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Greenwashing, or How Many Times Can You Sell a Dead River?

Posted by on 09 Mar 2022 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, fish kill, Greenfield Recorder, Julie Crocker, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Mark Tisa, Martin Suuberg, Martin Suuberg: Commissioner MA Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts DEP, Nation's best landscaped sewer, net-loss power, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, right-to-know, Rock Dam, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Recorder, The Springfield Republican, UMass, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wendi Weber, Will Ryan

It’s like an old joke: HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU SELL A DEAD RIVER? In the case of the Connecticut River and the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project the answer is: Twice a Day for Fifty Years!

And the new answer to that old joke–if our federal and state leaders fail to step up again for this ecosystem: TWICE A DAY FOR 100 YEARS AND COUNTING!

Participants in a 2016 program at the fragile Rock Dam spawning habitat of the shortnose sturgeon that I did with Boyd Kynard.

Please, if you missed it in the Daily Hampshire Gazette or The Recorder, read BELOW the terrific op ed by Will Ryan, a UMass graduate and Northfield Mountain investigator, along with his colleagues. Will attended one of my river programs at the fragile Rock Dam spawning habitat of the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon. It sunk in–what a failed and unprotected ecosystem exists in Massachusetts, and that there really has never been a watchdog here to force the corporations or the agencies to comply with established law. It’s seen as merely a cash cow, run amok.

https://www.masslive.com/opinion/2022/03/firstlight-is-greenwashing-effects-on-health-of-connecticut-river-viewpoint.html

Joyriders descend on the fragile Rock Dam habitat, an ancient, starved and embattled place that many of us consider sacrosanct for its biological and cultural significance.

In a time when the very fabric of the Earth is rapidly fraying, it would be criminal of public officials to turn their back on the chance to revive the key living artery of our ecosystem. The US Fish & Wildlife Service, MA Dept. of Environmental Protection, MA Fisheries & Wildlife and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries must step up now. The ugly scale of this antiquated scheme is to relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station to literally continue sucking away the life of the river for the next half century–re-marketing its deadened flow as twice-produced, net-loss megawatts to places as far away as New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Right now leaders of those agencies are getting a second chance to do what’s morally and ethically required to assure there’s a Connecticut River legacy to pass on to future generations. Will they stand up, or will they bow to a short-sighted, long-term corporate cash scheme that trades an ecosystem for a net-loss, mega-scale power export configuration?

Predecessors of those four agencies failed disastrously 50 years ago by agreeing to allow that uninvestigated, brutal and lethally-disruptive machine to be installed on the Connecticut River. Today, that deadly contraption is being cleverly rebranded as clean, renewable and Earth-friendly–pedaled as the single best idea to accomplish energy storage for future generations here. In fact, its brutality has been unparalleled in this river’s natural history.

River-killing pumped storage is a 20th century crime, put forward in place of any number of energy storage and delivery configurations that should already be in place by 2022. It’s as if the only way to keep the lights on is to kill the very thing that has literally fed and sustained life in this Valley for millennia.

If you are lucky, you literally get one second-chance a century to conserve, protect and enforce the environmental protections left endlessly unattended on New England’s Great River. Like so many people in the Connecticut River Valley, I would never be the person who would turn their back on restoring this region’s critical ecosystem artery after a half century. That wholesale slaughter has come entirely at the hands of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project.

The Connecticut is a river without a bona fide protector, one with not even an NGO who can say they employ a single staff lawyer after 70 years of watershed council/conservancy window dressing. That’s what has left this ecosystem in tatters for generations. The corporations and the environmental agencies have never had a single thing to fear as the half century disaster rolled along….

