town. Both East Boston and Springfield have long histories of community racial, economic and environmental injustice. This new natural gas monopoly angling appears to continue that legacy.


Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

So, No License to Kill, Extinction Rebellion, and a whole lot of people in Western Massachusetts and New England have plenty of reason to gather on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. There is injustice aplenty, green-washed and collaborated on between Eversource-NU-WMECO, FirstLight, the Conservancy, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the byzantine natural gas consortium… all of which all circle back to Eversource and its green-washing “friends”…

Did you help with CRC’s (EVER)Source to Sea Cleanup this September?? The Conservancy and FirstLight employees actually made a clever video together…
Now that’s collaboration!

A 2021 Brown University study named Eversource as MA’s largest energy spender against clean energy and climate legislation: https://ibes.brown.edu/sites/g/files/dprerj831/files/MA-CSSN-Report-1.20.2021-Corrected-text.pdf

Still with headquarters in Hartford, below is a CT list of their largely invisible holding and affiliate companies, etc–though their Columbia Gas ownership does not show up here:

The following companies operate as “wholly owned subsidiaries” of Eversource:
Connecticut Light & Power, Public Service Company of New Hampshire, PSNH Funding LLC 3, NSTAR Electric Company, Harbor Electric Energy Company, Yankee Energy System, Inc., Yankee Gas Service, NSTAR Gas Company of Mass.(EGMA), Hopkinton LNG Corp., Eversource Gas Transmission II LLC, Eversource Holdco Corporation, Eversource Investment LLC, Eversouce Investment Service Company LLC, Aquarion Company, Aquarion Water Company, Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut, Aquarion Water Company of Massachusetts, Inc., Aquarion Water Capital of Massachusetts, Inc., Aquarion Water Company of New Hampshire, Inc., NU Enterprises, Inc., IP Strategy LLC, Eversource Energy Service Company, The Rocky River Realty Company, Holyoke Water Power Company. Eversource has residual interest in nuclear plants they’ve sold: Seabrook NH and Millstone CT.

Part ownership in: Alps to Berkshires LLC, 50% in transmission line to NY State, 15% ownership in Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC, BSW Holdco LLC, BSW ProjectCo LLC, Bay State Holdco LLC, Bay State Wind LLC, Northeast Wind Energy LLC, North East Offshore, LLC, New England Hydro-Transmission Electric Company, New England Hydro-Transmission Corp. Eversource also has interest and ownership in companies that own and manage decommissioned nuclear plants they once owned, including: Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company, 65%, Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company, 24%, Yankee Atomic Electric Company, 52%. SOURCE: https://www.eversource.com/content/wma/about/about-us/doing-business-with-us/affiliates/list-of-affiliates

The Connecticut River’s MASS. Killer is Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage

Posted by on 23 Oct 2021 | Tagged as: Andrew Fisk, Atlantic salmon, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River clean up, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Death-Sewer, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FirstLight, Gordon van Welie, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, Kathleen Theoharides, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Mr. Caleb Slater, Mr. Charles Baker, Mr. Gordon van Welie, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, Ms. Donna Wieting, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, source to sea, Uncategorized, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Supreme Court, Vermont Fish & Game, Wendi Weber

The Connecticut River’s MASS. Killer is Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage, a law-breaking ecosystem disaster

READ Bill Stubblefield’s great river defense to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to those responsible for protecting the public’s Connecticut River for future generations here: BillStubblefield20211022-5051-1

WATCH, HEAR my Friends of the Greenfield Public Library presentation: “LIVING RIVERS FLOW DOWNSTREAM,” a 50 year history of Northfield Mountain’s killing and the officials responsible for stopping its license to kill here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs4LHjrjtsc

Below is a list of those responsible for ending this illegal license to kill.

Do share it with your local leaders and representatives. Will they step up and end this ecosystem slaughter for coming generations? Where do they stand? What will they do to stop this killing NOW?

The FOLLOWING OFFICIALS have NO RIGHT to bargain away the life of OUR CHILDREN’s ECOSYSTEM. This is THEIR WATCH. They have a PUBLIC TRUST to defend against Connecticut River Extinction and a 40 year Connecticut River death sentence in Massachusetts:

Ms.Kathleen Theoharides, Secretary, MA Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
Mr. Charles Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Mr. Andy Fisk, MA Public Representative, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Dir. Connecticut River Conservancy
Mr. Gordon van Welie, President and CEO, ISO-New England
Ms. Wendi Weber, US Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director
Ms. Donna Wieting Director of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service
Mr. Mark S. Tisa, Director of the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Mr. Caleb Slater, MA Div. of Fish & Wildlife, Anadromous Fish Project Leader CRASC
Mr. Jesse Leddick, Chief of Regulatory Review
MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife

Connecticut River blog: portage parade a quagmire of mixed motives

Posted by on 15 Jul 2021 | Tagged as: Andrew Fisk, Bellows Falls VT, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, CRASC, CRC, Dead Reach, Deerfield River, Eversource, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, New Hampshire, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, NU/WMECO, portage parade, PSP Investments, public trust, Rock Dam, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, Turners Falls, United State Supreme Court, Vermont

Connecticut River blog: portage parade a quagmire of mixed motives.

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


It was a little four-boat affair at Turners Falls on July 10, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

On Saturday, July 10, 2021, Dr. Andy Fisk, Chair of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission (CRASC), stood alongside a lawyer on the banks of the Connecticut River in the Village of Turners Falls in Montague MA. That lawyer was not an employee of the Connecticut River Conservancy, which Fisk also directs (that 69 year old organization has never had a staff lawyer), and this was not a gathering about salmon (the last natural run of salmon occurred on the Connecticut in 1809), or any of the endangered or federal trust fish in this tiny, embattled ecosystem reach they were here to highlight. The Connecticut River Watershed Council (today d.b.a. The Connecticut River Conservancy) had brought along Bob Nasdor of American Whitewater. That recreation organization’s crash-helmet-attired attorney and legal advocate was here as part of a CRC press conference and their touted public “portage parade.”

