MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

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

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

A CONNECTICUT RIVER DAY OF MOURNING:

NO RIVER SHOULD EVER DIE IN THE DARK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No license to kill”: citizens defend the Connecticut River at its ecosystem graveyard—Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station

Posted by on 06 Feb 2022 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River blog, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Delaware LLC, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC license, FirstLight, fish kill on the Connecticut, Great River Hydro, Greenfield Recorder, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, NMFS, no license to kill, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, PSP Investments, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Greenfield Recorder, The Recorder, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont

In an unrelenting drumbeat of filings to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, citizens throughout the Connecticut Valley are demanding that no new license be issued to Canada-owned FirstLight for their Delaware-tax-sheltered Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station here in Massachusetts.

https://www.recorder.com/my-turn-gyorgy-FirstLightLicensing-44862677

Please read the excellent opinion piece ABOVE from last week’s Greenfield Recorder by Anna Gyorgy, then continue further BELOW to read the latest group of on-the-record citizen filings to FERC insisting that a new license to kill be denied at Northfield Mountain for this venture capital outfit. KEY EXCERPTS from the most recent CORPORATE filings to FERC can be found at the end of this post.

IN THE LATEST INDICATION of the strength of opposition to a new Northfield license FirstLight just missed another self-targeted deadline to have its secret license negotiations with US Fish & Wildlife, MA Dept. of Environmental Protection, MA Division of Fish & Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheres Service all buttoned up and ready to send off for FERC approval.

IN THEIR LENGTHENING FAILURE to put the last nails in this four-state ecosystem’s river-reversing, fish-killing coffin, FL was forced to request “that the Commission continue to defer issuance of its Ready for Environmental Analysis (REA) Notice until after February 28, 2022. FirstLight anticipates requesting the Commission to further defer the REA Notice until after June 30, 2022, to allow the parties time to negotiate a comprehensive, binding settlement agreement that aims to fully resolve all relicensing issues.

THOUGH THIS MAY APPEAR to be merely yet another of FirstLight’s series of month-long delay requests–it’s actually admitting they’ll likely not have this thing safely in their Delaware-registered tax bag until July of 2022 or LATER. What it really says is that they foresee stumbling blocks to getting agreement on allowing the impacts of this river-killer with the public agencies charged with protecting the Connecticut River ecosystem. It’s being negotiated on their watch. They are responsible for defending our so-called, “S.O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge,” our ‘only’ “National Blueway”–and what remains today our drop-dead-deadly, ‘nation’s best landscaped sewer’ right here in Massachusetts.

It is the PEOPLES’ voices that are doing this by writing and filing with FERC:
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! It deserves to LIVE. And, it deserves a real WATCHDOG– YOU!! Thanks to all for raising your voices.

ALSO, this new podcast with OCCUPY THE AIRWAVES on Valley Free Radio:
https://archive.org/details/occupy-the-airwaves-1.17.2022-karl-meyer

BELOW are the latest citizen filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:

Document Accession #: 20220207-5017 Filed Date: 02/07/2022
Pat Graves, South Deerfield, MA.

Many things have changed in recent years. I urge that no relicensing of
FirstLight’s Northfield Mt. Pumped Storage Station take place without
careful consideration of the benefits and harms. At this time it appears
that the harms far outweigh the benefits.

Document Accession #: 20220207-5014 Filed Date: 02/07/2022
Anne Naughton, Shelburne Fls, MA.

Hello,
Please DO NOT renew Firstlight’s lease on the Northfield Mountain Pumped
Storage Project, P-2485.

The Connecticut River is not replaceable. We can get electricity from other,
less destructive sources.

Sincerely,
Anne Naughton
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Document Accession #: 20220204-5174 Filed Date: 02/04/2022
Wayne Pleasant, Turners Falls, MA.
Feb 4, 2022
REF: P-2485 FirstLight vs River Wildlife

Dear FERC
Please deny the license for the Northfield pumped storage system. I have lived on the CT river all my life and have seen first hand the incredible damage that they do to our river.

The system is not “Green Energy.” It consumes more energy that it produces. It is only used for making more money for FirstLight and not to benefit consumers and the environment. It severely damages the shoreline by raising and lowering the water level and thus associated wildlife.

It causes unnatural waterflows that damages and compromises the river environment for endangered Short Nosed Sturgeon.

Sucks up and kills large and small fish through its turbines. No proposed net will stop small fish and associated eggs from being sucked up and killed.

NOTE: If I were to kill this many fish every day I would be arrested for violating protected species rules.

Please do not issue a license to this facility to kill more wildlife.

