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The Connecticut River BUZZ: the NO LICENSE TO KILL podcast with WHMP host Buz Eisenberg, and the LATEST FERC citizen filings

Posted by on 30 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: Andrew Tittler, Buz Eisenberg, CommonWealth Magazine, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, CRC, crippled ecosystem, critical habitat, E-Comments, ecosystem, Endangered Species Act, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC license, FirstLight, Jesse Leddick, Kathleen Theoharides, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Martin Suuberg, Martin Suuberg: Commissioner MA Department of Environmental Protection, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, Nation's best landscaped sewer, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, right-to-know, shortnose sturgeon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Wendi Weber, WHMP

The Connecticut River BUZZ: hear the NO LICENSE TO KILL podcast with WHMP host Buz Eisenberg, Greenfield Community College professor and attorney focused on civil liberties and human rights. Eisenberg represented detainees at Guantánamo Bay for 12 years beginning in 2004.

VALLEY CITIZENS CONTINUE TO HOLD OFF FirstLight’s plans in their fight for a living river; see their latest NO NEW NORTHFIELD FERC LICENSE on-the-record testimonies and the WHMP Afternoon Buz podcast link, BELOW:

1/27/2022: FirstLight’s crumbling, manganese-weeping Connecticut River banks adjacent to the Rock Dam river pool–beleaguered spawning and nursery site for the federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon.

* Legitimate watchdogs file INJUNCTIONS the second they find corporate infractions. They don’t look the other way in the face of ecosystem destruction for decades…

https://whmp.com/podcasts/the-afternoon-buzz-1-25-22/

Manganese-laced slurry directly entering critical habitat for the shortnose sturgeon. CRC refused to take water samples at this site, though they want to open it up to kayaks and rafts, and the attendant swimming that occurs here.

Document Accession #: 20220127-5119 Filed Date: 01/27/2022
Cynthia Lawton-Singer, Conway, MA.

“I strongly oppose the relicensing of the Northfield Mountain hydroelectric plant. The system requires more energy input to power itself than the energy that it will create. This contraption regularly disrupts and destroys the ecology of the river as it sucks every living organism out of the river and passes it through turbines. In doing this and then releasing the water from the mountain-top reservoir back into the river, the flow of the Connecticut River is reversed, once again disrupting the living creatures in the mile up and down stream from the outlet. The pump is powered by natural gas. A gas-powered pumping machine that seriously disrupts a MAJOR , four-state river’s ecology ( including endangered species, the Short-nosed Sturgeon), and is a net-energy CONSUMER, has no business calling itself a “green” or “sustainable.”

The damage done, in addition, to the river banks and to the aesthetic appeal of the Connecticut River leaves the Northfield community with a damaged and unappealing natural resource. The River should be an asset that will help the economy of the town bringing in tourists and sports-persons. Because of the disturbances on the river, none of the potential ecological or economic value of the Connecticut River is available to the Town of Northfield Massachusetts or to any of the upstream communities in Vermont and New Hampshire which would benefit from a return of the Short-nosed Sturgeon and a living river. We MUST not continue to make the mistake made 50 years ago and relicense this monstrosity. Another fifty years of this will seal the fates of countless species and deprive communities along the entire course of this river of a living beautiful, healthy Connecticut River. Again, PLEASE DO NOT relicense! Think of future generations. Thank you for your serious consideration of these objections.”
Any credible watchdog would have filed for an INJUNCTION for the deadly, suctioned and reversed river miles at Northfield Mountain, and the grim conditions for endangered sturgeon years ago. It would long-ago have been placed IN-THE-RECORD and prominent–as critical defense in this FERC relicensing. A poser would tell people that its fine to wait until AFTER federal and state agencies sign a secret 50-year settlement deal with FirstLight. A 70 year-old organization without a single staff lawyer would have people believe they can fix these little problems afterward

Document Accession #: 20220125-5000 Filed Date: 01/25/2022
Andy Rothschild, Greenfield, MA.

“Given the environmental challenges that our planet and its inhabitants face today and the increasing challenges that it will face over the next fifty years, it doesn’t make any sense to me to relicense the Northfield Station. The system requires more energy input to power itself than the energy that it will create. All the while, doing damage to the Connecticut River, its banks and the fish within it. Please think long and hard about the damage that would be done in the present and for the next crucial fifty years of our planet’s existence. Thank you.”