This, just upstream of the Turners Falls Dam, was an event aimed at getting scheduled flow releases from Canada-own FirstLight, and more water, plus an easy access path past the dam for joy-riding paddlers and rafters seeking a chance to dive into the most impoverished, endangered, historic and biologically sensitive 2-1/2 miles in the entire Connecticut River ecosystem.

As parades go, it hardly made a splash. Ultimately around two dozen people assembled, though fully half were CRC staff, family members, and CRC’s handful of invited speakers. The other speakers included Walter Ramsey, planner and conservation agent for the Town of Montague, as well as representatives of the Appalachian Mountain Club, American Whitewater and All Out Adventures. Three CRC staff were recording the event for further promotion. In reality about a dozen members of the public showed up to the “parade”, plus two journalists.


Revving up the “crowd” at Turners. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Funny thing–to prioritize commerce and recreation at a site that has been a half century without healing water, one that represents the epitome of historically fragile and endangered habitat. Strange bedfellows, these. Montague’s conservation agent was one more case in point. He noted that the town gets 20% of its tax revenue from Canada-owned, Delaware-registered FirstLight Power, so he wouldn’t want to see more water being returned to the impoverished Connecticut because that would mean less water diverted down the Turners Falls power canal–and less returned tax cash from their Delaware tax-sheltered, FirstLight LLC corporate absentee landlords/neighbors.

On the other hand, Ramsey noted, he is desirous of the economic bump a tourist town gets by drawing-in traffic for water sports. Those big, partying, river-running crowds so often filling the channels and pull-offs on the Deerfield mean big tourist dollars. What could be better?

In that vein though, there was no mixed message or hesitation at all on the part of the paddle-packing Bob Nasdor. He told those assembled that he sees access to this short river stretch that features one single, tiny rapid (incidentally it’s at precisely the shortnose sturgeon’s fragile and crumbling habitat and nursery) as a “tremendous opportunity”–naming the big commercial rafting outfits over on the Deerfield as well as people arriving for “tubing” as parties that have an eager interest in accessing the river here. This despite expert commentary from shortnose sturgeon biologist Dr. Boyd Kynard already in the FERC record stating that watercraft pose a danger to spawning and developing sturgeon here at their Rock Dam habitat.

As a journalist I thought this publicized press event would be a real opportunity to ask about why CRC had taken no action concerning the clearly dissolving Connecticut riverbanks just downstream in the critical and sole documented natural spawning site of the shortnose sturgeon. Its fragile nursery environs are at a tiny place in the river called the Rock Dam. Those failing Connecticut River banks are owned by FirstLight Power, and adjacent to their power canal.

So it seemed a good question to get an answer to with the public present: was it because CRC has no lawyer?–or because they accept money from the MA Department of Environmental Protection?—that they’ve wholly avoided the site and taken no action, never sought an injunction or tested water or intervened as members of the Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee?


Here are the dissolving, slumping–sink-hole deepening Connecticut River banks at the Rock Dam site on the day of the “portage parade,” July 10, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Ironically, this line of questioning was in nearly the exact same vein as the questions I’d put to Andy Fisk a half decade ago. That was when they decided to hold a discussion in Brattleboro, Vermont about river recreation access–including the all-but-asphyxiated Dead Reach of this Rock Dam river section, where shortnose sturgeon have been annually crippled in successful spawning in their ancient, critical habitat and fragile nursery site for a half century. My questions were not welcome back then either.

This day Director Fisk simply claimed that CRC was taking action. He clearly did not wish to go into any particulars answering in front of the handful of public paraders. He seemed quite rushed, all of a sudden. When I pressed him on several areas of exactly where that action was, and a long timeline where no action whatsoever has been taken, he ended my queries and put the mike down. Unbeknownst to me, a live-feed was being streamed by CRC and it was abruptly shut down when I began my questioning. I heard about this later.

Once the crowd moved away he walked up to reengage–but my questions remained the same, and his responses revealed no on-the-ground action at this critical site. Actually, CRC has filmed and promoted themselves everywhere in this little 2-1/2 mile reach BUT at the dissolving riverbanks and dewatered critical sturgeon habitat on this river. There are videos of a sea lamprey cookout and a swimming hole celebration nearby—plus a big celebration of baby lamprey rescues in the power canal. Now there’s some low hanging fruit protecting a fish that will likely survive Armageddon. But never have they ever brought a parade of people down to that fragile Rock Dam site and filmed them with a backdrop of dissolving Connecticut River banks and baking cobbles where young-of-the-year endangered shortnose sturgeon should be developing.

It’s not hard to find CRC OPINIONS delivered to federal and state entities on a whole host of river issues. They send in all sorts of formal comments. But please, don’t call them a watchdog. Watchdogs inspire fear in companies and public agencies when they break laws or fail to enforce them. They take action. They have hungry, day-to-day staff lawyers–and their missions state clearly: we investigate, we enforce; we go to court–we sue corporations.

CRC gets lots of grant funding from the very agencies they should be forcing to do their jobs. So, don’t look for action there. And, of course, they have an endless legacy going back to their beginnings as close friends and recipients of monies from WMECO/Northeast Utilities, (d.b.a. Eversource) who built the crippling facilities that today dominate this miserable stretch of river. Join the annually major-sponsored Eversource-to-sea clean-up…!

Eversource remains massively—commercially, wired into today’s FirstLight river-crippling facilities at both Northfield and Turners Falls, both parent-owned by PSP Investments of Canada. These facilities trample the key ecosystem functions of New England’s Great River in the heart of the Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge all the way from Greenfield and Turners Falls MA to Bellows Falls VT and Walpole NH. Both facilities remain in violation of the landmark environmental 1872 decision of the US Supreme Court—based just downstream on this river in Holyoke Company v. Lyman. It ruled that migratory fish must be provided safe upstream and downstream passage on this and all US rivers. Here, that means all the way up to central Vermont and New Hampshire–and back.

Canadian venture capital outfit PSP/FirstLight Power is playing for keeps. They arrived here to run the giant river and energy-sucking, net-power-loss operations at Northfield Mountain and the smaller Turners Falls ops for long-term cash a full 144 years after the Supreme Court made those critical protections the law of this land . But, judging by priorities here, it seems those foreign venture capitalists have come to the right US river system…

This was an extremely small parade.