Thank you,
Wayne
(** NEW filings continue below **)

Document Accession #: 20220204-5027 Filed Date: 02/04/2022
James Terapane, South Deerfield, MA.

I am writing regarding P-2485 Northfield Pump Storage re-licensing process. First off, I am, with many other local citizens, opposed to re-licensing this facility as it currently operates. The disruption of the CT. River ecosystem that this and other First Light Hydro facilities create is
unacceptable.

I demand that FERC allow for public comment as required by Massachusetts DEP review of the re-licensing so that all information related to this process be presented to the public and the citizens of United States be heard. Let’s not forget that First Light is a foreign owned entity whose interests are not necessarily in line with ours, the American Citizens who’s river resources are being borrowed for profit.

We citizens of the Connecticut Valley have worked hard to protect and use our rivers in a sustainable manner and will continue to do so. The idea of the facility being used as a “battery” is a clever pitch but we don’t buy it, not at the cost of the continuing destruction the river ecology. Please don’t cloak this crude way of using the river as “Green”. What is being done to our river is anything but Green Thinking.

Now is the time for bold solutions that secure a reliable power source AND protect our environment. I urge First Light Company, if they must have their battery, to use what ever innovative brain power they have in their company to solve this problem of river and fish destruction otherwise you are not welcome to use our resources.

The people of this region have brought forth many innovative problem solving ideas and pioneered the American Hydro power industry so I urge the managers of First Light to step up to the plate and address how to solve this problem. If they don’t have any ideas we can help them out.

Document Accession #: 20220204-5025 Filed Date: 02/04/2022
Wendy Sibbison, Greenfield, MA.

I oppose the relicensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage Station because its immediate and long-lasting harm to the ecology of the river and to its living inhabitants outweigh “both in ethical and economic terms” any benefit to the public of FirstLight’s plan to transport and store energy, far from its source, for later generation at a net energy loss.

AND BELOW ARE DIRECT EXCERPTS FROM FirstLight’s most recent filing with FERC, and–further below that, from Great River Hydro’s filing noting that it is being held back in their relicensing of their non-lethal, Vermont river facilities due to the successive delays requested by PSP Investments-owned, FirstLight at Northfield.

Document Accession #: 20220131-5365 Filed Date: 01/31/2022
Alan Douglass Regulatory Compliance Manager

“FirstLight continues to discuss fish passage, minimum stream flows, and project operational issues with federal and state resource agencies, and certain non-governmental organizations. FirstLight and the agencies have reached conceptual agreement on minimum stream flows, upstream and downstream fish passage facilities, and certain operational measures. The parties are continuing to make progress on the remaining operational measures, at which time they intend to execute an AIP.”

“In light of the significant progress of FirstLight and the relicensing participants in achieving conceptual agreements, FirstLight requests that the Commission continue to defer issuance of its Ready for Environmental Analysis (REA) Notice until after February 28, 2022. FirstLight anticipates requesting the Commission to further defer the REA Notice until after June 30, 2022, to allow the parties time to negotiate a comprehensive, binding settlement agreement that aims to fully resolve all relicensing issues.”

Alan Douglass
Regulatory Compliance Manager

Great River Hydro’s VERNON DAM facilities and its non-lethal fish passage for migrating fish in New Hampshire and Vermont.

BELOW, is text excerpted from GRH’s FERC filing:

Document Accession #: 20220203-5098 Filed Date: 02/03/2022
John L. Ragonese
FERC License Manager
Great River Hydro, LLC

“In the most recent status report, FirstLight Licensees announced conceptual agreements with a number of relicensing participants on several key issues and that they were close to reaching agreement on other key issues. The filing asks the Commission to further defer issuance of the REA Notice until after February 28, 2022, to allow relicensing stakeholders to reach agreements in principle. It also suggests that they intend to request the Commission further delay issuance of the REA Notice until after June 30, 2022, to allow for the development of a binding settlement agreement that the parties. GRH anticipates the Commission would reasonably hold off issuing the REA Notice for at least six months, in order to consider an executed settlement agreement between FirstLight Licensees and stakeholders as a preferred alternative in an amended application.”

“At this point in the process, however, there is no reason for the Commission not to issue the REA Notice for the GRH Projects. Even if the Commission further defers the REA Notice for the FirstLight Projects for another six months, it can still prepare a multi-project environmental impact statement for all five projects.”

“GRH has consulted with federal and state fishery and water quality agencies, and we are authorized to state their support GRH’s request for the Commission to move forward.”

Sincerely,
John L. Ragonese
FERC License Manager

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/

The Connecticut River NOW! Defenders are taking their case directly to FERC; here’s why!

