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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE’S HOW:

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

THE LASTEST PUBLIC TESTIMONY STARTS HERE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,
Fergus Marshall
55 Gaylord St
Chicopee Ma
01013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public rejecting new Connecticut River license bid for Northfield Mtn: 49 years of ecosystem predation and waste is enough.

Posted by on 24 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, public trust, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

Public rejecting new Connecticut River license bid for Northfield Mtn: 49 years of ecosystem predation and waste is enough.

Even at the holiday break a belatedly-informed citizenry is going on the record, while secret talks between FirstLight and US Fish & Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, MA Fish & Wildlife and MA DEP loom in a shadowy background. Below are the latest citizen filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All state that no license should be issued for Northfield Mountain. It is time the devastation ceased.

These were all accepted into the FERC public record on Christmas Eve, people taking a stand for the river that is the lifeblood and soul of this New England ecosystem. SEE BELOW:

(* * NOTE:if you would like to add your voice into the public record concerning the Connecticut River and relicensing, you’ll find simple instructions at the end of this post.)

Document Accession #: 20211227-5000 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Stephen Kerr, Greenfield, MA.

To whom it ma concern, I am looking to voice my disapproval of thee FirstLight power plant’s usage of the Connecticut river. I believe the damage it causes the river ecosystem (and by extension, the local ocean ecosystem which uses the river as a breeding ground) is not worth the electrical power it’s converted into.

I hope that my concern is taken seriously, as it is also representative of many people I know. Please contact me if you’re able to put this concern into action, or if you know of any further action I can take to help make a change in this system.

Thanks and happy holidays,
Stephen

Nancy Obertz, Westhampton, MA.

Please refuse to relicense this company as they are using my river for their gain. Millions of species are dying from the intense pull of their turbines and they do not help the environment. They dodge tax responsibilities (sheltering in Delaware) and hand out pittance amounts to locals in the guise of “good community partners”. STOP this now. We are not going to sacrifice our beautiful Connecticut river for many more decades of their unchecked degradation.

I have grown up on this river (Ox-Bow in Easthampton) and am sickened by what First Light is doing. I have watched the shad and herring disappear. Yet, this company touts all the good they do for the local fish. This is your chance to have a very long-lasting impact. PLEASE refuse to re-license First Light! History will tell our children of your impact here. Please make that impact a positive one.

Thank you!
Nancy Obertz
Westhampton Mass.

Document Accession #: 20211227-5002 Filed Date: 12/27/2021
Dorothy McIver, Greenfield, MA, MA.

I am writing to voice my opposition to the re-licensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility. It is not needed to generate electricity with all the new advances in technology and it has had a devastating effect on the fish and other aquatic life who are killed when it is in operation. The river needs to be allowed to heal, and continuing this harmful operation for another 50 years is an affront to all of us who want this shut down, and
a benefit only to those who profit from their own greed and lack of concern for this delicate ecosystem and are in denial of the harm they have done for the past 50 years. Please do the right thing and set our river free to flow where it it will with a revitalization of the life it is meant to sustain.
Dorothy McIver

* * HERE’S HOW TO MAKE YOU VOICE HEARD: 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 use Northfield’s FERC project number, P-2485, to enter your comments.

CONSENSUS BUILDS AGAINST RELICENSING NORTHFIELD MTN: YOU CAN STILL BE HEARD!!!

Posted by on 06 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: Andrew Tittler, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FERC Secretary Kimberly D. Bose, FirstLight Power, Greenfield Recorder, Julie Crocker, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, PSP Investments, public trust, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wendi Weber


GREENFIELD MA. November 30, 5:58 am: River protector Dave Dersham of Northampton MA sets out on a 20 mile hike from Greenfield to deliver a “No License to Kill” message to the US Fish & Wildlife Service at their Hadley HQ. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

YOU CAN STILL BE HEARD!!!!!

*BE PART OF THE “SAVE OUR RIVER” HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN: READ BELOW!*

Public demonstrations, public comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and opinion pieces in the media all point to a gelling opposition to any FERC relicensing of FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. The coalescing opinions cite Northfield’s lethal impact on fish, it’s massive river-reversing ecosystem destruction–plus the profit motives of its Canadian venture capital owners. (* *See the 3 new public comment letters posted by FERC today, 12/06/2021, at the end of this message.)