Right now, the Connecticut River’s survival as this ecosystem’s most vital organ rests in their hands. It’s way past time our public trust agency leaders actually walked the talk. It’s time for them to stand up for the River’s life, and for those who come later. Here are their names. Use them, publicly. No river should die in the dark. They are being mentioned in Letters to the Editor, and No License to Kill filings with FERC:
Wendi Weber, Director Region 5 US Fish & Wildlife Service, wendi_weber@fws.gov; Martin Suuberg, Commissioner of MA Dept. of Environmental Protection; Mark Tisa, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, mark.tisa@state.ma.us; Julie Crocker, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries ecosystems and energy branch chief, julie.crocker@noaa.gov,

And, finally, and once more–time is short in this relicensing process. FirstLight is again making claims they will have the fed/state agencies bought and sold in their secret, backroom license negotiations by March 15th. However unlikely, it is still time to keep up the pressure NOW! If you haven’t, or know someone who can, get them to take public action with FERC and the leaders noted above.

Again, here’s the NO License to Kill filing process for FERC–please share it, get someone to write, write a new letter yourself, NOW!

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.

And thanks to all, or almost all–because this is hardly a complete list of those who have written FERC or op eds, or letters, or shown up on bridges and made signs. We’re still in the game! Think, if you can, of doing something NOW, a letter, asking a friend. Something that pushes this River’s life out of the backroom shadows and into the light. There is only NOW! RIGHT NOW!

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.

More Connecticut River citizens’ defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watershed Council HQ has a private library within…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE ARE THE LATEST:

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

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

thank you,
Elizabeth Erickson
Colrain, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONNECTICUT RIVER DEFENSE EVENTS Ramp up before this Saturday’s “No License to Kill” Rally on the GREENFIELD TOWN COMMON

Posted by on 19 Oct 2021 | Tagged as: Andrew Fisk, Connecticut River ecosystem, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight Power, fish kill, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, Kathleen Theoharides, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Mr. Caleb Slater, Mr. Charles Baker, Mr. Gordon van Welie, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, Ms. Donna Wieting, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, pumped storage, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wendi Weber

Connecticut River Defense Events Ramp up before this Saturday’s “No License to Kill” Rally on the GREENFIELD COMMON at 11 a.m.

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

It is inspiring to witness the strength and commitment of citizens rising to defend the Connecticut River against any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing of Canadian-owned FirstLight Power’s massive lethal daily suctioning at Northfield Mountain. READ BELOW! These people are saying NO to a license for Northfield Mountain, NO to licensing the virtual obliteration of all natural characteristics of a living Connecticut River in Massachusetts—the critical artery at the center of the 4-state Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge; NO to Northfield Mountain, FirstLight’s river-killing, energy-sucking cash cow.

All THIS, ahead of Saturday’s 11 a.m. RALLY on the Greenfield Town Common against the secret talks between Canada’s FirstLight and US Fish & Wildlife, MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, MA Department of Environmental Protection to auction off the life of an ecosystem that belongs to FUTURE GENERATIONS.

Again, this Saturday, October 23, 11-noon, on the Greenfield Town Common: NO FIRSTLIGHT/NORTHFIELD FERC LICENSE TO KILL! Rally.

From The Recorder from Susan Olmsted, this great piece:
https://www.recorder.com/my-turn-olmstead-FirstLightMethodAffectsCTRiver-42975815

Also airing TODAY at 6 pm, and repeating on the EnviroShow on Valley Free Radio—or anytime with the second link below, I speak with Don Ogden (d.o.) and Glen Ayers about “river-cide”
https://envirosho.blogspot.com/
https://archive.org/details/ct-river-enviro-show-interview-with-karl-meyer-10-14-21

AND ON THURSDAY, at 7 pm, I will give a Zoom talk entitled “LIVING RIVERS FLOW DOWNSTREAM” with the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library.
Please join in by requesting a link by emailing: librarian@greenfieldpubliclibrary.org

juvenile Connecticut River American shad, dead

Do share this with your local leaders and representatives. Where do they stand? Will they attend??

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

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

Turners Falls Stand-out Returns Against River Extinction

Posted by on 08 Oct 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, fish kill, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Turners Falls, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

Turners Falls Stand-out Against River Extinction, Saturday, Oct.9, 11- noon Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

As secret relicensing talks between Canadian-owned, Delaware-registered FirstLight and federal and state environmental agencies are taking place, citizens are again returning to the Turners Falls Bridge above the Connecticut to demand an end to the ecosystem slaughter occurring daily at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project.
Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

On September 18 over 50 people took to the bridge demanding a halt to the annual FirstLight slaughter of 100s of millions of fish and aquatic animals.
Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

STILL ENOUGH WATER IN THE DEERFIELD RIVER FOR FISH?

Posted by on 16 Aug 2019 | Tagged as: American shad, bass, Connecticut River, Deerfield MA, Deerfield River, Deerfield River watershed, ecosystem, fish kill, migratory fish, monitoring, Pocumtuck, sea lamprey, shortnose sturgeon, Stillwater, trout, water withdrawals

Still enough water for fish in the Deerfield River?

Text and photos Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All rights reserved.

(Click 3 X to enlarge)

Rivers are the central arteries of ecosystems. When a river is damaged or broken—anywhere from its headwaters to its mouth, that system withers; its aquatic life falters.

Just above the mouth of the Deerfield River are the few miles of a reach known as by many as Stillwater. It’s the home of trout, bass and other resident species, as well as hosting several migratory species during and spring, summer and early fall. The weeks from late spring through summer are critical for fragile young-of-the-year fish in these reaches. They are the progeny that will carry-on and replace future generations of aquatic life.

For hundreds of years the fertile lands on both sides the Deerfield River south of Deerfield Academy have been cultivated for life-giving crops—corn, squash, onions, etc. Like the fish that historically fed generation upon generation of Deerfield denizens going back to the first planters, the Pocumtuck, these fields produced life-giving crops. They were crops that grew well in the moist, fertile soils of southern New England–in harmony with this climate’s ample supply of annual rainfall.

But the Deerfield crop profile has changed drastically along those last miles of the river. Though corn is still significant, and big fields of pesticide-ready potato plants are still planted today, there are now hundreds of acres devoted to throw-away, one-time use annual flower cultivation—as well as roll-away turf farms that cart away that local “crop” to unknown developers and developments. These new plantations of intensively water-hungry crops have started dominating the bottomland meadows here over the last 15 years. Today, an energy intensive marijuana growing facility will soon locate in the meadows, also looking for a constant water supply.

What these new boutique crops have in common, besides depending on migrant workers to manage them under the intense summer sun, is massive irrigation. Miles of over-, under- and above-ground piping now dominates the landscape—pumper trucks and self-propelling sprinklers sucking up arcs of water from the lower Deerfield River like it was California’s Central Valley. This is occurring near its intersection with the Green River, and just two miles from the Deerfield’s confluence from the Connecticut–the outlet back to the sea for all migratory fish.

This suctioning is happening in the heat of the summer months, when eggs and young of fish are developing in those shallow, low-flow Stillwater reaches. How much water is being taken from the river at these critical times? How many fish are being inhaled? How do these withdrawals affect the river’s temperature at a time when fragile young need to feed? Rivers and their aquatic life belong to everyone.

Is anyone monitoring this ever-increasing siphoning of flow from the Deerfield River?

All photos Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All rights reserved.
(Click 3 X on any of the photos below for a broader view.)



“Clean, renewable” labels don’t apply

Posted by on 01 Oct 2018 | Tagged as: Ashuelot River, Bellows Falls, blueback herring, canal shad, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, crippled ecosystem, Dead Reach, ecosystem, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Endangered Species Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, FERC license, FirstLight, Fish and Aquatics Study Team, fish counts, fish kill, fish kill on the Connecticut, fish passage, fishway windows, Holyoke Fish Lift, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, New Hampshire, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Reservoir, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, nuclear power, PSP Investments, Public Law 98-138, pumped storage, Relicensing, resident river fish, Saxtons River, Scott Pruitt, shad, shortnose sturgeon, Society of Environmental Journalists, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont, Vermont Digger, Vermont Yankee

Copyright © 2018 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: the following piece appeared in VTDigger, www.vtdigger.org in September under the heading “Clean, renewable” labels don’t apply when crippling an ecosystem.”