Posted by on 23 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, Connecticut River ecosystem, CRC, CRWC, Delaware LLC, Extinction, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC license, FirstLight, Jo Comerford, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Natalie Blais, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Source to Sea Cleanup, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

DON’T BE DIVERTED: The Connecticut River NOW! Defenders taking their case directly to FERC; here’s why!

* * * POST UPDATE: letter from today’s (Tues. 1/25/22) Greenfield Recorder. It nicely outlines FirstLight/Northfield’s massive impacts on a SINGLE town: https://www.recorder.com/ltr-field-ConcernsAboutPumpingStation-44673061


Federal and state agency reps, plus CRC’s Andy Fisk at a meeting of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission. The US Fish & Wildlife Service, MA Fisheries & Wildlife, and the Connecticut River Conservancy have all signed in FirstLight’s non-disclosure agreement as they meet in secret.

With scores of citizens stepping up to defend our ecosystem, FirstLight’s secret January deal plans for the river have been thwarted. And more are writing in… These are folks who understand that–while many of the planet’s ecosystems seem to be foundering, if you are offered ONE CHANCE to turn the light’s BACK ON after a half-century of a massively broken Connecticut River ecosystem at Northfield Massachusetts, you DO NOT SQUANDER THE OPPORTUNITY. Certainly not for those who come after…

* * * ALSO UPDATED: Please see the TWO latest FERC testimonies sent directly–and on-the-record to FERC, at the end of this post. * *

ALSO, tomorrow, TUESDAY, at 4 p.m., I speak with attorney Buz Eisenberg on: The Afternoon Buzz | Shows | WHMP 101.5 / 1240 & 1400 AM.


Some of my personal river heroes…

DON’T BE DIVERTED! A new, out-of-the-box, save our river “opportunity” is today being pedaled to the public by two non-profits–one of which has signed FirstLight’s non-disclosure agreement. It’s a vague, dangerous idea at this critical juncture–belatedly promising that a sleek state legal angle can magically be employed over the next year to rescue the Connecticut River at Northfield from another 50 years of ecosystem strangulation AFTER a FirstLight federal settlement deal has been sent along to FERC with state agency signatures.

Right now, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and MA Div. Fisheries & Wildlife are meeting in secret negotiating sessions with Canadian-owned, Delaware LLC-registered FirstLight Power to try an ink a grizzly “settlment” agreement to relicense the deadly operation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station for the next 50 years. They’d wanted to have a signed deal by now that they could forward to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval. But strident public protest to FERC appears to be keeping state and federal agents from caving-in to another half century of a strangled Connecticut River.

The people are denying FirstLight from getting its way here.

This just-launched, last minute, state-pressure ploy comes off as both ridiculous and self-serving. THIS HAS BEEN A DECADE-LONG FEDERAL PROCESS–the tail won’t be wagging the dog here in Massachusetts on this four-state river system.

Once the SECRET DEAL in this slogging 10 year FERC process is inked at the highest levels–there will be NO magic mechanism at the MA wetlands level that has a snowballs-prayer-in hell to retrieve this crippled river from another half century of venture-capital devastation at Northfield. New England’s Great River will continue on as the “nation’s best landscaped” DEADLY sewer” here in Massachusetts. MA Dept. of Environmental Protection is at the backroom table in this process! Let’s be honest here…

Believing the brutal disruption, chaos and massive aquatic killing by FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain can be legislated ONCE a closed-door settlement deal is signed with the federal/state agencies meeting with Firstlight, is irresponsible MAGICAL THINKING. Some are even clinging to the notion that FERC will make a ruling ordering that BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars must be spent to site, engineer and build a whole new Northfield reservoir that would exclude the use of river water. Think about that! Who would do it? Who would pay? It’s just not possible–or true.

BUT ALAS! FL is being thwarted in their plans by citizen input sent directly to FERC, with new, on-the-record statements demanding no new license be issued for deadly operations at Northfield, not another half century wasting massive amounts of energy to pull our river into reverse–literally for miles, in a buy-low/sell high 50 year profit scheme here in the Massachusetts.

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.

* * * HERE IS JUST THE LATEST citizen testimony entered into the record at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:

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.

Document Accession #: 20220121-5069 Filed Date: 01/21/2022
Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, Turners Falls, MA.