Last Thursday, December 2, FirstLight gathered behind closed doors with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, MA Department of Environmental Protection and American Whitewater in what the Canadian-owned company termed “final” settlement negotiations. There was no daylight for the public to bear witness, and no way to know how far they reached toward a final signing agreement on relicensing this disaster or ending heart-stopping ecosystem flow reversals and inhalation of 100s of millions of fish.


RECEPTION at USFWS HQ, Hadley MA, November 30, 4 pm. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

What’s certain is the big horse-trading was on the table–with our public trust agencies holding our cards in the form of standing up for long-established environmental law and the ecosystem defense that future generations are counting on. Our River, our Refuge, OUR FISH!

Well it ain’t over till it’s over folks! Certainly there are issues not yet fully vetted, emails being exchanged, and last minute changes in the works from the agencies and FirstLight/PSP Investments’ big lawyers.

IN SHORT, nothing has been signed yet!

There remains time to get your comments in to the media, your public trust federal/state agency representatives (emails below), to FERC (address below), and cc’ed to your representatives—all of which are impactful.

HERE IS WHY: in FirstLight’s own words & schedule, filed with FERC November 12, 2021.

“FirstLight MA Hydro LLC submits request for FERC to delay issuance of Ready for Environmental Assessment Notice under P-1889, et al.”

AND, word-for-word, FirstLight’s Timeline to FERC:

“December 2021/January 2022 – parties schedule meeting or meetings of combined groups (fish/flows and recreation/cultural) to discuss overlapping issues. Parties provide status update to the Commission no later than December 31, 2021.

January 2022 – parties work toward achieving a conceptual agreement that can be filed with the Commission on or about January 31, 2022.”


At US Fish & Wildlife HQ, Hadley MA. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

WHICH is to note FirstLight’s sending the settlement outline “to the Commission no later than DECEMBER 31, 2021.”

THUS, if you make your public statement NOW–ahead of when everyone heads home for the holiday break, you can impact this secret, looming train wreck and help make a difference for future generations. Northfield Mountain has been a half century long disaster. You have the information. Short, concise comments—-to the media, cc’ed to your public trust agency officials, and sent as comments to FERC is what matters NOW. There are 3 new public comments shared below.

Directly below are the federal and state department heads and the public trust officials with long-term seats at the negotiating table:

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.

SEND them your Letter; forward it to the MEDIA for the public record—and…

THEN, file it with FERC for the OFFICIAL LICENSE RECORD.
Here’s the final step: TO FERC:

Go to www.ferc.gov . Go to Documents and Filings, or simply find the “file E-Comment” link if you see it. Once there, make sure you have this official number for Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, and USE IT. “P-2485.” In E-Comment you are filing comments under Hydro, in the Washington DC office, c/o FERC Secretary Kimberly D. Boles–and that FERC Project number, again is P-2485. Write in your comments and then hit send. DONE!

THIS ONE IS NEW TODAY! Followed by the 3 filed over the weekend:

Document Accession #: 20211207-5027 Filed Date: 12/07/2021

Mike Cournyn, Sudbury, MA.
Please reject the application for this license. It is hard to express how wrong this system is on so many levels. It is even harder to try and justify usefulness. More power is USED than is CREATED. The death and disruption of the ecosystem for a few dollars profit. I am amazed it was even allowed inthe first place. Please do the right thing.

Document Accession #: 20211206-5059 Filed Date: 12/06/2021

Malcolm G Everett, NORTHAMPTON, MA.
I am writing to express my deep concern about the impact of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility on the ecosystem of the Connecticut River. I believe the damage this system causes to species native to the river justifies the non-renewal of its license to operate. I understand it is viewed as a way to meet peak electricity demand, but I think there are better
ways being developed to solve this problem without causing damage to the life forms in the river. The owner of this facility has no right to cause such damage to the delicate systems of life that have evolved long before the facility existed. Thank you for considering my concern.