Living rivers come first.

Be careful what you wish for…

CONNECTICUT RIVER BLOG: DISMAL SPAWNING SEASON ON THIS UNPROTECTED RIVER IN MASSACHUSETTS

Posted by on 05 Jul 2021 | Tagged as: blueback herring, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, CRASC, Federal Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, FirstLight Power, John McPhee, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Rock Dam, shortnose sturgeon, The Dead Reach, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, US Geological Survey's Conte Fish Lab, USFWS, Vermont

Connecticut River Blog: dismal spawning season on this unprotected river in Massachusetts Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

*American shad run lowest since 2010
* 2021 shortnose sturgeon passage will likely be the worst at Holyoke in the half decade since it’s lifts were modified to restore the population and allow spawning in critical upstream nursery habitat.

The spillway fish lift and attraction water at Holyoke Dam, June 2, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The migratory fish run on the Connecticut River is done for the season. No one should be celebrating. At Holyoke Dam fish passage was the lowest it’s been in over a decade, with just 238,000 American shad counted passing that site. Seesawing spring flows that at first saw little April rain to fill river channels then quickly ramped up as May was ushered, creating big attraction flow for shad seeking upstream access via the Holyoke lifts.

But for 10 days, beginning April 30th, no lifts ran at Holyoke. HG&E won’t run lifts with flows above 40,000 cubic feet per second, so those shad had to hold there in the currents of a quickly cooling-down river for over a week. Then, as the flows ebbed to lift-able levels they were again left stranded and burning energy for extra days—as turbidity protocols from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) won’t allow awaiting fish runs to be helped upstream because they might miss tallying a single endangered shortnose sturgeon in the murky waters. Does this make sense–even for the sturgeon, or any of this ecosystem’s migrants?

In a time of climate heating chaos, this will only happen more often. Here’s a quick sketch of that migration dead-stop from USFWS Project Leader Ken Sprankle, who works to get regular fish passage updates out to the public: “Sierra at HFL(Holyoke Fish Lift) reported operations since the 4/30 closure did not resume until 5/10, with last weekend through 5/10 impacted by very turbid conditions that did not allow lift operations (sturgeon management factor).”

The parched riverbed in front of Holyoke Dam on June 2, 2021. The usual spring peak for shad runs occurs in late May. For 10 days in early May no lifts operated… Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

At first this might seem understandable—this abundance of caution while holding up thousands of other fish, except that the NMFS is doing literally NOTHING to protect and document shortnose sturgeon spawning success upstream at their critical Rock Dam site, and at a default industrial spawning site below Cabot Station’s ramping outflows. The whole purpose of fish lifts is to come into compliance with the Holyoke Company v. Lyman, landmark 1872 US Supreme Court decision, guaranteeing safe upstream and downstream passage at all dams.

So why hold up ANY fish—including shortnose sturgeon, in merely turbid early season conditions, when the purpose is to make sure all migrants can access upstream spawning habitat? To me, it’s disingenuous to implement a policy that seems more about data collection and missing a sturgeon or three—delaying and holding back runs of SNS and all other fish, when you are not doing a thing to ensure that those few endangered sturgeon have habitat and flow to successfully spawn. Are there any priorities that really put fish and protection first here?

As was noted at a June 24th meeting of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, US Geological Survey sturgeon biologist Micah Kieffer did virtually no work at the Rock Dam, the only documented natural spawning site for shortnose sturgeon in this river system that he helped confirm while working for decades with Dr. Boyd Kynard. Not a single bit of investigation or a gill or egg nets set to see about spawning success—just 250 yards from the Conte Lab where Kieffer works. It appears looking after sturgeon is important everywhere BUT the place where they need protection in order to successfully reproduce.

Micah Kieffer spent a good chunk of this season looking for ghost shortnose sturgeon and chasing fish stories far upstream from their critical habitat all the way to Bellows Falls–which proved as fruitful as finding the Loch Ness Monster. Last year, the emphasis was again chasing ghosting fish upriver that were never found. It has now been three seasons since I begged and badgered Micah to take a receiver down to Rock Dam, just a literal stone’s throw away from Conte Lab. After he took me up on that single visit he ultimately ended up documenting 48 SNS present at their ancient site–the largest spawning aggregation ever recorded there across decades of investigation. The fish were there several more days–that is until Canada-owned FirstLight Power cut off the flows—interfering with the spawning of a US federally endangered species.

De-watered critical sturgeon spawning and nursery habitat at Rock Dam, May 16, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

There were likely no suitable conditions allowing SNS spawning and rearing at their Rock Dam nursery again this year. I documented that in my photos of their sheltering cobbles baking in the sizzling June sun. So, so much for anyone protecting endangered fish or habitat. When there is no watchdog, there is no enforcement.

One big reveal at the June CRASC Technical Committee meeting was much-touted news that shortnose sturgeon eggs were recovered below Holyoke Dam. Here’s that event, put down in USFWS’s Fish Passage Report from Ken Sprankle on June 30th: “Some important fisheries news was shared at the CRASC Tech when CTDEEP confirmed they had sampled Shortnose Sturgeon eggs in habitat immediately downstream of the Holyoke Dam. Eighty eggs were collected in a sampling bout using egg mats with genetic confirmation, the first documentation of spawning outside of the Rock Dam and Cabot Station shoal, Turners Falls.” But this was really nothing new. Some minor spawning activity has long been known to occur below that industrial site where sturgeon were blocked from accessing their upstream habitat for well over a century.

Chapter 2 in Life History and Behavior of Connecticut River Shortnose and Other Sturgeons, 2012, published by the World Sturgeon Conservation Society (a chapter authored by B. Kynard, M. Kieffer, B.E. Kynard, M. Burlingame, and P. Vinogradov) states that spawning activity has been documented, understood and accepted since the late 1990’s in the area below Holyoke Dam. This is the place where sturgeon had forever been trapped in a spawning cull de sac—more or less since the first dam there was completed in 1849. So, though it is some new data, it does nothing to protect the SNS’s critical upstream spawning site–or the broken river ecosystem at Turners Falls and well beyond.