I live between the mighty Connecticut River and the Turners Falls Power Canal in a little island neighborhood called “The Patch.” The canal runs right past my backyard. I am a big believer in creating clean, fossil-fuel-free energy and I know that some of what First Light is doing is toward that end.
But it is unconscionable how much water is drawn from the river to keep the canal flush. I watch it go from a gorgeous raging river to a trickle from one day to the next, creating an ecological disaster for the aquatic life in that river. Specifically, the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon. Down the street from my house on the river at the so-called â€oeRock Dam†is one of
the best known, if not only, spawning locations of this endangered fish. And yet First Light continues to interfere with the flow of the river, even during spawning season. They might wipe out an entire species. And yet there is little to no acknowledgement of their risking ruining spawning year after year.

And no clear plan to stop under the new proposed license.
Further, the ecological disaster known as the Northfield Pump Storage station, which literally sucks the river flow backwards up to a mile away as it pumps, is also decimating what fish do manage to make it over their currently ineffective Fish Ladder in Turners Falls. While I’m pleased there will be a new way for fish to pass over the dam, until Northfield Mountain’s facility becomes a closed circuit, rather than a river sucking, fish massacring machine, First Light should not be granted a new license.
We have one chance left to save the shortnose sturgeon. If First Light is granted this license, as it is written, it’s game over for that federally endangered fish. This is a federal license. There is a fundamental disconnect in not doing our utmost to protect a federally endangered fish. And the disconnect between what good Northfield claims it provides, contrasted with
the uncountable millions of fish it is killing there each year is more than we who love our river can bear. Please reconsider this current license. Please make sure First Light is held to account and changes course before it changes the course of our river and its watershed.

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!

NO DEAL: amid public opposition FirstLight’s secret Northfield Mountain settlement plans stumble.

Posted by on 10 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, American shad, Canada, Clean Water Act, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Endangered Species Act, EPA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC license, FirstLight, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, migratory fish, Nation's best landscaped sewer, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Public Comment period, shad, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS


NO DEAL: amid public opposition FirstLight’s secret Northfield Mountain settlement plans stumble.

Failing in December to secure a secrecy-shrouded agreement, foreign-owned FL petitions FERC again for what’s now an open-ended “Delay of Action/Extension of Time” request. Thus the opportunity for critical public testimony in FL’s Federal Energy Regulatory relicense bid for Northfield remains WIDE OPEN. (**SEE simple FERC filing instructions at end of post)

As scores of public testimony to end Northfield Mountain’s devastation has poured into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of late, secret license deals with federal and state fish and agencies here in Massachusetts continue to elude FirstLight Power. The MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, US Fish & Wildlife, MA DEP and the National Marine Fisheries Service–responsible to the public for protecting the Connecticut’s migratory and resident fish, flows, and water quality under established law, are legally empowered with “conditioning authority” to end the half century of slaughter wrought by Northfield’s deadly suctioning. They currently hold the keys to determining if the Commonwealth hosts New England’s river-reversing, ecosystem grim reaper for more decades to come.

Democracy for coming generations means not leaving our river in the hands of a private corporation for ANOTHER half century.

FirstLight filed their latest FERC delay bid on January 4, 2022, the same day as Ethel White of Easthampton filed her FERC testimony stating, “I write concerning the Northfield, MA hydroelectric plant application for recertification. I strongly request that recertification be denied,” Meanwhile, FirstLight, that same day filed a “Continued Request to Defer Issuance of Notice of Acceptance / Ready for Environmental Analysis” with FERC for their Delaware tax-sheltered MA facilities here. Yet, with this latest delay request it appears they’ve discovered their venture capital plans for the Connecticut River are not being swallowed whole here in New England.

Parent-owned by Canadian venture capital giant PSP Investments, FirstLight has once again punted on deadlines in what has now become a decade long slog to continue the massive predation of the region’s key ecosystem artery, after a full half century. In its own January 4, 2022 filing FirstLight again begged FERC for relief of its own previously promised deadlines: “FirstLight requests that the Commission continue to defer issuance of the REA Notice until after January 31, 2022, to allow the parties to focus on the agreement in principle. If the parties are able to reach an agreement in principle by that time, they will then request that the Commission further defer issuance of the REA Notice to allow for negotiation of a fully developed, binding settlement agreement that the parties would submit to the Commission as an offer of settlement pursuant to 18 C.F.R. § 385.602.” An “REA” is FERC-speak for “ready for environmental analysis.”

In its Final License Application FirstLight’s big bid as a concession for the massive sucking fish kill annually at Northfield was a temporary 1,000 foot net, with ¾ inch mesh, to be deployed from upstream, and angled to near its suction tunnels to deflect some of the 24 species of adult fish from its giant, river-reversing vortex. That is literally a year round open door to the obliteration of 100s of millions of eggs and tiny young of developing migratory American shad and the two dozen resident and migrant species of the river—but in particular the key spawning, rearing and out-migrating months between late May and mid-October…

Importantly in that regard, the window for DEMOCRACY on our Connecticut River remains wide open for citizen to go on the public with FERC, and as well in the region’s media. Of late, literally scores of citizens have done just that, in FERC testimony that Northfield’s devastation must end and no new license be offered to FirstLight.