Document Accession #: 20211206-5009 Filed Date: 12/06/2021

C Grecsek, SUNDERLAND, MA.
I am writing to express my opposition to the re-licensing of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility. The system costs in energy, and especially in ecological damage, are too high.

The Connecticut River flows backward when the pumps are engaged, an unnatural and harmful process. In addition, the turbines kill countless fish and other river dwellers. The generation of electricity should not need to use so much energy to operate nor should it result in such senseless destruction of an ecosystem.

We have made great strides in the improvement of the Connecticut River from when it was essentially an open sewer, but there is more work to do to repair the harm we have caused, including the cessation of this damaging system.

Thank you

Document Accession #: 20211206-5008 Filed Date: 12/06/2021

robert arbib, cummington, MA.
Please reject the application of Firstlight to operate Northfield Mt.for another 50 years.This pumping station causes terrible disruption of the natural flow of the Connecticut River.I know as I canoe on this section of the river. Natural flows necessary for the life cycles of various vertebrates and invertebrates are disrupted, fish and other animals are shredded going up
through the pumps,the flow of the river is reversed during pumping and shallow areas are washed out and eroded as water is released.Firstlight will say they are addressing these concerns but they will promise anything to get a renewal. Please don’t believe their B.S,

Their model is to use massive amounts of power to pump water up. only to profit through ‘generation’ when rates are higher, It is not worth the damage to the river to generate not really new power but only profits for this Canadian company.

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

WITH PUBLIC KEPT IN DARK, FirstLight schedules secret endgame license negotiations for December 2

Posted by on 14 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, CRASC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FirstLight, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, 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, US Geological Survey, USFWS

WITH PUBLIC KEPT IN DARK, FirstLight schedules secret endgame negotiations on Northfield’s deadly river vacuuming with federal and state fisheries agencies this December 2nd.

Many people have asked when the critical secret talks are happening—finally I can offer news…

PLEASE READ TO THE BOTTOM and find out how you can meet the PLAYERS–the agencies and agents CHARGED WITH representing the interests OF THE RIVER and US!

Here is a section of FirstLight’s latest license “extension request” filing, sent electronically to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday, November 12.

In the last three months, FirstLight and the other parties have made substantial progress in negotiating relicensing solutions. The settlement parties have exchanged proposals on fish passage, flows, and recreation. FirstLight is currently holding discussions on fish passage and flows with federal and state resource agencies. FirstLight and the agencies held fish passage and flow meetings on September 24, October 14, and November 10, 2021 and have established an additional meeting on December 2.

The critical next backroom session, scheduled for December 2, 2021, includes the following named agencies responsible for the fate of a living Connecticut River ecosystem for the decades into the future. This from FirstLight’s FERC extension filing at its conclusion:

“The following settlement parties have affirmatively indicated that they support this timeline: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and American Whitewater Association. Therefore, FirstLight requests that the Commission continue to defer the issuance of the Notice of Acceptance and Ready for Environmental Analysis until after January 31, 2022.”

The US Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries are the public agencies charged with “conditioning authority” to protect the Connecticut and its migratory fish at the grim and deadly ecosystem bottleneck, Northfield Mountain. Also, charged and responsible here in the Bay State as well—are the MA Division of Fish & Wildlife and Division of Environmental Protection. These are the guardians and enforcers of US and state environmental laws and protections. They are the public trustees of our river and fish. This is the public’s river.

juvenile Connecticut River shad, dead

Northfield Mountain’s miserable suction literally kills hundreds of millions of eggs, larvae and juvenile migratory and resident fish annually. Will these agencies fail the river once again—and for all, by letting Northfield reverse-suck the life out of our legally mandated fish runs? Or will they put their money where their responsibility lies, and shut its mouth to killing juvenile fish?

That is what’s at stake here. FirstLight is playing for keeps with the future of our children’s ecosystem, for a net-power-loss, deadly energy wasting contraption with profits heading first to Delaware and thence to Canada and its parent owner, PSP Investments.

There is nothing responsible or democratic about a private company and federal and state officials deciding an ecosystem’s fate in the dark… People want to know who the leaders are that are responsible–and how they can engage with them.