Document Accession #: 20220124-5001 Filed Date: 01/24/2022
Anna, Arlington, MA.

“I strongly oppose the relicensing of the Northfield Mountain hydroelectric plant. While shifting energy production to renewables is a pertinent step in battling the climate crisis, such a transition must be done in a manner that takes necessary precautions. This hydro plant reverses river flow and disrupts essential ecosystems of the Connecticut River. It is powered by natural gas. These two facts alone are reason enough to reconsider calling this project “green” or, even remotely sustainable. The Connecticut River, home to globally significant tidelands and 10 federally threatened aquatic species, is a watershed that spans four different states: VT, NH, MA, and CT. An estimated 2 million people live in the CR watershed. It is with utmost importance that we protect the river, not further degrade it’s well-being. The Northfield Mountain hydro plant should therefore be denied recertification.
Thank you.”

HERE ARE THE RESPONSIBLE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS AND THEIR NEGOTIATION REPRESENTATIVES who are meeting behind closed doors with FirstLight:

wendi_weber@fws.gov, Director Region 5 US Fish & Wildlife Service; Martin Suuberg, Commissioner of MA Dept. of Environmental Protection; andrew.tittler@sol.doi.gov, lead council at the table for USFWS; melissa_grader@fws.gov, at the table for our migratory fish; julie.crocker@noaa.gov, National Marine Fisheries Service Endangered Fish Recovery Branch Chief (endangered sturgeon); william.mcdavitt@noaa.gov, at the table for our migratory fish; mark.tisa@state.ma.us, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, jesse.leddick@state.ma.us, Chief of Regulatory Review MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.

AGAIN, if you haven’t yet submitted testimony–or know of others who want to defend our River’s right to survive as a living system, here’s the FERC formula to share:

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.

This is THE PUBLIC’S RIVER!

NOTE: River ecosystem protection is inextricably linked to uplands and forests: see this great piece from Commonwealth Magazine:
https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/use-our-forests-to-fight-climate-change/

CONNECTICUT RIVER UPDATE: STAY THE COURSE; KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

Posted by on 20 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Connecticut River, Connecticut River blog, Connecticut River ecosystem, conservancy, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, critical habitat, E-Comments, ecosystem, EPA, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC license, FirstLight, Holyoke Co. v Lyman, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, migratory fish, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, public trust, right-to-know, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service

A Connecticut River deluge of citizens “no License to kill” defense pours into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

READ THOSE DEFENDERS NAMES in the list below…

STAY THE COURSE; KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

* * Also: On Sunday, January 23 at 10:00 AM, on Occupy the Airwaves, I join Paki Wieland, Bob Gardner and Emikan Sudan, to speak about these critical weeks for the future of the Connecticut River as FirstLight Power tries to nail down secret negotiations to relicense the devastation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station for another half century: https://www.facebook.com/VFROccupytheAirwaves/ I hope you can listen and TAKE ACTION! * *

Occupy the Airwaves can be heard every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM on Valley Free Radio, WXOJ-LP, 103.3 FM, in Northampton, MA. Shows are re-broadcast every Friday at 3:00 PM, and can be streamed at www.valleyfreeradio.org.

HERE IS THE LIST OF THE LATEST CITIZEN HEROES of Connecticut River DEFENSE. NOTE: Update continues further below:

Joseph W Stubblefield, Sanjay Arwade, Jonathan S Shefftz, Jamie Rowen, Michael Giles, William H. Pete, Nicholas Reich, James Lowenthal, Katharine Sims, William Daniels, Paige Wilder, Karl Meyer, Shayla G Freeland, Mary J Metzger, Robert Arbib, C Grecsek, Malcolm G Everett, Mike Cournyn, Robert Catlin, Don Ogden, William N. Ryan, Elizabeth Whitcomb, Judith Nietsche, Celt Grant, Susan Olmsted, David B. Keith, Glen Ayers, Virginia Hastings, Annie Chappell, James Seretta, Ron Barto, Robert Dickerman, Pamela Scott, Tanya Dragan, Lin Respess, Rebecca Tippens, Sigurd Nilsen, Peggy Matthews-Nilsen, Amy Rose, Steven Wilkinson, Stephen Kerr, Nancy Obertz, Dorothy McIver, Robert Sweener, Seth Wilpan, Norma Roche, Fergus Marshall, Louise P. Doud, Vicki Citron, John Nelson Jr., Jon Burgess, Robert F Porzio, Garrett D Connelly, Dave Dersham, Betsy Corner, Graham Hayward, Sid Siff, Paul Richmond, Betsy Browning, Rebecca Robbins, James Smethurst, Laura Doughty, Mary Hall, Laura Kaye, Frank Ribeiro, Andrew Hutchison, Mark Russo, Judith Phillips, Priscilla Lynch, Molly Freeland, John Hoffman, Roberta Murphy, Dodi Melnicoff, Ethel S. White.