More CRASC hubbub was created when it was noted that professional divers looking for yellow lamp mussels stumbled on several dozen young-of-the-year shortnose sturgeon and took videos of them at a major in-river construction site in Springfield. Ironic that those divers were not sturgeon researchers… The big excitement was the cute video of baby fish. But it seems the ‘discovery’ was more a celebration of a random technological happenstance than progress in safeguarding this season’s sturgeon spawning run and success.

Anglers in a motorized raft in fragile Rock Dam habitat May 25, 2021 Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Here’s just one other twisted shortnose sturgeon kicker: those motivated, early-spring spawning-run shortnose sturgeon that get rejected at Holyoke’s lifts in that April-to-late May spawning window because of high flow or the dreaded “turbidity”, are denied a season’s spawning opportunity at their critical upstream Rock Dam site. But this July a new circumstance has been implemented that could help deny more up-running SNS a shot at successful spawning NEXT year!

For Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon there’s actually a bigger, seasonal early-SUMMER migration peak. It’s an upstream push for shortnose sturgeon attempting to find their way past Holyoke Dam. It occurs at the beginning of July and peaks soon thereafter. This is thought to be a “staging” migration for spawning-age fish–for sturgeon moving upriver to prepare to spawn the following year.

However, this year HG&E decided that maintenance on the fish lifts was overdue, and the federal agencies gave the okay for Holyoke Gas & Electric to shut down its lifts beginning July 1st–keeping them off-line for up to three months. Most sturgeon get lifted at Holyoke in July. Delaying those lift closures by just two weeks could have allowed a significant chunk of that critical SNS run to pass upstream. So much for ESA protections…

The average upstream count at Holyoke these last 5 years has been 58 shortnose sturgeon lifted. This year’s count stands at a paltry 11 fish. Thus, it’s pretty much guaranteed it will be a dismal year for passage upstream to critical habitats—Holyoke Company v. Lyman and all those endangered fish be damned!

There was one … tiny ray of hope noted at the June CRASC meeting. After two years of my reporting and intervening on behalf of the buckling banks, sink holes and grim discharge from the failing Connecticut River banks at Rock Dam, Ken Sprankle has been the sole fisheries person to take note. He actually proposed action. The Connecticut River Conservancy, with their water lab, refused to do testing there, and there was no action whatsoever from the Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee. On a river with a watchdog pressure would have been applied to force the National Marine Fisheries or MA DEP to take action on the failing riverbanks—which are the responsibility of FirstLight. Or, more to the point, a watchdog could have gone straight after the corporation. But no one to stepped up in that role. Because there is no watchdog here.

Rock Dam raft runners on May 29, 2019.

However, the USFWS’s Ken Spankle did get a study proposal put together that could potentially document the common-sense linkage of those crumbling banks to the Turners Falls power canal–just 150 feet away, as possible culprit and source of the bank failures and habitat pollution. Isn’t this ultimately a potential TF canal failure—the DIVERTED Connecticut River trying to return to its own riverbed less than 200 feet distant? This–on a protected river, would seem a slam dunk to document during a critical time when a new license for decades to come is in the offing. I raised these issues again in questions to the CRASC in their on-line meeting.

Rafters invade fragile Rawson Island at the Rock Dam site to lug their boat upstream for another tilt at Rock Dam’s tiny rapid, May 29, 2019.

Ken Sprankle needs just $131,000 to get the study done–at a time when a $100-million-plus foreign corporation is seeking to run our river here for decades. But he’s found he can’t find the money amongst and between all these federal and state agencies that would enable it to go forward.

You’d think all of CRASC member agencies would be falling all over themselves to chip in and get this critical information—especially since it was their forebears who ruined an easily restorable fish passage prospect at Turners Falls Dam in the mid-1970s. They did this by turning their backs on constructing a simple fish ladder there. That ruined prospects for a true Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration for hundreds of thousands of American shad and blueback herring to VT, NH, and northern MA each spring for a full half century.

BTW, in the name of further explanation of the above: the predecessor and immediate precursor of CRASC, is the fed/state fisheries cooperative that—in 1969, turned what should have been an CT River fisheries restoration project into a 43 year odyssey that put the river’s long extinct salmon strain (since 1809) at the top of Connecticut River species restoration pyramid, stumbling right past the needs of American shad and blueback herring. These same two federal agencies and four states signed off on the wretched, river-emptied, three-ladder fish passage based on salmon at this Dead Reach in Turners Falls. That has left this river system broken from mile 122 all the way upstream into southern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Their decision at Turner Falls for fish passage essentially killed a true river restoration when that ladder system was completed in 1980. VT, NH and northern MA never saw a fraction of their promised runs of American shad and herring. CRASC’s current chairperson, Andy Fisk of the Connecticut River Conservancy recently described shad as “lazy” in an interview with the Springfield Republican. I think those shad–as well as John McPhee, would agree American shad deserve a better spokesperson.

Failing Connecticut River banks at Rock Dam, June 15, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

I do credit Ken Sprankle, who is extremely busy, for making that pitch and getting a study plan put together. This is a Massachusetts problem—home of the broken Connecticut River, and all those present here should find it shameful. The study would take two seasons. But time is tight for it to have any merit in terms of licensing, and this is a river bureaucracy bathed in INACTION.

In a time when the Dead Reach of the Connecticut has been left half-dead and de-watered at the fragile and failing Rock Dam reach for over half a century, you might think the first priority there would be protection and letting this critical patient have a chance to finally begin to heal. Thus it seems rather ironic and no less a bit dangerous that the Connecticut River Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, American Whitewater and other groups will be doing a big PR push in mid-July to bring more joyriding traffic through the fragile Rock Dam site–which has any number of legitimate critical preservation needs and designations.