Given the late date, and with time being so critical I can offer this suggestion. On Wednesday, November 17, at 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. there will be a Technical Committee meeting of something called the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, or CRASC. AND, on December 1, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., there will be a meeting of the full (CRASC) Commission. CRASC is comprised of the federal/state fisheries leaders from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, and the state fisheries leaders from VT, MA, NH, and CT. These are top fisheries agency leaders, and CRASC is the Congressionally-authorized agency that has been responsible for managing the Connecticut River and it migratory fish runs since 1967. IT IS A PUBLIC AGENCY, though their meetings are not widely publicized, and the CRASC stopped posting the minutes to their meetings in 2017. In other words, it operates quietly outside the public eye—regardless of its critical public mandate.

The key thing to know here is that the fisheries agencies on the CRASC are literally the same ones who will be sitting down at the secret table with FirstLight on December 2, right after that meeting of CRASC leaders the day before.

So, SINCE LIVING RIVERS FLOW DOWNSTREAM, and NO RIVER SHOULD DIE IN THE DARK, as a journalist and stakeholder I’d like you to know that YOU CAN ATTEND THESE MEETINGS. It is your right. They will be held on-line, but you must pre-register to get the “teams” registration application #, and/or a phone call-in number from Ken Sprankle, the USFWS Connecticut River Coordinator and CRASC Secretary. Ken is very helpful, and this is easy to do.

Simply email Ken at: ken_sprankle@fws.gov and tell him you want to be added to the CRASC public meeting list, and that you want to attend the CRASC meeting on November 17, and also December 1. Ken will get you signed up, and send you an on-line or telephone link, and an agenda. With all the secrecy, at least here you get to see some of the agencies and players who are responsible for our public trust. REST assured, FirstLight’s representatives are always in attendance, keeping an eye on things. That’s why you should think about putting in the time. There will be considerable tech-talk at this November meeting, but here you can get to know the agents and players. AND, there is a time at set aside for the public to ask questions. If you care about a living river, get signed up to attend these on-line public meetings.

BTW, each CT River state on the CRASC has what’s called a “public sector” representative. Here, representing our fisheries protections at Northfield that representative is Dr. Andrew Fisk, who is also director of the Connecticut River Conservancy. So, if you have questions or concerns about fish kills, fish futures and Northfield operations, your CRASC public sector rep can be reached at:afisk@ctriver.org He represents you!

Connecticut River blog: portage parade a quagmire of mixed motives

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

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

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was an extremely small parade.

Living rivers come first.

Be careful what you wish for…

CONNECTICUT RIVER ALERT: FERC deadline looms

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

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

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

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

DON’T SHORT-SELL NEW ENGLAND’S GREAT RIVER

Posted by on 17 Mar 2017 | Tagged as: Alex Haro, American Whitewater, Andrew Fisk, Bob Nasdor, Caleb Slater, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Connecticut River Watershed Council, CRWC, Dr. Boyd Kynard, ecosystem, Endangered Species Act, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, Holyoke Gas & Electric, John Warner, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, PSP Investments, public trust, Relicensing, Sean McDermott, Society of Environmental Journalists, The Nature Conservancy, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey

(Note: the following piece appeared in The Recorder, www.recorder.com, on March 11, 2017 under the heading: “Who will protect Connecticut River?”)

DON’T SHORT-SELL NEW ENGLAND’S GREAT RIVER

Copyright © 2017 by Karl Meyer

Canadian investors are looking to purchase the Connecticut River for a few decades, cheap and quick. Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board bought up the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station and Turners Falls hydro complex last year as part of PSP Investments. Their New England power play comes in the middle of the 5-year relicensing process for both facilities. That Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process will decide future conditions impacting this four-state ecosystem for decades.

The long-failed Cabot Station Fish Ladder on the Connecticut and competing flows flushing down the Turners Falls Power Canal’s Emergency Spillway. (Note:CLICK, THEN CLICK AGAIN TO ENLARGE.)