TERMS OF ENTRAINMENT: a Connecticut River History


NOTE:in this photo are over 170 juvenile shad, among the many thousands killed in the recent de-watering of the Turners Falls Power Canal. The power canal is where the bulk of the Connecticut River is diverted into for most months of the year. So, when they drain it, they are killing the river. However, if you look at this photo and multiply that death toll by 10,000 you begin to get some idea of the mortality counts for young-of-the-year shad entrained annually–and un-tallied across nearly five decades, at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. (CLICK, then CLICK twice more to enlarge photos.)

At 2:41 p.m. on May 20, 2018, a lone blueback herring appeared in the windows at Turners Falls Dam among a school of larger American shad. It was a small miracle. Barely a foot long, it was the first blueback here since 2005, and there would not be another this spring. Like those shad, its life had already spanned four springs, swimming thousands of ocean miles in shimmering schools. It re-crossed bays and estuaries of seven states and two provinces before reaching this Connecticut River juncture. In doing so it had survived sprawling drift nets and repeated attacks from sharks, bluefish, spiny dogfish, cormorants, seals and striped bass.

All these fish were seeking to spawn and give their young a head start as far upriver as currents, time and temperature would allow. Unfortunately, five miles upstream sat the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, a river vacuuming machine capable of out-killing all their natural predators. For the next 20 miles they’d be vulnerable to its impacts.

NMPS has inhaled river fish of all species and sizes daily for nearly half a century. Results from a river sampling study Juvenile Shad Assessment in the Connecticut River, were released in June by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. They estimated NMPS’s 2017 operations resulted in losses of some 15 million shad eggs and larvae, plus the deaths of between 1 and 2-1/2 million juvenile shad. That’s for just one species.

On April 20, 1967, years before Northfield was built, federal agencies and four states signed the Statement of Intent for a Cooperative Fishery Restoration Program for the Connecticut River, agreeing to restore runs of American shad, salmon and blueback herring upstream to Bellows Falls, Vermont and beyond. The migratory shortnose sturgeon had already been listed as endangered. Continuing today under Public Law 98-138, its mandate requires utilization of “the full potential of the fishery resources of the Connecticut River including both anadromous and resident species,” providing “high quality sport fishing,” and meeting “the long term needs of the population for seafood.”

American shad are still commercially fished today just 60 miles downriver. They’ve provided seafood to this valley for ages, yet most people in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts don’t know they were promised a “just share of the fishery harvest” back in 1967. All remain without, while shad continue to grace dinner and restaurant tables in Connecticut every spring.

Running on imported power via the buy-low/sell-high model, Northfield can suck the river into reverse for up to a mile downstream. It devours everything captured in that vortex at 15,000 cubic feet per second. Think 15,000 milk crates, for hours, to fill a 5 billion gallon mountain reservoir. The result is 100% mortality for all fish entrained. During peak-use and/or peak-price times—or both, it sends the deadened water back through its turbines as twice-produced electricity.

NOTE: more of the TF Canal kill here in another location–including mostly juvenile shad, but also a bluegill, several mud-puppies, and a young sea lamprey. Again, this is just a whisper of the year round fish kill occurring upstream at Northfield Mountain.

Northfield was built to run off Vermont Yankee’s excess nuclear megawatts. But even after VY closed in 2014, its carnage continued, unchallenged, rather than being relegated to emergency use. Having never produced a watt of its own power, its 46 years of accumulating carnage are yet to be tallied. That herring might have been heading for New Hampshire’s Ashuelot or Vermont’s Saxtons River, and those shad were perhaps steering for the Great Eddy at Bellows Falls. Regardless, any progeny would later face Northfield’s net-loss-power impacts heading downriver come fall.

Currently it pumps mostly at night when Canadian owners PSP Investments can purchase cheap electricity to suction the river uphill. Later it’s released as second-hand juice at peak-of-the-day profits. Promoters claim the benefits of dispersed solar and wind power can’t be realized without first relaying their renewable energy across the region to this lethal storage machine for later resale in markets far beyond the Connecticut Valley. “Clean, renewable” labels don’t apply when crippling an ecosystem.

NMPS boosters include (now-former) EPA Director Scott Pruitt, who made a sweetheart visit there last Valentine’s Day along with Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Neil Chatterjee. That occurred as PSP was requesting to suction yet more water from the Connecticut and applying for a new long-term FERC license. The next day FERC announced a major policy shift, potentially increasing both Northfield’s daytime use and its profits.

Since an 1872 landmark Supreme Court ruling indemnifying Holyoke Dam, all hydro facilities have been required to safely pass the public’s fish, upstream and down. But that 1967 agreement had this warning: “Based on the present fragmentary data available on the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, it appears that this project poses definite limitations to an anadromous fish restoration program. These limitations involve the physical loss of eggs, larvae and young fish of both resident and anadromous species, and an orientation problem for both upstream and downstream migrants attributed to pumping large volumes of water.” Today the 20 mile reach hosting Northfield remains a migration minefield—while some 30 miles of open Vermont/New Hampshire spawning habitat above Vernon Dam sits essentially empty.

Holyoke Dam has annually lifted hundreds of thousands of shad and herring upstream since the 1970s. In 2017 it recorded its second highest shad numbers ever, 537,000 fish. Each spring, half or more of those shad attempt to pass Turners Falls. Less than 10-in-100 will succeed. Of those, some 50% drop from tallies and are never re-counted at Vernon Dam after entering the 20 miles impacted by Northfield. The blueback herring record at Turners Falls was 9,600 in 1986, out of the 517,000 counted 36 miles downstream at Holyoke that year. Of those 9,600 Turners herrings, just 94 reached Vernon Dam. Turners Falls saw another 7,500 blueback herring in 1991; just 383 reappeared upstream at Vernon.

Any new long-term FERC license must comply with federal and state law protecting endangered and public-trust fish. In seeking a new license, PSP’s main proposal for limiting Northfield’s massive carnage has been the test-anchoring of a few yards of Kevlar netting in the riverbed in front of the plant’s suction-and-surge tunnel. Those flag-sized yards of mesh, after a few months deployment, are supposed to effectively model how a 1,000 foot-long “exclusion net”–deployed seasonally in the river over the next decades, might halt the entrainment deaths of out-migrating adult–and millions of juvenile young-of-the year fish, heading back to the sea. Presumably, Northfield’s mouth would remain wide open to the ecosystem’s fish throughout the rest of the year.

In light of longstanding research the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission have set shad passage goals requiring that a minimum of 397,000 pass Turners Falls; and a minimum of 226,000 pass Vernon Dam. It’s a certainty that a new fish lift will be required at Turners Falls under any new license, modeled on the long-term success of Holyoke’s lifts. But the ultimate question is this: can Northfield comply with federal and state law protecting the four-state ecosystem’s fish in order to be granted a new FERC license?

END

Karl Meyer has been a stakeholder and member of the Fish and Aquatics Study Team in the current FERC relicensing process for the Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls projects since 2012. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Connecticut River oil spill and fish kills

Posted by on 20 Sep 2018 | Tagged as: cleanup, Connecticut River, environmental cleanup, fish kill, fish kill on the Connecticut, Greenfield, oil spill, Turners Falls, Turners Falls power canal

Copyright © 2018 by Karl Meyer, All Rights Reserved

Greenfield, MA September 20, 2018. A Greenfield fuel oil spill early Thursday morning extended for nearly a half mile from the ridgetop on Turners Falls Road downhill to the bridge over the Connecticut River and beyond the Green Bridge over the Turners Falls Canal into the Village of Turners Falls. Greenfield DPW members had spread absorbent sand and an officer was warning vehicle operators and cyclists to use caution. But as of 9:00 a.m., no environmental cleanup outfit was on site.

Meanwhile, in the Turners Falls Power Canal many thousands of dead fish remained visible four days after the annual de-watering of the canal–which essentially gets substituted for the main channel of the Connecticut River’s Dead Reach most months of the year. Hundreds of fish were still panicked and dying in the remaining pools in the canal bed. Among the carnage were also mud puppies, tiny sea lamprey, and thousands of freshwater clams. (CLICK, then CLICK again, and AGAIN to enlarge photos)