Below is Ethel White’s full January 4th on-the-record testimony, from the same day FL requested more FERC time for their venture capital plans for New England’s Great River, its life, and the future generations who are all entitled to a living ecosystem.

* * But first, here’s how you can stand up, on-the-record, in this critical time for the Connecticut River’s future:

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.

Document Accession #: 20220104-5000 Filed Date: 01/04/2022
Ethel S. White, Easthampton, MA.

I write concerning the Northfield, MA hydroelectric plant application for recertification. I strongly request that recertification be denied. Your commission’s decisions are key to how we deal with climate change. The vast majority of Americans believe that climate change is one of the top issues of today, if not THE top issue. We are on the brink of losing our planet’s ability to sustain human life, and large hydroelectric plants are not beneficial to rivers, aquatic life, or human existence. The Connecticut River is a vital artery in New England, and losing it to environmental degradation would be a tragedy. I hope the Commission will regulate this particular energy source in the proper way, by closing it down.
Sincerely, Ethel S. White

* * Agency heads and personnel representing the public trust:

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.

A Connecticut River extinction rebellion

Posted by on 30 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: American shad, blueback herring, Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Death-Sewer, Delaware LLC, E-Comments, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Extinction Rebellion, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, FISH and Wildlife Refuge??, Holyoke Co. v Lyman, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Reservoir, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, nuclear power, P-2485, pumped storage, right-to-know, shad larvae, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

A VIRTUAL CONNECTICUT RIVER extinction rebellion has been taking place in the region over the last 10 days. Since December 20, 2021, over three dozen people have gone on the record with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stating, unequivocally–and in the clearest terms, that NO new license should be issued for the continued operation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station by FirstLight. You can read testimony from the latest thirteen people in the text that follows.

Many have taken this action upon being apprised of some of the most basic information about the high stakes games for the Connecticut’s four-state ecosystem being played out behind closed doors right now. Many learned of this through my Opinion piece, “Last light for New England’s Great River” that appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder on December 2oth and 21sth, https://www.gazettenet.com/my-turn-meyer-LastLightCtRiver-44127152 .

It outlined the perilous place our ecosystem is teetering in as “confidential” final license settlement negotiations between Canada-owned FirstLight and MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, MA Div. of Environmental Protection, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries have been taking place during this month.

This citizen action has galvanized amidst the great void of leadership and wholesale lack of enforcement of any and all state and federal environmental statutes on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts these last 49 years. It’s been a half century of predation on a Connecticut River wholly lacking in a watchdog–in a state where a devastated 23 mile-long ecosystem reach literally flows backwards for miles at times, and virtually millions of resident and migratory fish are been obliterated, annually by the massive, daily, energy-squandering suction of Northfield Mountain’s turbines in their venture capital electricity resale boondoggle.

juvenile Connecticut River shad, dead

* *and this killing is NOTHING compared to the millions of juvenile fish extinguished at Northfield annually. Shad a just one species out of two dozen inhaled and obliterated there–an annual extirpation of literally hundreds of millions of juvenile and adult fish, eggs, and aquatic creatures each year.

Today in Massachusetts the Connecticut River at Northfield remains the deadliest “Nation’s best landscaped sewer”–far more drop-dead-deadly for fish and aquatic life than in the decades prior to the Clean Water Act.

I’m certain, if this river had a voice it would be raising it now to say thank you to the folks below, and the many others, who are taking a stand to save the soul of this ancient ecosystem. To read their words, please follow down.

* * ALSO, as we are at the holiday break, there is STILL time to enter your own on-the-record testimony to FERC. This ecosystem does not belong to FirstLight, or the Commonwealth, or the “environmental” agencies that have so long failed to protect it. It belongs to the children of the future. HERE’S HOW TO ENTER YOUR TESTIMONY: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 giant mess in 2010 made when Northfield operators failed at flushing out the accumulated muck, detritus, and death that had been sucked up from the river into their 4 billion gallon reservoir for years. They clogged their mile-long suction tunnels with several feet of mud, and later got caught and ordered to CEASE AND DESIST by the EPA, after dumping truck-load after truck-load of polluting muck directly into the river for over 90 days straight. In direct violation of the CLEAN WATER ACT. This is the MASSIVE RIVER DREDGING OPERATION the EPA ordered. Northfield went down for over HALF a year, yet everyone’s lights stayed on…

* AND HERE ARE THOSE WORDS OF SOME OF THE OTHER FOLKS CURRENTLY TAKING A STAND:


Document Accession #: 20220103-5000 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Laura Kaye, Northfield, MA.

Dear Commissioners,
I would like to add my voice to those of my neighbors and fellow citizens of Massachusetts, who have written many thousands of words to you in support of our great Connecticut River, which has been so adversely impacted by the pumping station in Northfield – from the waste of energy from fossil fuels burned to send water uphill just so it can flow down back into the river, to the destruction of fish, and more recently impacting our tax base. Please read the detailed comments that so many people have sent to you and DO NOT approve the re licensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumping Station. For the people and the environment upon which we depend for our continuing survival.

Document Accession #: 20211230-5080 Filed Date: 12/30/2021
Mary Hall, South Hadley, MA.

I am seeking to comment on FirstLight’s relicensing bid for the NorthfieldMountain Pumped Storage Station on the Connecticut River.

I consider it is past time for that Pumping Storage Station to cease operation. The ecological costs of operation, as detailed by Karl Meyer of Greenfield, Mary J. Metzger of Westfield, and others is far too great for continued use of this facility to be justifiable.

Mr. Meyer explains how, in order to continue operations, FirstLight has undertaken to avoid tax payments for its use. In the event the facility was economically viable, it would not be necessary to obtain a tax shelter for it to continue to operate.

The Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station is a giant counterbalance to all of our efforts to maintain and restore our Connecticut River ecosystem. There is nothing anyone can do in advocacy for fish and other aquatic life that can remedy the harm that the Storage Station produces. To say again: The fact that FirstLight thought they needed a tax shelter for the Storage Station testifies to the fact that, even as a business, it is not economically viable.

I ask FERC to deny FirstLight’s bid to relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station for the sake of all aquatic life in our beloved Connecticut River ecosystem.

Document Accession #: 20211230-5007 Filed Date: 12/30/2021
Laura Doughty, Wendell, MA.
RE: Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings FERC Project Number P-2485

I urge FERC in the strongest possible terms: Please do NOT relicense First Light’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility. If we are to have anychance at keeping a livable planet, we must start *now* to use wiser and more efficient energy storage technologies. It is ridiculous to let this
corporation use far more energy than it can ever create so that it can perpetuate its business model of buying low and selling high. From an energy conservation point of view it makes no sense, but when one considers the vast ecological damage this facility has been allowed to inflict, it is shameful that it has not been shut down long ago. Please do what is right for our river, and for our planet.

Document Accession #: 20211230-5000 Filed Date: 12/30/2021
James Smethurst, Deerfield, MA.

I am writing to oppose the relicensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage. It has had a devastating impact on aquatic species in the Connecticut River, some of which, like the shortnose sturgeon, are endangered. It serves no useful purpose other than to provide profits for out of state investors. It is not a renewable energy source, but actually an energy drain, given the power required to pump water from the river uphill. The nuclear power plant whose excess energy Northfield Mountain was supposed to repurpose is no more. It is time to close it down.

James Smethurst
5 Pleasant Avenue
Deerfield, MA

Document Accession #: 20211229-5002 Filed Date: 12/29/2021
Rebecca Robbins, Williamsburg, MA.
Dear FERC,

I am concerned about the fish and other aquatic life that get ground to bits at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. Please do not relicense this facility without ensuring the health of the river and the creatures that live in it.

Thank you,
Rebecca Robbins
Williamsburg, MA

Document Accession #: 20211229-5000 Filed Date: 12/29/2021
Betsy Browning, Colrain, MA.

I am writing to voice my opposition to the relicensing of the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage facility. I have learned so much by reading the other letters that I feel morally obligated to add my voice. I grew up within a mile of the French King Bridge and remember the Northfield Mountain project being built. Both Northfield and Erving had great enthusiasm for the bountiful tax money they grew to rely on.

For 49 years the pump storage process has been decimating fish and wildlife along the Connecticut River. Amidst our climate crisis and the threats to species, this living river deserves our protection. Ironically this area is part of the Silvio Conte Fish and Wildlife protected area.

That FirstLight is a subsidiary of Canada owned power company and that they have moved their corporate assets for Northfield Pump Storage and the Turners Falls Hydroelectric to Delaware to avoid Massachusetts taxes, clearly shows their primary goal is maximum profit.

I understand its original plan was to use the excess power from the nuclear plant at Vernon which is now defunct. So using power generated by other means to pump water uphill is now wasteful of resources, outdated, and
impractical.

Someone voiced the brilliant idea that the mountain could be converted to a vast solar site.