These folks have gone on the record with FERC in recent weeks and months, stating no new license should be issued for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. They are from up and down the Connecticut Valley, from the Bay State’s border with Connecticut, up to Putney VT. I hope I haven’t skipped any of these people who understand ecosystems and have had the courage to defend ours for those who come along after. Many have also made their defense stronger by posting it in the public press. Thank you all, and stay the course!

These River’s defenders have staved off FirstLight’s secret license-to-kill negotiated plans with US Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, MA DEP and MA Fisheries & Wildlife. THEY ARE SUCCEEDING: * NO SECRET AGREEMENT has yet been signed!! *

Don’t get sidetracked: STAY THE COURSE; KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

OF CRITICAL NOTE:

I’ve been forwarded some posts recently. They appear to be some watershed rhetoric claiming to have discovered a last-minute, secret mechanism that can change the trajectory of this federal process at the state-level–AFTER a negotiated deal has been signed by the big-dog players and forwarded to FERC for approval.

That Cinderella idea seems to be just more window dressing from those who’ve failed to engage openly with the public in this 10 year fight. There have been decades–and numerous opportunities for any bona fide watchdog to file lawsuits on any number of flow, critical habitat and wetlands infractions and flagrant ecosystem damage across half a century.

New England’s River has been left on life-support here in Massachusetts—reversed, comatose and massively-deadly at Northfield for the last half century. There have been no lawsuits; there have been no challenges—under the Clean Water Act, Rivers and Harbors Act, Endangered Species Act, the 1872 Supreme Court ruling in Holyoke Company v. Lyman. None stood up as responsible public trust agencies for decade upon decade as the river was left in ruins as the Nation’s best landscaped deadly sewer in the Commonwealth.

We’ve just never had a real watchdog here. If there had been one it would have sued federal and state agencies and taken on a power company long ago. Defenseless for 50 years… YOU DON’T STAND BY WATCHING THE HORSE LEAVE THE BARN!

At this time, in this top-down federal process where big-time forever decisions are being made beyond the public eye, the key place to put the pressure on the agencies charged with protecting our public trust is straight to the top: GOING ON THE RECORD WITH THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION. Every FERC entry these defenders made has also been seen and registered in the licensing files by MA DEP, US Fish & Wildlife, MA Fisheries and Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries. These folks are getting a constituent earful.

wendi_weber@fws.gov, Director Region 5 US Fish & Wildlife Service; andrew.tittler@sol.doi.gov, lead council at the table for USFWS; melissa_grader@fws.gov, at the table for our migratory fish; julie.crocker@noaa.gov, National Marine Fisheries Service Endangered Fish Recovery Branch Chief (endangered sturgeon); william.mcdavitt@noaa.gov, at the table for our migratory fish; mark.tisa@state.ma.us, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, jesse.leddick@state.ma.us, Chief of Regulatory Review MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. Forward them your Letter; then maybe forward it to the MEDIA for broadening the public record!

It is pure fantasy that it will be possible to “save the river” and make key changes to a top-down negotiated federal deal AFTER these key agencies have signed some giant ecosystem compromise with venture capital FirstLight for the next 50 years. It’s pure fantasy, bravado, and soft-pedaling of the critical juncture we are at right NOW.

The only sensible, just and moral position to take with the future of an ecosystem that must be revived to support coming generations is simply: NO LICENSE TO KILL. That’s what’s at stake right now—telling our public agents there can be no deal sanctioning a half century of massive fish kills and river reversals here in Massachusetts, in the heart of the S.O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. ONCE it’s signed, there will be little if anything left to re-bargain over. The time is NOW.