Thus, PSP may soon hold sway over what’s long been the most desolate 10-mile stretch of the entire Connecticut. It includes 2.1 miles of riverbed sitting empty for months at a time below Turners Falls Dam. It also includes the reach where, nearly 20 years back, federal fisheries expert Dr. Boyd Kynard found his boat being yanked backward—the Connecticut pulled into reverse by the suction of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station while he was drifting for bass a mile downstream near the French King Bridge. Looked at fully, it encompasses the entire reach where a 50 year federal migratory fisheries restoration program has long foundered.

On March 7th, after four years of meetings, thousands of pages of reports–and with volumes of study information incomplete and disputed, owners of these FirstLight-branded facilities are hoping select interests agree to take licensing talks underground. They’ll be fishing for backroom deals at a Boston area hotel well before this process has had a full public vetting. FL wants to take this little party private, fast. They’re asking invitees to agree to an embargo on public information about settlement talks, positions and decisions.

The key phrase in their invitation reads: “Because this meeting is intended to initiate confidential settlement discussions, it will not be open to the press or general public.” That’s FirstLight’s Director of Massachusetts Hydro Gus Bakas. His selected invitees include the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration(Sean McDermott), US Fish & Wildlife Service(John Warner), US Geological Survey(Alex Haro), MA Fish & Wildlife(Caleb Slater), towns including Erving, Gill, Northfield, Montague, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, The Nature Conservancy(Katie Kennedy), the Connecticut River Watershed Council(Andrew Fisk), and American Whitewater(Bob Nasdor).

That FirstLight stipulation is part of the quick-bait to get stakeholders thinking the time is right to cut deals. Sign-up, shut up; then we’ll talk. Cash out with what you can get for your agency, town, non-profit; or your fun-time rafting interests. Promises from this venture capitalist firm–in what’s become an ownership merry-go-round for these facilities, will surely all come true.

Ironically, many of these invitees descend directly from those who failed to step in and step up for the decimated river here decades back. They’re agencies and so-called watchdogs who failed to enforce laws and conditions negotiated when they were signatories to settlement talks for NMPS and Turners Falls nearly 40 years back–and for the 1999 FERC license negotiated for Holyoke Dam as well. At that site, Holyoke Gas & Electric just finally completed required improvements for endangered shortnose sturgeon last spring. Their license had mandated they be completed in 2008. Eight years, nine–no suits, no injunctions; no action.

Maybe that’s because the Watershed Council’s board chair works for HG & E, or because a significant number of board members are retirees from the region’s legacy power companies. Or, might it be because CRWC receives grant monies from National Marine Fisheries, US Fish & Wildlife, and MA Division of Fisheries, that these agencies were never taken to court for the withering spawning conditions and crippling flows experienced by federal trust American shad and federally endangered sturgeon in the reaches from Turners Falls to Northfield?

So who can our river look to for environmental protections under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act in the future?

Fourteen months remain in this relicensing. Key reports won’t be available until April, while other critical study information won’t be out until July. Some studies may need repeating. The best future for New England’s River will not be well served by quick-and-dirty agreements made in the shadows. Remember, Dear Stakeholders, it’s your names that will be forever associated with the conditions on a future Connecticut River—the river your grandchildren will be relying on. This is no time to sell the Connecticut short. What’s your price for a river’s soul?

Karl Meyer of Greenfield is on the Fish and Aquatics Study Team in the FERC relicensing for the Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls hydro facilities. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

(Note: Bob Nasdor is former director of the Massachusetts Commission on Open Government.)

END

Rolling over on a River: the real cost of pumped storage energy

Posted by on 26 Oct 2016 | Tagged as: American shad, climate change, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Daily Hampshire Gazette, ecosystem, Entrainment, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeion, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, fossil fuels, Greenfield Recorder, ISO New England, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Reservoir, nuclear power, Public Comment period, public trust, pumped storage, Relicensing, shad, shortnose sturgeon, Society of Environmental Journalists, The Recorder, Turners Falls power canal, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont, Vermont Digger, Vermont Yankee

Copyright © 2016 by Karl Meyer

(Note: this essay appeared in September and October in these MA and VT media and newspaper outlets: Vermont Digger, www.vtdigger.org ; The Daily Hampshire Gazette; and The Recorder.)

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The de-watered CT below Turners Falls Dam that few people see. (Click, then click again to enlarge.)