Renewing a 50-year license should be unthinkable knowing both the environmental crisis in our midst and the current environmental damage that is occurring daily from the pump storage process.

Document Accession #: 20211229-5084 Filed Date: 12/29/2021
Paul Richmond, WENDELL, MA.

I have a questions why is First Light Power going to sign a new contract
which allows them to continue to use an old technology, which is destroying
the CT River and all life in it. I am speaking of the pumping stations, which sucks up everything in the river and kills it to be pumped out when energy is needed. Storage has been an age old question since we started producing energy. When you have access how to store it. When there was access Nuclear electricity at night when it is consider cheap, they would pump up the water to then release it when they needed electricity at peek times for more money. A reasonable idea if you are an energy company trying to make a profit. Then there is the method you use to do that. Today there are much better batteries being spurred on by alternative energy to address when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. So why isn’t First Light being asked to stop the old method which was and is destroying the river and store the access energy in batteries, or compressed air storage in the new contract they are about to sign with the state. Please do not sign a new agreement with this in it.

Document Accession #: 20211228-5069 Filed Date: 12/28/2021
Sid Siff, Amherst, MA.

I am writing to oppose the rel icensing of FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility on the Connecticut River. At the time of its inception in 1972, it was considered a renewable energy resource, and in 1975 I visited the site on a field trip for a Natural Resource class I was taking at UMass. There was much banter about the benefits of taking ‘extra’ energy from the nearby Vermont Yankee Power Plant in Vernon, and using it to pump water out of the Connecticut River and up to the top of Northfield Mountain, where it was stored and released to spin giant turbines, thereby creating ‘clean’ energy at times of peak demand. Since that time, not only has the nuclear plant been decommissioned, requiring fossil fuel based energy to operate the pumps, but it is well documented that the effect on the ecosystem of the river has been devastating. Multiple species of aquatic life are sucked out of the river in large numbers and killed, on a daily basis. The river acts as a narrow tidal basin, causing extreme bank erosion. The flow of the river is disrupted, leading to inadequate water levels downstream, and a resulting inability of fish to reach critical spawning habitat. Add to this the fact that the facility uses more energy than it creates, it is clearly not, and never was, a source of renewable energy.

Furthermore, FirstLight has demonstrated a clear disregard for not only every living species in the river ecosytem, but also for the people of Massachusetts, by registering Northfield Mountain and Turner’s Falls hydroelectric facilities into Delaware tax shelters, depriving Massachusetts of any tax revenue.

Perhaps by creating a closed loop system, with a reservoir at the bottom of the mountain that is completely separated from the river, and using any excess offshore wind energy to operate the pumps, Northfield Mountain could be a viable energy source going forward. But in its current state, it’s an outdated, dangerous and extremely harmful and wasteful behemoth that should be put to rest.

Document Accession #: 20211228-5066 Filed Date: 12/28/2021
Graham Hayward, NORTHFIELD, MA.

I do not want First Light’s bid for re-licensing to be approved. All they’ve done behind benefit of closed doors must be moved out into the light of day and a public forum.

This is one of many matters that won’t “fly” anymore and all those involved will be dealt with, these days of theft are over.
Thank you,
Graham Hayward

Document Accession #: 20211228-5065 Filed Date: 12/28/2021
Betsy Corner, Shelburne Falls, MA.
Concerning P-2485 for Northfield Mountain

For the past 50 years I’ve witnessed and read about the damage that the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage facility has caused to the Connecticut River and its inhabitants. Certainly common sense tells us that the kind of system that uses more energy than it produces is antiquated and foolish. It’s clear that relicensing this facility would be done in the financial interests of the owner of the corporation that seems to have power over those who are involved in granting another 50 year long license. Residents of the Connecticut Valley must have a transparent licensing process, not the closed door one that has been on-going. It’s high time to protect the river’s ecology and to look at the big picture of money and politics as it affects all of us in this decision.

Document Accession #: 20211228-5058 Filed Date: 12/28/2021
Dave Dersham, Northampton, MA.

I write to you concerning project number P-2485:
The kinetic energy that FirstLight consumes to push the Connecticut river
backwards and up Northfield Mountain, exceeds the potential energy eventually gained.

Simultaneously, 10s of thousands of small fry become pulverized by being
sucked into the hydro electric turbines placed at the midpoint of this
convoluted design. The result is essentially an aquatic Rube Goldberg killing machine, despite the substandard netting placed in the river meant to divert the inexorable fate of the baby fish.

This procedure, which has been going on for decades, is the exact opposite of sustainability both energetically and ecologically ” and needs to
finally stop.

FirstLight does not deserve to be granted another 50 year license.
Thank you for your attention,
Dave Dersham

Document Accession #: 20211228-5048 Filed Date: 12/28/2021
Garrett D Connelly, Greenfield, MA.

Hello,
I am writing this request that you revoke First Light’s operation permit for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility so that you know one more person stands against United States policies that disregard life on Earth and serve only short term profit. And in this case it is a false profit.

FERC employees know short-term profits are small relative to the economic
benefits of a clean and free flowing Connecticut river as well as I do,
probably much better. For this reason I won’t try to fit a list of economic
and environmental benefits from a clean and free flowing river and simply
describe what clear thinking people in the future might do instead.

Visualize a line of pollution sensors across a free flowing river that is so clean it has become a world renowned tourist destination. One of the sensors registers a trace of some cancer inducing chemical and enlightened employees of a future country that cares about life spring into action. Chemical sensors follow the pollution to its source and the activity causing it is stopped and cleaned up.

We all know the energy used by consumer societies is leading to extinction of human life on Earth. The wealth generated by free flowing clean rivers can only happen when energy regulators know how much energy is required by a modern and healthy nation. FERC knows far better than I that the real economy does not require a fake enterprise destroying river life for unreal paper profits so I stop here.

Please think about it from a pro-life perspective and then deny the permit to operate a fake business that destroys real life. Deny the permit that allows operation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility.
Sincerely,
Garrett Connelly

Document Accession #: 20211227-5224 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Robert F Porzio, Putney, VT.
Bob Porzio, Putney VT

Dear Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,
Please do not grant a new federal license for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485. This plant has done huge damage to the river for the last half century, reversing flows and killing fish while squandering massive
amount of energy. As a Vermont resident it is unacceptable to allow this machine to kill migrating fish that should be reaching our section of river, but are swallowed by this deadly plant on their upstream and downstream travels. We folks upstream are entitled to a thriving river and a share of its migratory fish.

Thank you,
Robert Porzio
Putney VT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GREAT FAILURE TO PROTECT

Posted by on 22 May 2021 | Tagged as: Cabot Woods, Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Endangered Species Act, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman, FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, Julie Crocker, Kathleen Theoharides, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Martin Suuberg: Commissioner MA Department of Environmental Protection, Monte Belmonte, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Nipmuck, NMFS, Norwottuck, P-1889, P-2485, Pocumtuck, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, Section 9–Prohibition of Take Section 9(a)(1), Shortnose Stout, shortnose sturgeon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Wendi Weber, wrsi.com

THE GREAT FAILURE TO PROTECT: Flaunting the Endangered Species Act and Other federal and state laws governing clean water and habitat on the Connecticut River at Rock Dam in Massachusetts


Photo credit: US Geological Service

FirstLight’s Turners Falls and Cabot Station under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission License #: FERC P-1889.

The ROCK DAM spawning nursery on the Connecticut River: the ONLY documented NATURAL spawning site for the ONLY FEDERALLY-ENDANGERED MIGRATORY FISH on the Connecticut River: the CONNECTICUT RIVER SHORTNOSE STURGEON.


Desiccating and baking shortnose sturgeon nursery habitat in the Connecticut River at the Rock Dam pool on May 21, 2021.
Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

The FEDERAL ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973, Section 9: the term “TAKE” MAKES IT ILLEGAL TO: “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”

Other federal and state laws NOT being ENFORCED on the Connecticut River at this critical habitat: the CLEAN WATER ACT, THE WETLANDS PROTECTION ACT, and, the Supreme Court’s 1872 landmark environmental decision for the Connecticut River in Holyoke Company v. Lyman—mandating that private operators of dams and facilities on the Connecticut—and thence for all rivers, must provide safe upstream and downstream passage for migratory fish.

A red slurry enters the Connecticut at the Rock Dam

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

When there is no WATCHDOG, there is no ENFORCEMENT.

THE: federal and state agencies and leaders responsible for implementation, protection and enforcement of laws and conditions protecting spawning, habitat, life-cycle and survival of the Connecticut River’s sole federal and state endangered migratory fish: THE CONNECTICUT RIVER SHORTNOSE STURGEON

THEIR NAMES:

Phil Glick, Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
Julie Crocker: Branch Chief, Endangered Fish Recovery unit, NOAA, Gloucester MA (
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

Here is a link to further discussion of testing the connection between the TF Canal and grim sludge at Rock Dam–w/Monte Belmonte, WRSI.com
https://wrsi.com/monte/how-to-save-the-shortnose-sturgeon/

When there is no WATCHDOG, there is no ENFORCEMENT.

“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.

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