A campsite and someone living on the south end of Rawson Island opposite the Rock Dam pool on July 4, 2021. Does this critical habitat merit protection, or merely a flood of new visitors… Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

What seems sure to absolutely create more damage and dishonor at this place are crowds jamming downstream to run the single tiny Rock Dam rapid. Many of us have witnessed the ugly traffic jams and trash sites on the Deerfield River. What will happen when crowds descend on this critical area? Does CRC have a plan to protect this habitat? Will they pay for police and search and rescue operations? Will the AMC? Or does the Town of Montague get stuck with the problem and the bill in this tiny backwater so critical to a restored ecosystem?

Perhaps the full CRASC will have something to say about this at their upcoming meeting? Oh but Andy Fisk of CRC is the CRASC’s chair, so perhaps it’s just fine. I’m sure there’s a plan. Be careful what you wish for! What I’m not certain of is whether the folks living in the little “Patch” section of Turners will be thanking CRC. Certainly the sturgeon won’t…

Connecticut River: not clean; not healthy–it’s this river refuge’s hall of shame in MA

Posted by on 17 Jun 2021 | Tagged as: Andrew Fisk, climate change, climate-heating, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, CRC, Dead Reach, Delaware LLC, Dr. Boyd Kynard, ecosystem, ESA, Federal Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeion, FERC, FERC license, FirstLight Power, fish passage, ISO, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, LLC, Micah Kieffer, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Public Sector Pension Investments, pumped storage, Rock Dam, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, USFWS, Vermont, water lab

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


June 15, 2021, the baking, dewatered Rock Dam cobbles at the shortnose sturgeon nursery, where early life stage sturgeon should find watery shelter. This is DEAD, critical habitat. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

For a fourth season beyond the date (4/30/2018)Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investments FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license expired to operate their FirstLight Power, river-ravaging Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage project and river-starving Turners Falls/Cabot Station power canal diversions out of the main stem river, conditions for fish and a living river ecosystem have again proven grimly dismal. Conditions last weekend in the 20 mile reach backed up for NMPS’s river-gorging behind TF dam got so ugly there was not even water to launch a boat just a half mile above the dam at the state boat launch. See Ch. 22 link below.

https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/franklin-county/low-water-levels-for-parts-of-connecticut-river-in-franklin-county/

Without a watchdog and a lawyer with an injunction at the ready, that’s just what you come to expect here. Insanity is witnessing the same lack of enforcement and leadership languishing, year-in, year-out, and expecting different results.


Migration season spill to the actual riverbed amounts to little more than a pan of dishwater–for fish seeking an upstream route to Vermont and New Hampshire. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The most interesting statements on the situation did not come from any of the agencies or the ngo laying claim to safeguarding this massively abused reach, but from PSP’s FirstLight Power–now re-registered out of the Bay State as a Delaware llc. Here, in their press statement they actually felt quite comfortable pointing to ISO-New England in Holyoke–the “electric grid operator,” as the responsible party for choking the life out of the Connecticut in Franklin County–right in the midst of key spring spawning when development of early life stages are critical to restoring beleaguered runs of migratory fish. READ FL statement BELOW:

“Over the weekend water levels in the area of Barton Cove were exceptionally shallow due to several overlapping conditions affecting water levels in the Turners Falls Impoundment.These factors included dispatch of our facility by the electric grid operator at the same time we were spilling water over the Turners Falls dam to meet federally required flows to support fish passage. These conditions are all within the approved and licensed operation of the facilities, however, coupled with lower than usual flows in the river, the water levels dropped to an unusually low level in this instance.”

ISO-New England and PSP/FirstLight are like corporate kissing cousins–in a grim Bermuda Triangle where the river disappears. That triangle goes from Northfield/Turners Falls through Holyoke, thence down to Delaware for tax-dollar cleaning; and then way back north to Canada for profit-taking. OOOPPS, I guess that makes it a Bermuda RECTANGLE!

Anyway, hard to reconcile those grim, pillaging river conditions with any massive requirement for huge amounts of power… It was simply a gorgeous June weekend–no giant peak power use or anything in the way of summer heatwave stuff going on. Could it be that our ecosystem was being massively thrown under the bus purely for profit taking? Or, was ISO-NE exporting our river–ravaged for its megawatts, far outside our region? Did the Connecticut get pillaged for use in the New York power grid? It’s just a scam, wrapped in a riddle, with no media scrutiny permitted.

Here, though, I must extend a prize for BS to FirstLight’s PR people who blame, in part, the fact that they “were spilling water over the Turners Falls dam to meet federally required flows to support fish passage.” Their sole and absurdly “required” offering of spill into the riverbed for migrating fish is 400 cubic feet per second in fish passage season. That’s the equivalent of a dishpan’s worth of water, when a swimming pool’s worth is the minimum required to restore a living ecosystem below the Turners Falls dam. These communications people are high paid, and they are so good when you have an uninformed public.

MEANWHILE, I visited that DEAD REACH below TF Dam on Monday. The Rock Dam, the only documented natural spawning site of the only federally-endangered migratory fish on the Connecticut in Massachusetts. For endangered shortnose sturgeon in Franklin County, just yards away from the Conte Fish Lab, and just across the river from the home of the Connecticut River Conservancy, it was just another de-watered, failing riverbanks day. Baking cobbles, blood-orange sludge drooling down failing banks and entering the Connecticut as slurry. Months back Andy Fisk of CRC–with its own in-house water lab, definitively told the media he would not sample that grim soup. I guess if you sample and find a problem, people would expect action.


June 15, 2021: here are the blood-orange, buckling Connecticut River banks sloughing directly into the Rock Dam pool. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


The sludge outlet into Rock Dam. The sturgeon bakery-beach cobbles are in the background, right–that little tongue of dead water is the CT River’s “flow”. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The Rock Dam pool, as some of this river’s most critically endangered habitat, was exhaustively investigated by Conte Lab’s Dr. Boyd Kynard and his assistant Micah Kieffer, for 17 straight seasons. Yet today, in the midst of critical relicensing times, Conte Lab does not even set out a basic water-level data loggers–which would at the very least, offer annual data during the critical spawning months of April through June on flows, depth and temperature. That would at least tell you on what particular date and time. and at what water temperature the dam and headgate operators upstream inside FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain shut off the spigot at Turners Falls dam, sending their grim pumped storage surges sideways into their canal and screwing another sturgeon spawning season at this ancient nursery site for endangered fish trying to hold their place in the ecosystem.