Rolling over on a river

Since time began rivers have been the Earth’s arteries—the foundation of its ecosystems. Here in New England it’s “last chance” time for our Great River. On April 30, 2018 the fate of the long-foundered Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration—and the survival of a four-state river ecosystem, will be decided for what’s essentially forever. New Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydro licenses are expected to be signed then by government agencies and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board–latest purchaser of the Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain projects. That company’s stated investor mandate is “to maximize investment returns without undue risk of loss.”

Over two generations ago public-trust mistakes were made favoring power companies, fish hatcheries, and high-end salmon-fishing interests that rendered eight miles of the Connecticut in Massachusetts a massively-suctioned, partially-dewatered flush sink. Sanctioned by fisheries agencies and non-profits, those decisions, severed an ecosystem in two. They forced all migrating fish into a deadly power canal, leaving three emptied miles of riverbed below Turners Falls Dam, while four turbines at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station five miles upstream consumed massive amounts of nuclear energy to suck a river backward and uphill to a mountaintop reservoir.

Those turbines were built to run on the promised endless supply of overproduced juice generated nightly at the local, now-closed, Vermont Yankee nuke, 15 miles away. Today, running on giant slugs of imported fossil fuel, they continue to spin, sucking the river up in endless gulps into a 4 billion gallon pool a mile up Northfield Mountain. That daily suctioning creates riverbank eroding “tides” higher than those at Hyannisport, MA—with some rivaling the ten-foot fluctuations of Fundy Bay.

Back then, predecessors of today’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Massachusetts’ Fish & Wildlife and the Connecticut River Watershed Council signed off on an agreement with the Federal Power Commission and Western Massachusetts Electric that strangled the river in northern Massachusetts. It resulted in the failure of migratory fish passage and a promised renewal of the river’s ancient seafood resources upstream to Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern Mass. Few American shad emerged alive after diversion into that canal. It also failed the shortnose sturgeon—this river’s only federally endangered migratory fish, leaving it without flow or monitoring at its only documented natural spawning site.

Upstream at Northfield the destruction was yet more complete. The suck and gush appetite of that nuclear-charged contraption virtually disassembled the river. It gulped flow at a rate of 15,000 cubic feet per second, often for hours at a time—drawing on the river pool above Turners Falls Dam where, 70% of the time, the Connecticut’s natural routed flow is less than 15,000 cfs. Boaters a mile downstream could find themselves drifting upriver via Northfield’s unearthly pull. All fish and organisms drawn up through the sphere of that suction were deemed “functionally extirpated”–dead to the ecosystem by virtue of being sieved twice through the turbines. It was evolution in reverse, a river ripped away from its eternal run to the sea.

Today, climate-blind FERC labels Northfield as a source of “renewable clean” energy—but there’s nothing clean, renewable or sustainable about its imported, twice-produced, peak-priced electricity crippling this river. ISO New England, FERC’s Northfield-cheering, ever-energy-hungry cousin, also ignores climate and its environmental dismemberment. “Pumped storage” is not hydropower—not even by the industry’s own technical terminology. Northfield-produced power in fact represents the heavy planetary burden of fossil fuel used to push a mountain of water uphill, merely as a weight to produce high-cost, second hand electricity. It cares nothing of rivers, fish or ecosystems.

If bureaucrats again fail the public trust and don’t demand critical habitat protections, flows, and the day-to-day monitoring needed to fulfill U.S. environmental statutes, Canadian pension speculators will be left as the de facto controlling interests on our river. The new owners have asked FERC to merge two separate licenses for Northfield and Turners Falls into a single new license dubbed the “Northfield Project.” What’s represented as mere bureaucratic streamlining would actually enshrine, by precedent–next time and forever, river-killing pumped storage.

Any responsible environmental agency should deny this single-license merger, and seek to have Northfield kept in use as emergency infrastructure only—with the ultimate remedy it’s dismantling in tandem with a move to a decentralized, far less vulnerable system than today’s expanding mega-grid. Massachusetts legislators are currently signing onto backroom energy deals for a glut of future hydropower from Quebec. Some 1,200 megawatts of those penciled-in imports could easily replace the few hours of daily juice Northfield puts out–while keeping it available for rare emergencies. Though the new Canadian power imports largely ignore conservation and innovation, they could be employed to end the river carnage here and begin restoring a future for a critical New England ecosystem.

(Note: timely public comment on licensing issues is carefully considered by FERC. Go to: http://ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp and use “E-Comment.” Check “Hydro” and address to Secretary Kimberly D. Bose, using the required identifiers “P-2485” and “P-1889” for Northfield and Turners Falls.)

Karl Meyer lives in Greenfield MA. He is participating in the FERC relicensing process and is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

VERNON UPDATE: A peek into the public-trust’s black hole

Posted by on 26 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: American shad, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Coordinator, FirstLight, fish counts, fish passage, Fish passage results, GDF-Suez FirstLight, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, public trust, TransCanada, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont Fish & Game, Vernon Dam Fishway

VERNON, VT Connecticut River Fish Passage Update: June 24, 2016

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Vernon Dam Fishway, and TransCanada’s Vernon Station(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

As of Friday, June 24, 2016, the best information US Fish & Wildlife Service was able to provide on Turners Falls and Vernon fish passage was a FULL THREE WEEKS OLD.

The last report CT River Coordinator Ken Sprankle had for Vernon shad passage was from June 3, 2016: 29,155 American shad passing there.

The last report coming from FirstLight at Turners Falls was yet a day older, from June 2, 2016: 45,330 American shad.

This is not a case of the USFWS’s Connecticut River Coordinator neglecting to gather the information and reproduce it in a timely manner. This falls squarely on the shoulders of the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife failing to ensure that this time-sensitive and important information is provided to Commonwealth citizens as part of their public trust. They have allowed GDF-Suez to maintain sole control and access to the fate of a public resource at Turners Falls, the river’s most critical and failed fish passage site.

Further, it must of course be stated that Vermont Fish & Game is in the same camp this year. As they are failing to provide this information–just a quick 20 mile, one-day scoot for a shad upstream to Vernon Dam, where TransCanada is calling the shots on providing info.

These state agencies are failing constituents they say they represent.

BUT here’s a tiny fish passage update for Vernon Dam. It’s just TWO DAYS OLD. I stopped by Vernon on my bicycle on Friday, June 24th at 10:30 a.m., just hours after that “best” stale information had been released.

Given low river flows I was happily surprised to see shad moving upstream in the Vernon windows at a good clip. Singly, and in twos and threes, and fives, I watched 20 American shad flash by and shoot upstream through bubbly, yellow currents there in just under six minutes. That fishway is a fish passage site that actually passes fish–with a nearly 70% passage rate last year.

Of course, Turners Falls fish passage remains a disaster, with all fish shunted out of the river and into the 2.7 mile power canal there: average annual passage rate is less than one fish-in-ten. And, unfortunately, Turners Falls viewing opportunities have been severely curtailed over the years. Whereas they used to be open through the week following Father’s Day, this year they closed on June 12. Thus, there is literally no on-site public access or real-time information provided on fish passage success at Turners Falls–while this year’s run is obviously still underway, given Friday’s eye-witness access at Vernon.

At Turners Falls flows have been reduced to 1500 cubic feet per second over the past weeks, and with FirstLight’s downstream Station 1 dumping attraction flow into the Connecticut, its unlikely many fish are moving upstream and able to by-pass that alien power canal habitat.

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The Connecticut below Turners Falls Dam (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Station 1 is a source of “false” upstream flow “attraction”–which can keep shad treading water for days at a time without finding any real route upstream.

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Station 1 attraction flow (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

FISHY MISSING INFO

Posted by on 22 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: blueback herring, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River migratory fisheries restoration, Daily Hampshire Gazette, FirstLight, fish counts, Fish passage results, GDF-Suez FirstLight, Greenfield Recorder, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, migratory delay, New Hampshire, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Reservoir, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, public trust, right-to-know, salmon, salmon hatchery, sea lamprey, shad, The Recorder, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont, Vernon Dam Fishway

The following OpEd appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton,MA) and The Recorder (Greenfield, MA) in early June.

Fishy Missing Info Copyright © 2016 by Karl Meyer

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(low flows and byzantine fish ladder at Turners Falls 6/19/16:CLICK TO ENLARGE)

I’d like to change the name of a Commonwealth agency. What would you think about the Massachusetts Division of “Manufactured” Fisheries and Wildlife? I think it would offer a much better picture of the Agency’s focus, particularly here in the Connecticut Valley. Here you can get daily on-line information on where to find truckloads of thousands-upon-thousands of factory-produced rainbow, brown and brook trout before they are dumped into local rivers for hatchery-fish angling pleasure. But I dare you to find anything more than a several-weeks-old tally of the numbers of wild migratory fish streaming north here on the Connecticut anywhere beyond the fish windows at Holyoke Dam. So this would be a “truth-in-labeling” adjustment.

New England’s Great River runs for 69 miles through the Commonwealth. The MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife is responsible for all migratory fish in that broad reach from the time they enter at Agawam, until they either remain here for spawning, or pass into Vermont and New Hampshire. Those runs are the agency’s “public trust”—to be protected for its citizens, anglers, students and future generations. But the less information the public gets on their whereabouts, the less an agency might be availed upon to actually protect them.

As we enter the final weeks of migration season the only information provided—not just days old, but nearly a month stale, refers solely to fish on the first 16 miles of river from the Connecticut border to the fish lift at Holyoke Dam. That leaves a full 52 miles of river with just a single—now uselessly outdated May 4th report about the truly wild shad, lamprey and herring now moving along New England’s flagship waterway. Salmon are not mentioned here because just three years after the US Fish & Wildlife Service stopped factory production of this hybrid, just a single salmon has been tallied. Hatchery fish production masks the reality of failing wild populations and deteriorating habitats. To date there’s been but one report on fish passage from Turners Falls.

As an interested citizen I’m a bit outraged that it’s June 1st, and I don’t have a clue about what’s going on with the wild, migrating fish coming upriver in what you have to consider as one of New England’s last remaining great migrations. Shad, blueback herring, and sea lamprey have been moving upstream for over two months now, and the only public information offered is of the absurd 54 shad counted at Turners Falls, almost a full month back. Really? This is any agency with an accountability problem.

MA DF&W has scant little to offer the public as to what they’ve been doing on the ground to protect our wild fish runs—and that includes struggling populations of state-listed, endangered shortnose sturgeon, also under their purview. But to not even take responsibility for having on-the-ground personnel monitoring runs at the river’s long-known choke point, Turners Falls, is a flagrant abdication of duty. Here in central and northern Massachusetts we not only don’t see fish because of decimated Connecticut River habitats, we aren’t even offered updated tallies on the ugly mess. But perhaps that’s by design. Connecticut’s state fisheries agency regularly provides more information on Commonwealth fish runs than does the MA DF&W.

When I recently contacted the Commonwealth’s Anadromous Fish Project Leader to inquire about fish passage information at Turners Falls, he tersely emailed back that the state no longer does those fish counts: I should contact FirstLight Power for information. I guess our fish are now fully privatized. And when it has come to the power company requesting larger and more frequent water withdrawals on the Connecticut upstream at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, it appears the Division has never seen a company proposal it wasn’t just fine with.

This 2016 season has literally been the worst year for Massachusetts fish passage information since 2010, when FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain broke down, fouling its pumping tunnels with 45,000 cubic square yards of reservoir muck. They didn’t operate from May – November and fish passage at Turners Falls–it was subsequently revealed, had jumped 600-800% above yearly averages. We didn’t get that information until late as well. Seem a little fishy to you?

Some of us actually care about wild fish and living rivers. And, frankly, if I were reduced to thinking that following a truckload of factory fish to its dumping site for a day’s angling was a wildlife experience—well, I’d just as soon get one of those wind-up fish carousels you can hold–the ones with the tiny plastic pole and the revolving, yapping fish mouths. The Massachusetts Division of “Manufactured” Fish & Wildlife–sounds about right where wild fish and the Connecticut River is concerned.

Karl Meyer of Greenfield is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.