Connecticut River Refuge

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The wave of Connecticut River public testimony against Northfield Mountain continues to build

Posted by on 27 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: American shad, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, conservancy, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, public trust, shad, shad larvae, shortnose sturgeon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Supreme Court, USFWS

THE WAVE of Connecticut River public FERC testimony against Northfield Mountain continues building…

AMID the time when secret “final” settlement negotiations– initiated by FirstLight, are taking place out of sight with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, MA Fish & Wildlife, MA DEP, National Marine Fisheries, and others, MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC are the ones standing up for a living future for the River and this four-state New England ecosystem.

They are not waiting for scripted guidelines from councils and conservancies that have failed to take on this profligate devastation for the last half century. They are going ON-THE-RECORD now–shining a light for the Connecticut River BEFORE any grim compromises get inked.

PLEASE READ DOWN to see the LATEST 8 entries into the public record. Though the “date of entry” is recorded as 12/27/2021, six of these eight testimonies were filed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day(the day after Christmas).

NOW IS THE TIME to enter on-the-record testimony into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s public licensing process.

HERE’S HOW:

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.

THE LASTEST PUBLIC TESTIMONY STARTS HERE:

Document Accession #: 20211227-5019 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Jon Burgess, Northfield, MA.

Northfield pump storage project constructed as direct adjunct to Vernon nuke power plant, to utilize what would be ‘wasted’ energy, as nuke plants can’t shut down easily. Vernon nuke plant is now dead. No more wasted energy to utilize.

The environmental damage done by the hydro storage plant far exceeds any ’emergency backup power’ justification. Their motive is simple & straightforward: Buy low, sell high, make profit.

I enjoy the tidbit benefits (boat ramp….) First Light offers. But it still can’t offset fish death, bank erosion, & other damages.

On a side note, it was a struggle to navigate the maze to get this message to you. I wish there were an easier way for the rest of Northfield to chime in on this issue, as there would be no doubt about the sentiment here. Thank you, JB

Document Accession #: 20211227-5009 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
John Nelson Jr., Plainfield, MA.

Regarding FirstLight Relicensing of the Northfield, MA, Pump Storage Facility:

This facility should not be relicensed; it is not a renewable energy source for peak electricity demand because pumping water uphill generates greenhouse gas. It has been also documented that the biota of the Connecticut River are harmed in the process. If, and despite these concerns, relicensing is to proceed, an environmental impact statement should be required. A solar installation with battery storage on top of the mountain would be a
much more suitable source of energy.
John Nelson

Document Accession #: 20211227-5008 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Vicki Citron, Colrain, MA.

I am a concerned Massachusetts individual who lives near the Connecticut river. I drive over it every day on my way to work. It is appalling to me how low the river is and how high the adjacent canal is. FirstLight drains the river of all possibility of the river being a healthy and supportive environment for the fish and other wildlife that inhabit it.

To add insult to injury, FirstLight’s parent-owner, Canada’s PSP Investments, registered their Nothfield Mountain and Turners Falls hydro units into Delaware tax shelters. In addition to depriving aquatic life of its natural benefits, FirstLight is depriving Massachusetts of its due in tax revenue.

They are literally sucking river and the residents of Massachusetts dry.
Please do the right thing and deny a license renewal to FirstLight.

Thank you.

Document Accession #: 20211227-5007 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Louise P. Doud, Warwick, MA.

The Northfield Mountain Pumping Storage Station has got to go. It does not make sense in this day and age. It needs to be closed forthwith. To expend electricity generated by fossil fuels from the regional electrical grid to pump water uphill just so the electricity generated from dropping tons of water back downhill into the river is made available for peak demand times is wasteful and foolish. Then there is the issue of its deadly effect on the
wildlife in the Connecticut River and erosion of its riverbanks over a span of 23 miles. Over the years of the Pumping Storage Station’s operation, the sucking up of tons of water, fish, aquatic animals and plant life has resulted in killing millions, and then their dead bodies get dumped back into the river. This is devastating to the ecology of the great Connecticut River.

On top of all this, First Light, the relatively new for-profit owner of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, secretly moved its corporate assets for the station and their Turners Falls hydroelectric facility to Delaware – to dodge Massachusetts taxes. There is no excuse for this. FirstLight’s attempts to keep the public from understanding their abandonment of supporting local school and government infrastructures by spreading around donations here and there and garnering publicity from doing so is nothing
short of a betrayal. Whitewashing the truth. Greenwashing its corporate greed.Because, this is all about money. Not about our communities, not about caring for our regional natural environment, not about local charity. You have plenty of reasons to cite First Light’s behavior and the pumped storage station itself as deleterious to the state and the region and violating its agreements with the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife and the
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Stop this madness and deny the re-licensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station.Now. Please. Do the Right Thing.

Document Accession #: 20211227-5006 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Fergus Marshall, Chicopee, MA.

Dear members of the FERC e comment board,
My name is Fergus Marshall a lifelong resident of Chicopee Massachusetts. I have long enjoyed and respected the immense beauty of the river that my river, the Chicopee, flows into, the Connecticut.

I have been made aware just recently about a little known fact that has me very concerned. For many years I have been known of the project at Northfield Mountain, the pumped storage project which takes water from the river pumps it uphill to a reservoir during offpeak demand for electricity,stores it until there is peak load on the grid, then releases it to generate electricity, thereby creatingprofit an reliability.

This appears to have been successful for many decades but the terrible toll on aquatic life has been enormous. This facility actually causes the river to flow backwards, and in the process sucks the aquatic organisms through pumps and then through turbines killing everything. The Supreme Court ruling of 1872 mandates the safe passage for migratory fish so how is it that this is allowed?

I understand that this has, in the past, been a successful method of energy storage, however now its become an antiquated method that only makes profit for a foreign corporation, First Light of Canada.

This is almost the year 2022, are we not capable of a much better solution. Worldwide, innovators have been putting in place real solutions such as battery storage.

I am very concerned that First Lights profit making schemes are siphoning much needed money that could be used for real energy solutions for the twenty-first century.

Respectfully,
Fergus Marshall
55 Gaylord St
Chicopee Ma
01013

Document Accession #: 20211227-5005 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Norma Roche, Northampton, MA.

I am writing to urge you to consider the health of the Connecticut River ecosystem and fishery before all else as you consider the conditions for relicensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. I’ve been reading Karl Meyer’s columns on the state of the river in the Daily Hampshire Gazette with growing alarm, particulary his latest one (12/22/21) about the licensing process, as well the column of 6/2/21 about the operations of the pumping station leaving hatchling sturgeon high and dry.

I have little technical knowledge of fisheries or river regulations, but I would ask, as Mr. Meyer does, why those responsible for negotiationg the conditions of First Light’s license aren’t bound by the 1972 US Supreme Court mandate that all migratory fish have safe passage up and down all rivers. If the pumping station is sucking up and killing shortnose sturgeon (already endangered), shad (whose populations are plummeting), and other fish and aquatic animals, that’s far too high a price to pay for electricity. It sounds like the shad, in particular, have nourished people not only in our region’s past, but right up to this summer. They’re popular with fishermen, and those who catch them eat them. Such a supplemental food source, in these times of economic and and climate uncertainty, isn’tsomething we can afford to lose.

I understand that the pumping station is used for peak power generation. Given the problems associated with that practice, I’m trying to do my part. I have solar panels on my roof, and I’ve signed up with a Shave the Peak program, which alerts me when high power consumption is anticipated so that I can turn off things in my house. I’d much rather do that than contribute to fish kills. Can’t we “shave the peak” on a larger scale and do without the pumping station? Many federal agencies, as well as state governments in our region, are working hard to develop new sources of electricity. None of these will be free of problems, of course. But given that the relicensing period is 50 years, I have trouble imagining that we will need the pumping station for anything like that long.

I’m also an avid whitewater kayaker and member of American Whitewater, and I’ve sent you comments in the past urging you to incorporate water releases into dam relicensing agreements. I sincerely appreciate those releases, as I do the improvements First Light and its predecessors have made to boating access spots and other recreational facilities. But I hope, and believe, that
my comments have always added, as long as it doesn’t hurt the fish.
Of course fish die in the course of many recreational activities such as fishing!but never at the scale at which we’re losing them to the pumping station. My entertainment is certainly not worth these losses.

I hope you will insist that if the pumping station is to continue its operations, it must no longer kill fish. I’m sure that modifications to keep the fish safe could be costly, but it’s not economical to make them,then the station should not be operating.
Thanks very much,

Document Accession #: 20211227-5004 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Seth Wilpan, FLORENCE, MA.

I am writing to urge you to NOT re-license the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project. In the words of Karl Meyer, participating stakeholder and intervener in these Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing proceedings since 2012, this project is “the grimmest electric appliance ever installed on our river. Just like an electric toilet, Northfield squanders massive amounts of grid electricity to literally pull a river backward and uphill” flushing it and all its fish back out, dead, while reselling the secondhand juice as twice-produced watts to distant markets at peak prices.”

The stated goals of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include the
restoration of safe passage of a number of fish species and to protect the river for future generations, which is in response to and in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court mandate. The agency has failed utterly to live up to this mission. At the same time, the Canadian company PSP Investments, which is the parent company of FirstLight which current owns and operates the project, has set itself up to evade local taxes. They are making millions destroying our river.

The only impact of refusing to renew the license will be decreased profits for the companies that run it. Can you in good conscience authorize the continued destruction of this vital and irreplaceable facet of the natural world?

Document Accession #: 20211227-5003 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Robert Sweener, Westhampton, MA.

Regarding the re-licensing of FirstLIght Hydro on the Connecticut River, I unequivocally say NO to this proceeding. Local communities and wildlife will not profit from this project. No amount of mega-profits justify this environmental degradation. We’ve seen enough damage from what they can do.
Thank you,
Bob Sweener
Westhampton Massachusetts

Police action threatened at US Fish & Wildlife HQ as constituents try to deliver letters

Posted by on 01 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Connecticut River Refuge, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, migratory fish, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Public Sector Pension Investments, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Recorder, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wendi Weber, WWLP TV Channel 22 News

Police action threatened at US Fish & Wildlife HQ as constituents tried to deliver letters on Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A cold, socially-distanced public welcome at USFWS Headquaters in Hadley for visiting citizens as security guard reaches to phone police. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

SEE also, this Recorder article by Chris Larabee, here also featured in the Gazette: https://www.gazettenet.com/Two-make-20-mile-hike-to-protest-FirstLight-s-potential-relicensing-43803954

HADLEY MA. A security guard at Hadley’s US Fish and Wildlife Headquarters threatened to call police on Karl Meyer of Greenfield and Dave Dersham of Northampton and a handful of their supporters after completing a 20 mile protest walk to the facility at around 4 pm Tuesday. The two were interviewed by the Recorder and WWLP TV Channel 22 News along the route. Their trek from Greenfield to Hadley was made to call attention to a final, closed-door license “settlement” negotiation scheduled by Canada-owned FirstLight with the US Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, and MA Division of Fish and Wildlife for Thursday, December 2nd. FirstLight wants the agencies to sign-off on a final deal in the 9 year-old Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process relicensing the massive suctioning of the Connecticut River at their 49 year old Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station.

Banner on federal relicensing of Northfield Mountain displayed at USFWS HQ. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The duo and three other citizens including a 14 year-old and an infant, were quickly denied entrance during regular business hours as they attempted to deliver notes and letters to USFWS Regional Director Wendi Weber. A security guard sitting behind a front lobby window tersely told them their letters, in an open manila envelope, would not be accepted at the public HQ. When they made further inquiry the guard became defensive, without offering alternatives, and then escalated the situation by demanding no picture taking was allowed and they leave the lobby or “I will call the police.” Asking why, the guard offered no further discussion, instead repeating the police threat and then dialing a phone where visitors heard her request that Hadley police cruiser be dispatched.

One of the messages constituents wanted to convey to USFWS Director Wendi Weber. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

At that point the visitors left the lobby with their letters, and continued their discussions in front of the unwelcoming Headquarters building. The group, also supported earlier in the day by a dozen protesters who’d met the two walkers on the Sunderland Bridge, were completing trip by collecting handwritten messages for Weber from the public. All were being sent to highlight the obliteration the 100’s of millions of eggs and young-of-the year migratory and resident fish killed by Northfield giant turbines annually. They are asking USFWS representatives to deny FirstLight’s license proposal of placing a temporary “barrier” net, with ¾ inch mesh, in front of NMPS for a few months each year. They say FL’s “safety net” will be patently ineffectual in preventing the long-standing annual carnage to Connecticut River fish populations in the heart of the ecosystem and S.O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Supporters standing, post-ejection, in front of USFWS Headquarter. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

After several more minutes standing in the cold and talking in front of the headquarters Anne Sittauer, a USFWS Refuge Supervisor, was sent outside to speak to the group, now totaling eight. Sittauer stated the Region 5 Director was busy, but she would accept the letters on Weber’s behalf, giving assurances they’d reach her. No squad car ever arrived and no arrests took place among the peaceful visitors, after being threatened, denied entrance and receiving a patently-shabby un welcome at the facility. Surely it was an eye-opening public interaction for the teenager, the grandmother, and the handful of other citizens asking federal representatives to honor their public trust by protecting the public’s fish—fish being annually obliterated for the last 49 years in the heart of today’s S.O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge—one of only two of 568 national refuge’s with “fish” specifically in its title.

TODAY! Our RIVER, Our REFUGE; OUR FISH! * Last Standout: 10 am, Sunderland Bridge or ** 4 pm US Fish & Wildlife HQ, Hadley

Posted by on 29 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, American shad, Connecticut River Refuge, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, FERC licensing process, FirstLight Power, Greenfield, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, P-2485, Public Sector Pension Investments, Rock Dam, shad, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Wendi Weber

TODAY! Our RIVER, Our REFUGE; OUR FISH! * Last Standout: 10 am, Sunderland Bridge, or ** 4 pm, US Fish & Wildlife HQ, Hadley

Dear Friends,

In 1997 our Connecticut River became the backbone and central artery of the S.O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge—an ecosystem-wide refuge encompassing the entire four-state Connecticut River Watershed. There are 568 national wildlife refuges, but just two specifically name “fish” in the title. One of them is OURS.

This December 2nd Canada-owned FirstLight Power has scheduled a final license “settlement” meeting with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and MA DEP–hoping to sew-up their venture capital interests in our river for decades. Their cash cow is Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station—since 1972 the river’s deadliest, net-loss power contraption. This flow-reversing, grid-powered machine inhales miles of living river; then spits it back for profit—with all its fish, insects and aquatic life, dead.

FirstLight’s final license application offer is a death trap. “FirstLight proposes to install a barrier net in front of the Northfield Mountain Project intake/tailrace to prevent the entrainment of migratory fish when the Northfield Mountain Project is pumping. The net will be approximately 30-foot-high by 1050-feet-long wide with 3/4-inch mesh from top to bottom.” That temporary net, August to November, has ¾ inch mesh so large it amounts to a lethal, suctioning doorway for millions of eggs, larvae and baby shad—and, those of 26 other resident and migratory fish.

THERE IS NO REFUGE FOR FISH on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. There’s only a death trap. So I am asking you to stand–one last time, ahead of FL’s grim, secrecy-filled December 2 meeting, and send a message to the US Fish and Wildlife Service: Our RIVER, Our REFUGE; OUR FISH! I long-ago vowed to bring our River’s relentless pillaging into the open across these last 9 years as a journalist and relicensing stakeholder—and that if there was one more thing to do to rescue this ecosystem for those who come later, I would not let it drop.

On Tuesday morning at 6 am, my dear friend and colleague Dave Dersham and I leave the Greenfield Common on a 20 mile protest walk to USFWS Headquarter in Hadley. We’ll carry fish nets–full of holes, representing FirstLight’s sham safety net. We’l reach Sunderland Bridge at 10 am, and hope you will meet us for a brief rally—with your own full-of-holes safety nets, stockings and signs to send a message to US Fish & Wildlife Regional Director Wendi Weber: Our RIVER, Our REFUGE; OUR FISH! Please bring a note card with a message to Ms. Weber we’ll deliver in writing at around 4 pm at the USFWS Headquarters, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley—just past the Rt. 116/Rt. 9 intersection. If folks met us there, we’d be delighted as well.

Thank you for marching to Northfield Mountain, to ravaged riverbanks where sturgeon can’t spawn, and standing out on the Turners Falls Bridge and Greenfield Common–for the letters to FERC, To the Editor, and the Oped pieces. Tuesday is “Giving Tuesday.” Let’s stand together to offer a real REFUGE to coming generations—and stop FirstLight’s grim license to kill.

The Connecticut River still “America’s best landscaped sewer” in Massachusetts

Posted by on 12 Oct 2021 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, Connecticut River, Connecticut River clean up, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Death-Sewer, Delaware LLC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, net-loss power, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, PSP Investments, source to sea, Turners Falls, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

The Connecticut River still “America’s best landscaped sewer” in Massachusetts Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Citizens standing against relicensing the river-killing Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station in Massachusetts on October 9, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Something is deeply wrong on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. That something is secrecy, obfuscation, and public agencies pointedly ignoring the forest for the trees. For 49 years the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station has been the number # 1 ecosystem disruptor and fish predator in the 4-state river system comprising today’s S.O. Conte Connecticut River US Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

So grim is this machine’s daily impact that it literally obliterates 100s of millions of fish and aquatic animals annually–consuming the river’s aquatic life via giant turbines that actually pull the river backward for miles and flush all that river life uphill into Northfield’s 4 billion gallon Death-Sewer each day. It’s an energy-squandering electricity resale scheme that is today netting Canadian venture capital firm PSP Investment wads of tax-sheltered cash via limited liability registration in the State of Delaware.

Thus, despite what’s been grandly touted in massive yearly hype for EXACTLY 25 INDIVIDUAL SATURDAYS since 1996, proclaiming a “cleaned-up river”–the Connecticut remains the grim, stilled, reversed and deadly, daily flush-sink it has been in Massachusetts for ALL of the NEARLY 18,000 DAYS of it’s operation since 1972.

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The grand irony of this massive ecosystem crime is that MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Holyoke-based ISO-New England whole-heartedly support the continued use of this FirstLight-branded, net-power loss, ecosystem killer in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing scheme that will last for decades. Meanwhile the Bay State has been home to the Connecticut River Watershed Council since 1952–as well as its quarter century of cleanup hype, while the US Fish & Wildlife’s Northeast Regional Headquarters (just 25 miles from Northfield in Hadley), has done nothing to shut the giant sucking mouth of Northfield Mountain’s death trap across their River’s quarter century as a US FISH & Wildlife Refuge

So in case you were wondering why these out-standing people are situated above the deadened Connecticut River and look content and happy to be doing something about it–these are the folks making a stand for a living ecosystem for the generations to follow. They are the people who never swallowed the Kool-Aid.

EMPTIED RIVER NOTES: May 19, 2021

Posted by on 19 May 2021 | Tagged as: 1872, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Endangered Species Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight, fish passage, Great Falls, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, Monte Belmonte, Northfield Mountain, Peskeomscut, Relicensing, Rock Dam, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls Massacre, United State Supreme Court, Vernon Dam Fishway

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

I took a bicycle ride 20 miles upstream to Vernon Dam this day in hopes of finding a few fish in the windows there. It proved a fruitless journey, though a pretty ride on a summer-like afternoon. There were plenty of lively bubbles in the windows, but not a single shad or early lamprey. Nothing.

The Vernon Fishladder and Dam Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

This was a river site smack in the midst of migration season that should have seen its first shad weeks ago. But here, on an 80 degree day, nothing.

The Connecticut’s DEAD REACH below Turners Falls Dam Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

That nothing is because the river downstream below Turners Falls Dam is all but empty. A thin stream of perhaps 1000 cubic feet per second is being dumped over the dam. What should be here, a full three years after the federal license for the hydro site expired, are flows on the order of 5X higher. That water, instead, continues to be dumped into FirstLight’s power canal in order to get an extra peak-priced power jump that puts more money in their coffers and leaves federal trust American shad and federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon starved of migration and spawning flows necessary for them to complete their life cycles in their natural habitats.

For the shad, that fully should now include the 50 miles of open spawning habitat above TF Dam that reaches to Bellows Falls VT and Charlestown NH. But, without water in the DEAD REACH for yet another year, their percentage-prospects for that are in the very low single digits.

The exposed and baking cobbles at Rock Dam, where shortnose sturgeon eggs and early life stage young are supposed to find watery shelter. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

And, the endangered sturgeon, well, the message from the company is simply–tough luck. Flows at their only documented natural spawning site in the entire ecosystem have be dismal at their Rock Dam nursery and refuge. They were Monday, and Tuesday, and again today. This is a river run by foreigners with no mercy. And, in the midst of all this–in the midst of a a relicensing for facilities whose current license ENDED three spawning seasons back, no one has stepped up for the Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon in their time of greatest need. Another season, another sidestep for federal and state fish and environment agencies who fail to act again… and again. And, just one more year for a river without a single independent watchdog–on the four-state Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National FISH & Wildlife Refuge.

This is a river that, 174 years after the US Supreme Court made the landmark(1872) environmental decision in HOLYOKE COMPANY v. LYMAN that dam and facility operators must ensure safe upstream and downstream passage for migratory fish, does not even have a single day-to-day attorney, as even the most bare bones watchdog organization would. And the one on this river has been around since Truman was president.

No water, no watchdog, no ESA enforcement. Corporate Canada–which today owns Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls/Cabot operations, has nothing to fear in this “refuge.” And, the other sad irony, not lost on me as I made my way upstream, is that today is the solemn anniversary of the Turners Falls Massacre, the grim genocidal event that wrested sovereignty from Native People in today’s southern New England on May 19, 1676. They were ambushed in the pre-dawn at Peskeomscut, the great falls, because they had come to the banks of a living river that would feed them, offer them water, shelter, and rest as it had for generations past. It was a respite that was not to endure…

Something there yet remains evident today in the starved riverbed. Recovery is still a dream denied to this place. There is yet little life. This a place that awaits healing water that might again make it whole once more.

Today it sits abandoned, reduced to computations and algorithms that see only money and megawatts as a river’s reason to be…

NOTE: Please click on the link below which includes an invitation to the WalK-the-Walk for Endangered Sturgeon to Rock Dam this Saturday. It is important that people show up for the River. Please join myself and others. And please be aware that there is some steep terrain on this walk.

https://wrsi.com/monte/how-to-save-the-shortnose-sturgeon/

GREAT CONNECTICUT RIVER SURVIVAL WALK DRAWS BIG MULTI-STATE CROWD

Posted by on 27 Apr 2021 | Tagged as: 1872, American shad, Bellows Falls VT, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Connecticut River Refuge, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Daniel McKiernan, Delaware LLC, Eversource, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC license, FirstLight, Haddam nuclear plant, Holyoke Dam, ISO New England, Julie Crocker, Kathleen Theoharides, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Martin Suuberg, Martin Suuberg:, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Millstone 1, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, NMFS, NOAA, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, NU/WMECO, P-2485, PSP Investments, Public Sector Pension Investments, river cleanup, Riverkeeper, salmon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Source to Sea Cleanup, State of Delaware, Treasury Board of Canada, Uncategorized, United States Supremed Court, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Vermont, Vermont Yankee

GREAT CONNECTICUT RIVER SURVIVAL WALK DRAWS BIG MULTI-STATE CROWD

Claire Chang of the Solar Store of Greenfield speaks to attendees. Note: see http://solarisworking.org/. Photo Copyright © 2021 by James Smethurst. All Right Reserved

Northfield MA. The biggest story on the 410-mile long Connecticut River this Earth Week did not center on yet another promo video or soft news story about people doing trash cleanups. It took place on Saturday, April 24th, when more than 70 people of all ages–from as far as Springfield, South Hadley and Northampton MA–all the way upstream to Putney VT, turned out for a 3-mile river walk to learn about the 50 years of devastation that the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station has wrought on their four-state ecosystem.

THE DAY’S SPEAKERS BEARING WITNESS

Attendees heard from host, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice’s Anna Gyorgy, about the long, deep connection of this river killing to nearly 50 years of nuclear power excess and damages (www.traprock.org). They heard from Claire Chang of the Solar Store of Greenfield about alternative energy, solar installation and bulk storage alternatives to destroying whole ecosystems. And, I spoke at length about the long, grim and deadly history that has brought us to a crossroads for a living future for the Connecticut River vs. this massively violent machine.

WHERE THE RUBBER NEVER MET THE ROAD

What people heard about was that shutting up NMPS’s killer intake pipes is the only river cleanup that matters. Doing just that would have saved a now-crippled ecosystem–had there been an actual watchdog organization on the Connecticut in 1972–or again, when Vermont Yankee’s license expired in 2012. Those are the cleanups that would have spared an entire ecosystem, decade-upon-decade of this hide-in-plain-sight sucking wound.

THE LEGACY OF FAILURES

They learned the Commonwealth Massachusetts has endlessly failed this ecosystem, facilitating its exploitation to the detriment of 3 other New England states by not protecting it. And, that the federal and state fish agencies have failed it as well by first chasing, then never relinquishing, their long-failed salmon experiment, for a fish not seen here since 1809. And also that the NGO claiming guardianship here since 1952, massively failed New England’s River–never stepping up to challenge and prosecute the devastation of the power companies, nor calling out or suing government agencies charged to protect it under state and federal law.

LANDMARK SUPREME COURT DECISION 1872: HOLYOKE CO. v. LYMAN

Living rivers do not flow backwards. People walked a mile and a half to the intake pipes of a deadly machine that has laid waste to billions upon billions of fish across a half century—literally suctioning them to death while pulling miles of river current into reverse. Folks learned that building of this net-power-loss, river-gorging appliance and the deadly impacts it created on migrating fish, particularly American shad—actually flew in the face of the 1872 landmark Supreme Court decision in Holyoke Company v. Lyman, a full century before NMPS was built. Given that law, it had no right to exist here at all.</strong>

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Robert Flaherty All Rights Reserved.

What did that landmark decision require of dam system owners and private companies operating on the Connecticut–and on all rivers of the United States a century and a half ago? It said all must provide safe fish passage, upstream and down of their facilities, as “public rights.” Visitors also learned that the Canadian owners of this 365-day-a-year slicing machine want only to provide a flimsy net, part way across its killer mouth, for just over two months out of the year. That will largely leave the eggs, larvae and juveniles of most species—including migrants, in full peril. Names of agency leaders charged with saving the river for our grandkids were supplied.

NOTE:text below derives from a The GREAT RIVER WALK handout

NO NEW LICENSE TO KILL: THE NORTHFIELD MOUNTAIN PUMPED STORAGE STATION: A HALF CENTURY OF WASTE, DEATH AND ECOSYSTEM DESTRUCTION.</strong> Notes from Karl Meyer, FERC relicensing Stakeholder and Intervener since 2012

To COMMENT: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Project License P-2485 (www.ferc.gov E-comments) Include your name, address, project # P-2485 and a brief. specific remedy for FERC to apply.

Owner:venture-capital firm PSP Investments, a Canadian Crown Corporation.
Operating in MA as: FirstLight Power Resources.
Current tax sheltering llc registration since 2018 out of MA & New England: in Dover, Delaware

NMPS is an energy consumer. It has never produced a single watt of virgin electricity. Every day this machine consumes huge pulses of electricity from the power grid to suck massive gulps from the Connecticut backward and uphill for hours on end at a rate of up to 15,000 cubic feet per second(cfs). That sucking pulls the Connecticut backward at times for over 3 miles downstream. SOURCE: FERC P-2485 relicensing Study 3.3.9 appendices.

This is not a hydropower plant; it is an energy wasting machine operating exactly like an electric toilet. It runs on imported electricity, profiting on the buy-low/re-sell high model.

RUNNING BACKWARD FOR DECADES

**VIEW Federal Power Commission document with link HERE FPC 1974 flow reversals

That 15,000 cfs is the equivalent of 60, seven-bedroom mansions being swallowed each minute, for hours on end—with everything from tiny fish eggs to full sized American eels obliterated by its turbines. Twenty-four species are subject to that suction. For shad alone it’s estimated that over 2 million juveniles and 10 million eggs and larvae die here annually. That’s just one species. How many billions of fish die annually, across all species—and now across 49 years? A fixed, monitored, year-round barrier screen, fully across its mouth was required.

NMPS then later sends that deadened water back down in peak-priced pulses for a few hours in the morning and afternoon at up to 20,000 cfs. A living river goes in, all that comes out is dead. The Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station does its killing in the heart of the Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National FISH & Wildlife Refuge. This Canadian company is operating in the heart of a four-state ECOSYSTEM, crippling and pulling it apart daily. It should be relegated to rare emergency use.

The scheme to pair this eviscerating machine with future ocean wind is a nightmare—fully a Greek tragedy. Ocean wind sent to kill its river babies. Future generations require a living river.

Energy should be consumed close to where it is produced. That is where the load is. In New England that load is at the coast. Large-scale compressed air plants can be built at New Bedford, Everett, Boston, Somerset and Middltown RI for large-scale wind energy storage. If FERC allows massive LNG export farms to be built at the coast, it can require space for “local” energy storage—right near all those current “natural” gas tank farms of today.Storage needs to be adjacent to those metro cities where it is consumed. That battery storage can be constructed is a given.

In the age of Climate disruption the goal of an electricity network–one safe from mass outages due to cyber attacks and wind and flood events–disrupting the current corporate mega-grid built for huge area energy relays, should be micro-grids and distributed generation.

That decreases vulnerability and will encourage CONSERVATION—never mentioned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or ISO-New England. That is the formula that begins to tackle climate disruption. It is time for Re-Regulation of the power grid. It is time for TRANSPARENCY in the Commonwealth’s energy policy–done behind closed doors with monopoly capital interests running the ISO-NE and NEPOOL table, while excluding even journalists from meetings. This plant squeezes the life out of approximately 1-1/2 billion gallons of Connecticut River water daily—its deadened re-sale power for export—for “load” consumers far from the small towns and cities of this 4 –state ecosystem.

NMPS was built by WMECO/Northeast Utilities(NU) to run off the bloated excess juice of their Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, 15 miles upriver. VY closed forever in 2014. NU today remains massively wired into and out of this facility’s energy resale loop. Today NMPS deadly consumption continues on 50% climate scorching natural gas, 25% nuclear from NH and CT, and 10% actual hydropower from Canada.


The massively fouled Connecticut River and NMPS’s intake tunnels on September 6, 2010. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

In 2010 NMPS choked on its own effluent, and unexpectedly did not run for over half a year after fouling its massive tunnels with silt and muck. Shut down from May 1st thru early November– after being hit with a “cease and desist” order from the EPA for secretly and illegally dumping that grim effluent directly into the Connecticut for months, in gross violation of the Clean Water Act. Nobody lost power during NMPS’s surprise shutdown for over half a year. That’s despite arguments from grid operator ISO-New England about how necessary its killer, daily re-sale juice is to keeping the lights on. Even during record-breaking summer heat in 2010—when VT Yankee even shut down for refueling, the power grid held together just fine.

What did happen in the 4-state ecosystem—quieted without Northfield’s massive disruption, was that dismal fish passage for American shad just downstream at Turners Falls dam shot up 800% above yearly averages for the previous decade. That was the ugly decade when NMPS began operating differently—after Massachusetts decided to deregulate electricity markets.

NMPS is an ecosystem-crippling, anti-gravity machine, gobbling vast amounts of energy to send a river into reverse and uphill—a buy-low/re-sell-high, cash cow regenerating set-up.

This machine is a crime against nature.

At a time when the planet is dying, you revive ecosystems. This river belongs to our grandchildren and the future, not to greedy foreign investment firms. The corporate concern here is merely the weight of water—live fish and living rivers are nuisance expenses. What would suffice here would be a bunch of pulleys and a giant anvil, like a Roadrunner cartoon. Stop killing the future for our kids.

ORIGINAL OWNER/BUILDER: WMECO/Northeast Utilities—completed in 1972 to run off the excess electricity from its sister plant, Vermont Yankee nuclear station, completed in 1972. NU also had ownership in VT Yankee. Today NU/Northeast Utilities is “doing business as” Eversource. Eversource remains massively wired into and out of NMPS/FirstLight facilities.
Eversource/NU never left us. They just decided to dump their creaky and massively-fined nuclear plants at Millstone and Haddam, to become a bigger, more concealed monopoly. What they did was transfer emphasis to T & D–Transmission and Distribution. They would make their bucks by CONTROLLING THE ENERGY TOLL ROAD. Note the massive new wire structures and the some 18-line-long laundry list of charges on your energy bill for simply for T & D. They have as yet not figured out how to get a kick back for delivering STATIC ELECTRICITY.

Eversource is perennially green-washed through its major-money sponsorship of the Connecticut River Watershed Council/Conservancy’s “Source to Sea Cleanup.” NU/Eversource and the Council (founded 1952) have a long, close, deep-pocketed history. Thus, this green-washed, river-killing apparatus has been quietly-enabled for decades.

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

The following companies are now in business as “wholly owned subsidiariesof 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

RESPONSIBLE FOR SECURING A LIVING RIVER FUTURE FOR OUR KIDS:

Kathleen Theoharides: Sec. of MA Energy & Environmental Affairs
Martin Suuberg: Commissioner MA Department of Environmental Protection
Ron Amidon: Commissioner MA Dept. of Fish & Game
Daniel McKiernan: Director MA Division of Marine Fisheries
Wendi Weber: Director Region 5, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Julie Crocker: Branch Chief, Endangered Fish Recovery unit, NOAA, Gloucester MA

It is time to break up the monopolies, re-regulate energy in Massachusetts for our children’s sake—and:RESTORE the CONNECTICUT RIVER ECOSYSTEM.

FISH NEED WATER, BUT NONE MORE THAN THIS SPECIES ON THE BRINK

Posted by on 28 May 2019 | Tagged as: Bob Flaherty, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Dead Reach, Endangered Species Act, Federal Recovery Plan, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC license, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, Turners Falls dam, WHMP

FISH NEED WATER, BUT NONE MORE THAN THIS SPECIES ON THE BRINK
Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer

Photo above is of the starved Connecticut River at the Rock Dam on May 13, 2018. Photo Copyright © 2018 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (CLICK, THEN CLICK TWICE MORE TO ENLARGE)

Simple recovery Rx for the federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon at its ancient spawning grounds: enforce uninterrupted spring flows (April – June) in the Connecticut River’s 3-mile long Dead Reach in Turners Falls.

Most years, spawning fails for this 100 million year-old fish, as flows are diverted out of the riverbed through manipulations of the flood gates at Turners Falls dam–operated from the control room inside the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, located five miles upstream.

The following links to a podcast from a River Report with Bob Flaherty that originally aired on WHMP in mid-May.

https://whmp.com/morning-news/a-federally-endangered-fish-may-finally-get-justice/

CONNECTICUT RIVER ALERT: FERC deadline looms

Posted by on 24 Jan 2019 | Tagged as: Canada, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conservation Law Foundation, Endangere Species Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Recovery Plan, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, FERC licensing process, First Light Hydro Generating Company, FirstLight, Greenfield Community Television, ISO New England, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Maura Healey, Natalie Blais, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Paul Mark, Public Comment period, public trust, Rock Dam, shad, Treasury Board of Canada, Turners Falls dam, USFWS, Vermont, Vermont Yankee, Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant

While federal fisheries stakeholders from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are shut out of the FERC relicensing process by the government shutdown, Canada-owned FirstLight Hydro Generating Company has maneuvered to split its assets on the Connecticut River. This is a slick move, and a punch in the gut to all that have been working in good faith on the understanding throughout–since 2012,that these long-co-run plants were to be covered by a single new license: per the power company’s standing, 5 year-old request.

Copy and paste link directly below to see a half hour on this suspect 12th hour maneuver, filmed for later airing on Greenfield Community Television.

NOTE: FERC has extended the COMMENT, PROTEST, and INTERVENTION deadline for Stakeholder to file Motions with them until February 8, 2019. Go back to www.karlmeyerwriting.com/blog and see second blog post following this on this one on how to submit at FERC.gov on Ecomments.

Redeem the promise at Great Falls

Posted by on 16 Nov 2015 | Tagged as: 5-year FERC licensing process, American shad, bald eagle, canal shad, Captain William Turner, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Daily Hampshire Gazette, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, FERC license, FERC licensing process, Greenfield Recorder, Holyoke Fish Lift, New Hampshire, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, Relicensing, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, shad, shad fishing, shortnose sturgeon, The Greenfield Recorder, The Recorder, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, USFWS, Vermont, Vermont Yankee, wildlife refuge

The following piece, with edits, appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder on November 12, 2015 as: “Federal wildlife service must preserve the promise at Great Falls,” and “River restoration retreat”

The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent abandonment of their flagship Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at Turners Falls defies all logic. In August they abruptly withdrew their on-site interpreter and funding for The Great Falls Discover Center. That center was located above the falls two decades back precisely because of the site’s importance as an ecological refuge—perched at a river crossroads critical to the success of their new “watershed-based” refuge.

Back then bald eagles had just returned to Turners Falls; it was once again the place that hundreds of thousands of migrating American shad surged to each spring. And just downstream was the sole natural site where the only federally-endangered migratory fish in the watershed–the ancient Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, attempted to spawn each May. Known as the Rock Dam, its an ancient geological formation that remains a premiere retreat for spring shad anglers. For its biological and historic importance alone, Rock Dam should have long ago been offered the Refuge’s first “in-river” sanctuary designation.

Yet today, USFWS seems ready to walk away from its core mission and long history on the river at Turners Falls. Doing so would be no less an historic retreat than that of Captain Turner and his battalion after their pre-dawn attack on hundreds of Native American women, children and old men seeking refuge at that very site nearly 340 years ago. On May 19, 1676–having accomplished their grizzly goal with the loss of just one man, they were sent in reeling retreat when the first counter-attacking Native warriors arrived from a downstream island encampment opposite today’s Rock Dam. They’d been stationed there to intercept the teeming May shad runs to help feed their people. Turner and 37 of his troops died in the ensuing rout.

Today, Turners Falls remains the site of the US Fish & Wildlife’s biggest regional blunder in a mission to protect a nation’s fish and wildlife resources on New England’s Great River. In the late 1970s they signed off on the plan resulting in a series of fish ladders being built there. It forced all migratory fish out of the river and into the Turners Falls Power Canal. That resulted in a half century of failed fisheries and habitat restoration—largely drawing the curtain down on a spring ocean-connection for riverine habitats in Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts. That 1967 USFWS/four-state migratory fisheries restoration compact for the Connecticut River still founders at Turners Falls today.

That is why the recent USFW’s retreat from their ecologically and historically unique flagship perch remains inexplicable. Currently federal hydro-relicensing studies of dam and canal operations at Turners Falls are taking place. Their outcomes will determine environmental conditions governing the Connecticut River in this reach for two generations to come. The USFWS is playing a key role in these studies as the lead agency empowered to define and require changes at Turners respecting the protection and restoration of the public’s federal-trust and federally-endangered fish species there. In short, they’re at a crossroads. They are the key player able to restore past mistakes and make the Conte Connecticut River Watershed National Fish and Wildlife Refuge a true refuge for annual migrants passing from Connecticut to Massachusetts; then Vermont and New Hampshire.

That long-awaited success would occur at the doorstep of the Great Falls Discovery Center–replete with its life-sized displays of watershed fish and wildlife, and its accessible public auditorium. It’s a huge opportunity at a site virtually on the river, easily reachable by visitors from a broad swath of southern New England travelling the I-91/Route 2 Corridor. Great Falls is the only brick and mortar place for the public to regularly interact with USFW staff and a diversity of displays of characterizing watershed habitats for 80 miles in any direction. What’s more it’s the only publicly-funded flagship Refuge site where admission is free.

Without a touchstone site in this populous reach of the watershed, most citizens will remain unaware of the restoration and conservation work of the USFWS. They’ll be left to surmise instead that Conte is more a theoretical Refuge—a concept and an amorphous jumble of disparate parts lacking any true core.

In practice and in theory, Turners Falls and the Discovery Center site represent the best of opportunities for the US Fish & Wildlife Service to succeed in their core missions of conservation, restoration, public access and education. A second retreat at Turners Falls would be an historic failure. This fabulously rich reach of the Connecticut is uniquely situated to showcase the Service’s long-awaited success in river restoration on the public’s behalf. Many mistakes could be redeemed with the right decisions at this time. Don’t abandon the Great River at the Great Falls.

Public comments are being accepted through November 13th on the USFWS’s plans for Conte Refuge priorities for the next 15 years at: www.fws.gov/refuge/silvio_o_conte/

Karl Meyer
Greenfield