There is no sugarcoating what’s at stake RIGHT NOW in secret Connecticut River federal relicensing negotiations occurring behind closed doors between FirstLight and fed/state agencies. It’s no less than the future of a living Connecticut River ecosystem. Critically, what takes place and gets secretly-signed in that backroom closet between FirstLight’s venture capital lawyers, and federal and state environmental trust entities is likely to seal the life-or-death fate of a broken ecosystem here for what ‘s essentially its last chance at revival. There are many examples of terrific testimony and river defense in the other blog posts on this site.

AGAIN, if you haven’t yet submitted testimony–or know of others who want to defend our River’s right to survive as a living system, here’s the FERC formula to share:

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.

This is THE PUBLIC’S RIVER!

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/

CONNECTICUT RIVER IMPEACHMENT DAY

Posted by on 15 Feb 2021 | Tagged as: Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, conservancy, critical habitat, defense, Endangered Species Act, EPA, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, FirstLight, impeachment, IS IT CLEAN?, Monte Belmonte, Northfield Mountain, podcast, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, The River, Turners Falls, Uncategorized, water lab, WRSI

CONNECTICUT RIVER IMPEACHMENT DAY: FEB.13,2021
Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The Connecticut River and the effluent entering it at the Rock Dam in Turners Falls on February 13, 2021. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Rock Dam. Ancient fishing place at Peskeomscutt. Critical habitat, gathering and spawning place for the Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon–federally endangered fish with genetics as old as the ancient basalt that defines their habitat. Rock Dam, ancient cultural site where the riverbanks fail in yards-wide gashes, bleeding an oozy orange puss that flows in a constant ribbon into the age-old riverbed there.

(FOR A PODCAST< related to this post go to: https://wrsi.com/monte/saving-rock-dam-from-damnation/. It is from WRSI/The River radio, with host Monte Belmonte)

This is how ecosystems die, how a planet dies, bit by little bit–day after day. Sixteen months ago I submitted documents and pictures of this degradation to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All parties, stakeholders, and federal and state fisheries agencies were apprised of my FERC report and intervention. All have long staked claims as this great river’s protectors.

Ever-so-slowly FERC responded to my report of critical habitat degradation by absurdly requiring FirstLight do its own investigation of their bank failures and discharge running to the only documented natural spawning site of the only federally endangered migratory fish in the river. FirstLight, in representing itself, found itself exonerated of responsibility. Blame for the constant red tide was somehow placed at the feet of the public.

Day by day, by day, by day, by day–this is how a river rots, while so many sit on the sidelines. Day by day, in the midst of an endless legal relicensing process addressing environmental conditions in New England’s River, the assault continues, the banks fail–the orange sludge enters. A simple act of courage would have sufficed: just scoop some bank sludge, have it analyzed. Take a beaker’s worth of water to your lab; run a test.

If you brag about your water quality lab and–yet week after week, month upon month, season after season, ignore the grim juice invading critical river habitat right on your Greenfield doorstep, you are a failed entity. You have no valid claim as a solution, you are this river’s problem. If riverbanks fail in the most critical reach of the main stem river in the midst of relicensing on your watch and you don’t sue, your erosion committee is just window dressing.

Today two conservancies lay claim to championing New England’s Great River. But there is no conservancy in evidence here–no rescue, no enforcement, no prosecution. There’s been no sampling, even as little fish promo rescues were videoed in the muck-filled power canal just 100 yards away. Upstream in the actual riverbed, more happy-time swimming podcasts were filmed, while not a single lens was pointed at the Rock Dam pool’s grim debasement, a quarter mile distant. Sixteen months, and a deafening silence here–while congratulatory broadcasts are run celebrating how the Connecticut was cleaned-up and saved… Really. Really? Cleaned up, saved???


The Rock Dam spawning pool, the most critically endangered habitat on the entire Connecticut River. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Here, at the most critical habitat in the entire river ecosystem, it might as well be 1940. It appears the Clean Water Act applies only to other rivers; the Endangered Species Act–that’s a law for somewhere else. To protect the life force of a river requires diving in like an ER doctor, protecting the core at all costs. Any ancillary PR busy work around the tributary edges can happen sometime down the road. The victim must be stabilized, first, lest there’s nothing left to save.