I personally paid for and installed a data logger at Rock Dam a half decade back–though I could not have got it done without the quiet and prodigious help and expertise of a leading sturgeon biologist and investigator. The results were incontrovertible and damning. They got forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the lead agency on sturgeon protection, and USFWS. No action was ever taken.

I also intervened with FERC vs. FirstLight for dewatering Rock Dam three spawning seasons back–citing violation of the ESA in the face of the KNOWN presence of spawning sturgeon there. My argument, which did result in a FERC hearing in Washington DC, was made on the basis that FirstLight violated their license requirement to coordinate operations of their Northfield and TF facilities, which also includes adherence to the tenets of “takings” under the Endangered Species Act. FERC tossed out the my arguments on inscrutable grounds, but I at least stood up.

If I had a federal lab this season–or for ten seasons past, I would have protected that shortnose nursery just 300 yards away and right under my nose at my federal lab. That’s “Science for a Changing World.” And if I had a water testing lab at my facility, the first thing I would have done is take that water sample–just to be sure. This year, or last year–because that’s what real river protection means.

Clean water;healthy habitats in Franklin County Massachusetts? I think not. Massachusetts is where the Connecticut River ecosystem dies; and the profits fly out of the region. Special thanks to PSP Investments, your neighbor since 2016, and ISO-New England, your bulk power corporate facilitator.

OHHHHH, OOOOHHH! And please don’t forget, every time Len Greene from FirstLight, or Alicia Barton leaves you walking away from some press release somehow thinking that Northfield Mountain is producing ‘clean’, ‘carbon free’ energy?–do note that Northfield is a huge energy CONSUMER that has never produced a single watt of virgin power. In reality it is running off the massive slugs of carbon gorging/planet warming natural gas that today powers the ISO-New England Power grid. In recent days, without any heat wave in sight, their energy “mix” that is massively pulled on for NMPS’s river killing has exceeded 60% natural gas at times. There is everything deadly, and little benign, about what Northfield has done to the Connecticut these last 49 years–or what it will do in the future.

Finally, the thing to note and remember about the Connecticut River across all these decades:

WHERE THERE IS NO WATCHDOG, THERE IS NO ENFORCEMENT.

There is no watchdog protecting this river.

CONNECTICUT RIVER DEADBEAT DEFENSE: endangered species habitat orphaned–again

Posted by on 29 Mar 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Connecticut River Watershed Council, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Endangered Species Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight Power Resources, Julie Crocker, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Nolumbeka, shortnose sturgeon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, US Environmental Protection Agency, water lab

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

This is the Rock Dam pool in the Connecticut River at Montague MA on March 10, 2021–just a month from the date male Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon will begin arriving here at the only documented natural spawning habitat for this federal- and state- endangered migrant in this ecosystem. The Rock Dam has been bathed in a grim red soup leaching out of the failing riverbanks adjacent to the Turners Falls power canal–just 400 feet distant, throughout the fall and winter. The riverbanks continue to crumble and ooze into this cobble lined pool today.

What is contained in the red sludge oozing from the crumbling banks besides the long-known iron and manganese? Is it harmful to developing early life stage sturgeon? What is its source, with the diverted Connecticut’s flow looming just above and 400 feet away–as pulses of its current are run through the Turners Falls power canal? Is it actually the Connecticut River trying to return to its own natural riverbed? Is the canal dike failing? Who is responsible for stopping the riverbank failures here–for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, to name just a few–at the Commonwealth and at the federal levels??

And, where oh where can you find a river watchdog with a legal team, an enforcement mandate, and an injunction weeks before these endangered fish return? Certainly not on the Connecticut River.

Clean water. Healthy habitat. Thriving communities. That is the banner slogan of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, recently renamed the Connecticut River Conservancy. Here is a month old statement from that outfit: “We’re not going to test it,” Andrew Fisk, Director, Connecticut River Conservancy. Fisk, who has a water quality testing lab at his Greenfield office, also sits at the head of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission. The CRC also sits on the CT River Streambank Erosion Committee, and sponsors cultural programming that would beg an investigation and the preservation of the failing banks at this ancient fishing site.


March 10, 2021. Looking up the Connecticut River’s grim failing riveranks on FirstLight Power-owned property at the Rock Dam site in Cabot Woods, adjacent to the TF power Canal.Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE out of Gloucester MA, under the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has lead responsibility for the Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon. Shortnose sturgeon fall under their Office of Protected Resources. Though their representatives including Kimberly Damon-Randall, Julie Crocker, and and Michael Pentony have attended some of the bi-annual federal-state meetings here on the Connecticut, NMFS has sat mum and on its hands, as the critical habitat continues failing for the shortnose sturgeon at Rock Dam. No investigation, no protection, no worries.

TEXT IMMEDIATELY BELOW IS FROM THE NOAA/NMFS website:

“NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service share responsibility for implementing the ESA. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for endangered and threatened marine and anadromous species—from whales and seals to sharks, salmon, and corals.

Under the ESA, the federal government has the responsibility to protect:
Endangered species—species that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.
Threatened species—species that are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
Critical habitat—specific areas that are:

Within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservation, and those features may require special management considerations or protection.”


March 11, 2021. Here, a woman stands in the a compact-car size sink hole along with disappearing hemlock saplings on the Connecticut River bank that’s slumping into Rock Dam spawning habitat.Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


Here that same woman stands looking directly up at that sink hole from below on the Connecticut River bank. She’s seen atop further, newer slumping sludge now heading into the river and Rock Dam spawning habitat on March 11, 2021.Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

And these following three pictures, all from March 28,2021–less than two weeks before the first shortnose sturgeon arrive here, show the grim and burgeoning sludge and intrusions into critical Connecticut River spawning habitat at the Rock Dam. The main stem river in all photos is to the left.

Riverbank and species protection here, both federal and state, falls under the current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to operate facilities on the Connecticut River.

How can so many institutions fail so miserably at protecting the public’s river?


Connecticut River at Rock Dam, March 28,2021Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


Sludge running into the Connecticut River at Rock Dam, March 28, 2021.Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Of Book Bans, Journalism and Shortnose Stout

Posted by on 06 Mar 2021 | Tagged as: Alden Booth, Andrew Fisk, Barnaby Watten, Bob Flaherty, Clean Water Act, Congressman John Olver, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, critical habitat, Dr. Boyd Kynard, Endangered Species Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeion, FERC, FirstLight Power, Fish and Aquatics Study Team, journalism, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Monte Belmonte, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, Shortnose Stout, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The People's Pint, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey's Conte Fish Lab, WHMP, WRSI

Of Book Bans, Journalism and Shortnose Stout: a brief history of science, censorship and the short, noble life of a beer created to help stop corporate abuse on the Connecticut River Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

(NOTE: for a WHMP podcast with Host Bob Flaherty related to this story go here: https://whmp.com/morning-news/sturgeon-stout-has-come-gone-but-the-harm-to-the-sturgeons-spawning-ground-continues/ )

A red slurry enters the Connecticut at the Rock Dam

Nearly a decade back retired federal fisheries biologist Dr. Boyd Kynard was putting the finishing touches on a book entitled Life History and Behaviour of Connecticut River Shortnose and Other Sturgeons. It was a compilation of sturgeon research conducted by federal biologists and university researchers—largely based locally on the Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon. Its findings described the shortnose sturgeon’s life history and habitat needs on the river from below Holyoke Dam, all the way to a spawning site known as the Rock Dam. The ancient Rock Dam site is just a few hundred yards from the USGS Conte Lab in Turners Falls where Kynard had spent a chunk of his career.

The sturgeon book authored by Kynard et al

Just as Kynard’s book was going to print in Germany, published by the World Sturgeon Conservation Society, Boyd Kynard and Harold Rosenthal, its editors, received word from the US Geological Service that two chapters of the book were being “recalled” for “editorial” reasons, and all publication would need to be halted in the United States and abroad. The reasons given were rather murky at the time—some were vague stylistic preferences. Kynard immediately smelled a rat. He believed that the two chapters thrown into question were being stymied because they used the term “river regulation” as a key factor in the spawning failure of the shortnose sturgeon here—the only federally endangered migratory fish in the Connecticut River system and one that spawned on the doorstep of the USGS Conte Lab.

The term river regulation was accurate, precise and descriptive. It referred to conditions created when the power company, just upstream, either inundated or starved the bed of the Connecticut River via operation of its Turners Falls Dam. The dam is operated in response to the massive river disruption created when the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, a giant, net-loss energy contraption just upstream, either suctioned or spewed huge pulses of water in and out of the riverbed. This grim industrial model literally cripples the ancient flows of this ecosystem, killing millions of fish outright, while creating spawning conditions for shortnose sturgeon that cause spawning failure most years at Rock Dam. The Rock Dam, confirmed by Kynard’s research, is the only documented natural spawning site on the river. It appeared the USGS did not want something put in print that directly stated those facts—one that led straight back to the actions of a corporation.

As a journalist I’d already spent many hours with Boyd Kynard, asking questions about sturgeon, shad, and river conditions. We’d had many a fine discussion over breakfast and coffee, often lasting two hours and more. The idea that the book’s information was being embargoed, censored, really hit a sour note about free speech, freedom of information and interfering with the facts and data of research science. Along with Dr. Kynard, several of the ten co-authors of the book’s chapters from various labs and universities cried foul.

The US Geological Service actually caused the book’s publication to be banned for a brief time in Europe, but the publishers ultimately decided they would not be bowed by the politics of a foreign federal agency. They resumed printing and selling the book. Here in the United State, USGS held tight to their recall and vague objections to the book’s science. Compiled and written by Kynard and fellow researchers, The Life History and Behaviour of Connecticut River Shortnose and Other Sturgeons was essentially banned—with no schedule for those USGS’s loose objections to be resolved. Months passed as the silencing of federal and state research science and the work of those authors, continued.

What ultimately broke the ban was journalism. I interviewed Kynard. Then I attempted to interview his long-time assistant and fellow researcher Micah Kieffer, who still worked at the USGS Conte Lab. Kieffer was not allowed to speak with me. In fact, that spring he was unceremoniously taken off sturgeon research altogether, and sent upriver to work on studies of trout—far from his area of expertise. Ultimately, I was able to get Barnaby Watten, Branch Chief at Conte Lab on the record. Not surprisingly, he could provide no clear reason why USGS was recalling and withholding Kynard and Kieffer’s Chapters 1 and 3. After that I tracked down the USGS editor, who it turned out, had no experience in shortnose sturgeon biology. It all went into my developing story for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

But what ultimately broke the embargo was my chat with an aide to Congressman John Olver—noting to him that a group of federal and university researchers had all signed a letter to his boss, decrying the silencing of federal and university research. In short, they claimed censorship by USGS. Free speech protections, university science and the public’s right to know were being thwarted by a federal agency. Once this was brought to the attention of John Olver’s office I was quickly informed that Dr. Olver, a former UMass professor, fully intended to “look into the matter.”

The next day I brought that bit of information back to Barnaby Watten at USGS, asking for a reaction. This was a Friday. And, with just that bit of inquiry on behalf of the public’s right to know, the federal embargo on the government and university science contained in Life History and Behaviour of Connecticut River Shortnose and Other Sturgeons, quickly evaporated. By the weekend, Dr. Kynard was signing and delivering copies of a book that was the product of his nearly 20 years of federal sturgeon research. My Gazette article appeared sometime the following week.

What made it so creepy—the recall and ban, was that it was coming on the heels of the beginning of the relicensing process for the Turners Falls Dam and Turners Falls Power Canal, and the giant Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, 7 miles upriver. The corporate owners of that spawning-crippling “river regulation” lived right nearby. The land USGS Conte Lab sat on was owned by the power company. Hard not to contemplate a corporate connection.

Anyway, that fall, 2012, I began taking part as a participating stakeholder and member of the Fish and Aquatics Studies Team in the Federal Energy Regulatory Relicensing process for those facilities. I had a lot of science and writing experience pertaining to fish, dam, and river issues, and also had worked for both the power company and the watershed council previously. It was a pretty thorough bit of starter knowledge that I could make use of. I knew where the bodies were buried, where culpability for the abuse and failures in habitat protection lay.

Funny thing though, when the state and federal fish agencies, assorted stakeholders and the power company, FirstLight, sat down to discuss river studies and information needed to create new river conditions in a new license, very little mention was being made of shortnose sturgeon, the sole endangered species trying to spawn right in the heart of these relicense settings.

Frustrated, as deadlines loomed for the outlines of that spring’s fish migration studies were being discussed—all largely without anyone talking “sturgeon”, I phoned Dr. Kynard. In light of the seeming “third rail” absence of discussion about needed flows for sturgeon spawning, I asked him to release permission for me to use and enter Chapters 1 and 3 into the federal record of the relicensing. Boyd complied, and I quickly put all that science into the record so it would have standing. I also intervened later that spring when some test flows into the riverbed suggested by the power company were so low that they were guaranteed to interfere with sturgeon spawning. I won a change in the spring study flows–they didn’t get to low-ball the river’s only endangered migrants that year.

Shortnose Stout: a noble public information idea that ultimately went sideways; then belly up

Still, as time went on there just seemed to be only a smattering of lip service at the company/stakeholder meeting tables involving river flows and fish studies that mentioned shortnose sturgeon. It was remarkably, eerily quiet on that count. One day over a coffee meeting where I was downloading more long-term fisheries knowledge from Dr. Kynard, I told him that I had an idea for a beer, Shortnose Stout. I promised him I would find a producer for it, to help get the word out about sturgeon flows to the public. That effort would take many more months, but when out cycling one warm day I bumped into Alden Booth, owner of The People’s Pint in Greenfield. I told him I had this great idea for a beer name and marketing concept to help create change for an amazing–and amazingly ignored fish. He came on board pretty quick.

Over the winter things began to brewing. The Pint came up with a fine label, a Shortnose sturgeon backlit by a full sturgeon moon. I came up with the text, describing both the beer and the biological plight of the sturgeon at its spawning site, the Rock Dam—while pointing the public to the science featured on Kynard’s website. This was all volunteer work for me, done in the name of giving a voice to the river and this embattled fish.

The brand I created; my text, and Dr. Kynard’s website link.

The beer debuted on St. Patrick’s Day at The People’s Pint, and created quite a buzz. Meanwhile, Alden Booth had asked me whether there wasn’t a group that could be targeted to benefit from the sale of Shortnose Stout. I told him that I really didn’t see anyone doing any worthy river protection in light of this endangered fish’s plight. Nobody had taken up that fight. There was no one that deserved either praise or reward in the sturgeon’s name. So, it was let go at that.

The following spring, despite the Endangered Species Act, the published book, the science, and a year of Shortnose Stout, no one was standing up to the sturgeon miseries STILL occurring at the Rock Dam spawning site in the midst of federal negotiations. There was no action, nothing stated from Mass. Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, or National Marine Fisheries about stepping in at this critical time, and no USGS work to track spawning success at Rock Dam.

I did learn from The Pint’s Booth that the popular stout was going to be brewed again in March. But where I again would’ve noted that none were worthy of having stood up for sturgeon, I was informed that the Connecticut River Watershed Council was stepping up to collect funds in the name of the Shortnose sturgeon. With that I simply declined the invitation to be at that spring’s St. Patrick’s Day debut of a new batch of Shortnose Stout. Dr. Kynard did attend, and on the invitee list was also Dr. Andy Fisk, newly arrived director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council–happy to step in front of a camera.

Fisk had recently been pictured in The Greenfield Recorder, holding a bottle of Shortnose Stout on a bridge above the Connecticut. Any self-respecting shortnose sturgeon would tell you that the only site worthy of getting a photograph taken for your hard, hard work protecting this species would have required you to pose at the Rock Dam–the grimly embattled site that remains this river’s ugliest, most pointedly-ignored and undefended critical biological habitat on the entire river. The Watershed Council collected the profits and accolades in the name of the shortnose, while the actual fish remained undefended and under siege for yet another spawning season at Rock Dam. It’s great PR associating with an endangered species though.

I believe that was the final year Shortnose Stout was brewed. It was a shame such an opportunity for action was squandered. The miseries for this river’s federal and state endangered shortnose sturgeon remain today exactly as they were nearly a decade back, when a federal agency quickly stepped in and placed an embargo on a book written by researchers doing public research in the public’s interest, conducted at their own federal facilities.

The watershed council has since changed its name to “conservancy,” but in all its 69 years has never brought on board any legal staff, or adopted a mission to investigate, enforce, and prosecute—the basic things necessary to lay claim to protecting a river and endangered species.

The Connecticut River Shortnose sturgeon will arrive back at its ancient Rock Dam spawning site in just five weeks. There the riverbanks have been collapsing and failing, oozing a grim orange puss that feeds directly into their cobbled spawning pool home. The Rock Dam’s critical habitat becomes more debased, embattled and ignored with each passing season. Year after year, decade upon decade, there is no more disgraceful biological habitat—on this river, at the heart of the Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, on the doorstep of the USGS Conte Lab, just across the river from Greenfield, home to the Connecticut River Conservancy, than the ancient Rock Dam pool on New England’s Great River.


The Connecticut River’s Rock Dam spawning pool today. Shortnose sturgeon will be returning to this grim and undefended spawning habitat 5 weeks from today.

In the end, nobody walked the walk. No one stepped up; no one deserved to profit from the sale of a beer named to honor and protect a river and a magnificent and embattled ancient fish.

Here in Massachusetts on the Connecticut River during a critical and endless FERC relicensing process the only apparent player playing for keeps is FirstLight Power–the Canadian-owned, Delaware-registered, recently-arrived operators of these river-crippling facilities. Their shareholders are delighted, I’m sure.

What will our grandchildren have to say about what we failed to do here?.

(**NOTE: for further information related to this story listen to the following podcast with Host Monte Belmonte from WRSI, The River. https://wrsi.com/monte/saving-rock-dam-from-damnation/

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