If you lay claim to a river, you have a duty to preserve, protect and defend. Not when its easy; not just where it won’t ruffle any feathers. Today, there is no defense for what is here, on this river–central artery of a fish and wildlife refuge. Truth is, there is NO DEFENSE ON THE CONNECTICUT RIVER, no entity posting-up against corporate abuse. None exercising the courage or integrity to prosecute a real defense.

Conservancy here, appears to equate with comfort zone. Its a safe place, in a refuge where the by-word seems to be simply–go along to get along. Podcasts are no substitute for intervention and prosecution; filing endless pages of testimony is merely more talking-the-talk.

Enforcement is what’s been missing on New England’s river these last 70 years. In its absence the life force of an ecosystem has teetered on the edge of viability for generations in the Connecticut’s critical reaches at Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain. Today the grim faltering can be easily witnessed daily at the Rock Dam in Turners Falls, where hour upon hour, day after day, critical habitat is bathed in failure; a great river remains undefended.

On other Northeast rivers–ones smaller, and with much younger organizations formed for their defense, things are handled differently, directly. They take defense as an obligation; they employ staff lawyers, investigate, and take action. Instead of remaining silent and sidelined for generations while tethered to the cash handouts of the corporate chow-line–when they witness crimes they take the bastards to court.

Here, with no watchdog to fear, they are playing for keeps.

END NOTE: generations of Canadian shareholders at PSP Investments, FirstLight’s parent owner, are very much looking forward to enjoying the profits from a river and ecosystem shredded by the daily net-loss operation of Northfield Mountain. What will our great grandkids think of what we failed to do here?

IS IT CLEAN? Connecticut River at its most Critical Habitat

Posted by on 27 Jul 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, Cabot Woods, Connecticut River, Connecticut River riverbank failure, critical habitat, Endangered Species Act, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, FirstLight, FISH and Wildlife Refuge??, manganese pollution, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Turners Falls power canal

IS IT CLEAN? Connecticut River at its most Critical Habitat
Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

THIS LITTLE PHOTO ESSAY WAS taken in the early morning hours of July 26, 2020, on the Connecticut River at the Rock Dam. This would be another brutal 90 degree day in this fragile site on a largely dewatered river. This is the Connecticut River at the Rock Dam pool, which is the critical spawning site for the endangered shortnose sturgeon. American shad also spawn here. Also, it may well be the last refuge in this river section for the state-endangered yellow lampmussel.

The photos begin by showing the Connecticut River looking upstream at the Rock Dam, and then trace the grim soup entering the site from the failing riverbanks of FirstLight’s Cabot Woods area, adjacent to the Turners Falls Power Canal. Basically, it walk you back along the manganese and iron muck trail heading up the riverbank along FirstLight’s eroded and crumbling access, and then takes you up top–looking back down on the failing sludge slumping down to the river, and then to their scoured-out, wood chipped picnic area, before the added in pictures of the adjacent canal/swamp–the obvious source water for the seeping sludge pollution.

I will let you judge for yourself as to: Is it CLEAN? And, more importantly, IS IT PROTECTED??
(CLICK ANY PHOTO X3 to ENLARGE)

Looking across and upstream on the river at Rock Dam. Endangered species habitat? Really??
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


A sneaker adds a bit of perspective.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Connecticut River below Rock Dam, with the cobbled area in the background where shortnose sturgeon larvae are supposed to find shelter and protection to develop.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Red pool feeding into base of Rock Dam habitat.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Sludge close-up, going uphill from where the owners simply dumped rubble down the banks in years past. What Clean Water Act?
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The grim red soup, looking up the slumping banks from Rock Dam to FirstLight’s Cabot Woods ‘picnic’ area…
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The eroded, unmaintained “access” path leading down to Rock Dam, with abandoned stair pilings visible in background.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


From above, FirstLight’s failed banks leaching down to the Connecticut from above the Rock Dam.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Looking down to Rock Dam over FirstLights failed riverbanks.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


This chipped-tree path of scoured out woods leading to Rock Dam.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
What’s the activating source water for these failed Connecticut River banks? Humnnn…Just a few hundred feet away sits the TURNERS FALLS CANAL.
This picture is from 2009, the last time the canal swamp was mucked out.


This is TF Canal July 24, 2020. It is now more swamp than canal in its location adjacent to the Connecticut at Cabot Woods/Rock Dam
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


This is TF Canal July 24, 2020. This is a swamp.
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED