Relicensing

Archived Posts from this Category

Connecticut River secret licensing talks: CITIZENS GOING ON THE RECORD FOR A RAVAGED ECOSYSTEM’S FUTURE

Posted by on 13 Dec 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, Greenfield Recorder, Julie Crocker, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Mr. Jesse Leddick, Mr. Mark S. Tisa, National Marine Fisheries Service, net-loss power, NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, Relicensing, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Steven Mattocks, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Wendi Weber

CONNECTICUT RIVER FINAL SECRET RELICENSING MEETINGS:CITIZENS GOING ON THE RECORD FOR A RAVAGED ECOSYSTEM’S FUTURE

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

As the closed-door “final” bargaining between FirstLight and government agencies continues this month, more people are going on the record against a new half century of massive annual fish kills, gluttonous power consumption, and rampant ecosystem disruption at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. Read further below for new citizen FERC filings and Letters to the Editor highlighting their opposition to issuing a new license for this deadly cash cow.

MA Fish & Wildlife:

HAPPY to manufacture hatchery fish; WRETCHED at protecting the Connecticut River’s ancient migratory fish runs. Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

THERE IS STILL TIME TO GO ON THE RECORD with others who are standing up for a living river!!!

Do you have children, or grandchildren? Or maybe you just understand that licensing a foreign-owned venture capital firm to have virtual control over 23 miles of the Connecticut River for the next 50 years closes off any hint of a participatory democracy for the future generations that will rely on this ecosystem to sustain them. They are looking to us for protection…

The secret dealings with our participating public trust agencies including MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, US Fish & Wildlife Service and the MA Department of Environmental Protection are yet to be signed or sanctioned. The agencies will be passing proposals and juicy cash baits incentives back and forth through the end of the month… What’s your price for an ecosystem?

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Sending message to FERC, and the media, and your public representatives and agency leaders is the participatory democracy antidote to all the darkness. It takes just a few paragraphs and sends the critical message to leaders: you don’t get to sell off our River’s future. Stand up, stand out, and be heard. HERE’S HOW:

Simply write your remarks in a short document, and include the key FERC project number for Northfield Mountain: P-2485. You can send that letter to your representatives, agency leaders, the media—and lastly, importantly, to FERC to be entered into the public record. 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 go to eComment on the page that opens. Follow the directions for Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings (P – Project Number), use P-2485, and you are part of the public record.

Below are two recent on-the-record entries, to FERC, and the Greenfield Recorder.

Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

Document Accession #: 20211213-5000 Filed Date: 12/13/2021

David B. Keith, Deerfield, MA.
Our local newspaper, The Greenfield Recorder, reported (12/8/21) that a company had agreed to a $1.5 million settlement for a chemical spill leading to the deaths of more than 270,000 fish in a tributary to the Deerfield River, itself a tributary to the Connecticut River.

I am encouraged to see a value put on the fish in the tributary. I cannot, however, understand why one company is (quite rightly) being punished for killing fish in a tributary while another, FirstLight Utilities through its Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage facility, stands to be very handsomely rewarded for knowingly and persistently grinding up countless fish, including rare species, from the much larger Connecticut River. Please do not grant FirstLight Hydro Generating Company a fifty-year license to deprive us daily of a resource that was just valued at $1.5 million per incident.

And this:

I strongly urge rejection of the application by FirstLight MA Hydro LLC to operate Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The pumping station causes an untold number of deaths to aquatic life in the river and extreme disruption of the the river’s natural flow. The natural flows necessary for the life cycles of vertebrates and invertebrates are utterly disrupted, fish and other life forms are shredded going up through the pumps, the flow of the river is reversed during pumping and shallow areas and banks are washed out and eroded as water is later released. No realistic way of preventing this death and disruption exists, even if FirstLight intended to attempt such safeguards.

Firstlight has proven to be a bad neighbor with regard to these abuses and has a record for making false statements with regard to their operation. Furthermore, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage uses more energy than it creates with its turbines, something that makes no sense in this time of Climate Crisis when energy must be both conserved and non harmful. FirstLight’s license for further operation must be rejected.

Don Ogden
The Envirom Show
WXOJ/WMCB/WMNB
140 Pine Street
Florence, MA 01062

Connecticut River relicensing: a history, summary and indictments…

Posted by on 23 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Death-Sewer, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC licensing process, FirstLight Power, Holyoke Co. v Lyman, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, Public Sector Pension Investments, Relicensing, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, State of Delaware, Treasury Board of Canada, Tyler Poisson, UMass, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Will Ryan


CONNECTICUT RIVER RELICENSING: a history, summary and indictments…ahead of the secret final “settlement” talk scheduled for December 2nd by Firstlight–a backroom sausage-making meetup between FirstLight, USFWS, National Marine Fisheries, MA Div. of Fish and Wildlife, and MA DEP. MEETING CONTENTS: no public, no sunlight; nor democracy…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKdIusCr2ysMZTGflFJyHZg/live

ABOVE is the link to a talk I gave on November 21st at the Wilbraham Public Library. It was broadcast live, and with a live audience, as part of the ongoing Root Cause Lecture series exploring Ecologies and Economies. This series is the work of UMass graduate students Will Ryan and Tyler Poisson. Thanks to them both, and the Wilbraham Public Library.

** CAUTION: you might find the information it contains…upsetting!

THIS CONNECTICUT RIVER DEFENSE IS SPOT-ON!

Posted by on 18 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, 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, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-1889, P-2485, Relicensing, State of Delaware, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, wildlife refuge

THIS NOTEWORTHY and pointed river defense was sent into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on 11/17/2021 and entered into the public record–summarizing the 49 years of ecosystem devastation wrought by the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. PLEASE READ SHAYLA FREELAND’S FULL FERC FILING FURTHER BELOW.

FirstLight–running the licensing show, has scheduled confidential, endgame license “settlement” talks with the US Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, and MA Division of Fish & Wildlife and the MA DEP for this December 2.

IF THERE WAS EVER A MORE IMPORTANT TIME for the public to make its case for a living future for this river ecosystem, THAT TIME IS NOW.

Comments can be written, then copied and pasted into the FERC record by going to www.ferc.gov; then find E-Comment in documents and filings–then be sure to know and INCLUDE in your filing the FERC “project number” for both Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage: P-2485, and Turners Falls dam and hydro operations: P-1889. Note that other people have taken simple further steps by publishing their comments on-line, on web pages, and, importantly, sending out to enter the record in the PUBLIC media.

Shayla’s strong, thoughtful and personal summary puts any filing or public statement made by either the Connecticut River Conservancy or The Nature Conservancy about Northfield’s massive river destruction in Massachusetts to shame. Further, it leaves our public trust agencies–including the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and MA DEP cowardly silent and liable for a river that’s now staring at a full CENTURY-LONG death sentence in Massachusetts.

By not stepping up, they collaborate on a broken ecosystem and the collapse of one of the Earth’s key cooling arteries. These entities have had 49 years to stand up, to speak out against this deadly machine, to end its killing–to intervene at any number of junctures. None did. Thus, the lethal, heart-stopping pumping at Northfield continues, chewing through the lives of hundreds of millions of eggs, larvae and juvenile migrant and resident fish alike every year.

In a just world this endless, massive fish kill would have been prosecuted decades ago. But not here–not in Massachusetts, where all these entities will meet in secret with FirstLight on December 2nd to decide a river’s fate. Silence and secrecy in a democratic society bear a very close resemblance to complicity and their 49 years of a failure to protect…

In stark contrast, here is a brave person is speaking for future generations–and their right to have a living planet. Thank you Shayla!

“My name is Shayla Freeland and I live in Gill. As some of you might know there is a power plant in Northfield called the Northfield Pump Station. There have been many people trying to prevent Firstlight, the owner of the pump station, from renewing their 50 year license to continue making electricity at the expense of our river. On the bridge over the Connecticut river, crossing into Turners Falls, there have been two protests against this license. Many people have invested their time and energy to try and convey how bad this process is for the environment. Personally I agree with everyone who is trying to prevent this. I live in Gill right next to the river and the dam (Firstlight also owns) so I can see first hand the destruction the station is causing. I am able to see and smell the problems.

The stench that comes from that part of the river can be absolutely horrendous. The turbines of the pump station suck in life and throw out death. When they put up the dam the other side gets very low in water and the sun fries up the bits of fish creating the horrible smell. Below the Turners Falls dam there is also an ancient Shortnose Sturgeon spawning ground and the same thing happens to them as the bits of fish. They fry. They rote. They go rancid. As you can probably tell this is not a naturally occurring problem, it’s a problem caused by Firstlight.

In the night they suck water from the Connecticut River up the Northfield Mountain when electricity is cheap. To get the water up the mountain they have to burn fossil fuels to power the pumps. Not only are they polluting the earth with this dwindling resource (because they made a choice between easy money and protecting our home) they are completely killing and destroying our rivers ecosystem. During the day when demand is high they let the water back down the mountain. As it does this it is going through turbines (which creates the electricity)chopping and killing animals. Twenty-four species have the wonderful chance to meet the
deadly blades of the turbines.Now Firstlight is about to renew their fifty year license.

So they pollute the earth, kill the animals and the river’s ecosystem, but hey they’re making easy money and we’re getting electricity so it’s okay right? No, it’s not. And the electricity they are making doesn’t even get used by the people in this area. It’s getting stored as backup for some city. Not only is the electricity not being used by the local population, but Firstlight is not paying any taxes to the town. They are an LLC based in Delaware so they are not obligated to pay us taxes.

This pump station has no benefit to the people living in this area. We are not getting electricity or taxes. It’s deadly turbines are killing fish and preventing them from helping our river prospure. Firstlight should not be allowed to get their license renewed because all they do is
pollute the planet, kill animals and destroy the Connecticut’s ecosystem, which in turn will affect us too.

HERE, is one citizen taking responsibility for a living river system, and for those who come after us…

Connecticut River blog: Is it a river at all? Sucked to Death–upstream and down…

Posted by on 17 Aug 2021 | Tagged as: Buz Eisenberg, Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, net-loss power, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Peskeomscutt Island, Relicensing, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Turners Falls dam, US Supreme Court, Vermont, WHMP

IS IT A RIVER AT ALL? * * MY TALK WITH ATTORNEY BUZ EISENBERG ON WHMP’S “AFTERNOON BUZZ” Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer
* Full links and topics below
*


STARVED! THE CONNECTICUT FROM THE TURNERS FALLS BRIDGE ON THE MORNING OF THE POCUMTUCK HOMELANDS FESTIVAL–TAKING PLACE JUST 200 YARDS UPSTREAM. THE LITTLE BUMP IN THE MIDDLE IS PESKEOMSCUTT ISLAND–WITHOUT WATER, NO ISLAND AT ALL…Photo Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

NOTE: (please read through the questions, illustration link, and topics below, then click for the podcast link, here, or one at the bottom of the page) https://whmp.com/podcasts/the-afternoon-buzz-8-10-21/

* The Connecticut River is wrenched to a dead stop in Massachusetts daily. It’s literally a heart attack to the ecosystem. But wait, there’s MORE..!

* For up to 4 months out of the year the river’s median natural routed flow is far less than the 15,000 cubic-feet-per-second massive suction of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project’s four giant turbines pulling at its current. What does this mean?

* Well, it means that there is no living river—because NMPS actually pulls the current into reverse and UPSTREAM for over 3 miles. This is a heart attack, followed by a stroke…

(* CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR A GRAPHIC FROM THE FERC PUBLIC RECORDS SHOWING THE CONNECTICUT PULLED BACKWARD–ARROWS HEADING UPSTREAM TOWARD THE INVISIBLE THROAT OF THE NORTHFIELD MOUNTAIN PUMPED STORAGE STATION, OVER 3 MILES AWAY. NOTE FRENCH KING BRIDGE IN 1ST PHOTO; AND FRANKLIN COUNTY TECH/TF INDUSTRIAL PARK IN THE 2ND*)

*20160301-2015Pages from 3.3.9_appendix_B_Velocity-2*

* Is THIS a RIVER??? *

* Learn how Northfield, a massive energy CONSUMER, squanders enough energy to power all of the housing units in metro-Boston annually—plus those of Franklin County, and nearly all those in Hampshire County, while killing a 4 state ecosystem…

* Hear how Northfield has never met the legal basic safe passage requirements for migratory fish—upstream and down, as it kills millions of juvenile shad in direct violation of the 1872 landmark US Supreme Court decision in Holyoke Company v. Lyman.

* Is the Connecticut even a river in Massachusetts? It meets NONE of the basic definitions of a river from any source or legal dictionary. It is denied it’s NATURAL FLOW; it does not run DOWNSTREAM; it does not flow to the SEA; and it is literally untethered from the pull of GRAVITY…

* Does it meet even basic EPA or Clean Water Act standards—in the Commonwealth or on the Navigable Waters of the United States?

* Why was Northfield not stopped before it got started?

* Why wasn’t it put to bed the moment Vermont Yankee shut down?

* The Connecticut is a river without a watchdog. This is the ecosystem’s critical artery, yet one without a single lawyer dedicated to its defense these last 69 years, while some falsely lay claim to being its protector…

Thanks to Buz and WHMP radio https://whmp.com/podcasts/the-afternoon-buzz-8-10-21/

EMPTIED RIVER NOTES: May 19, 2021

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

Copyright © 2021 by Karl Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Connecticut River return to the bad old days?

Posted by on 18 Oct 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, Cabot Woods, Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River riverbank failure, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Endangered Species Act, Eversource, Farmington River, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, Greenfield Community College, Northeast Utilities, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, pumped storage, Relicensing, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, Society of Environmental Journalists, Source to Sea Cleanup, The Recorder, The Revelator, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, US Geological Survey's Conte Fish Lab, Vermont Digger, Vernon Dam Fishway

The riverbanks at Rock Dam
Photo
Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

Note: the following piece appeared recently in VTDigger, www.vtdigger.org, https://vtdigger.org/2020/10/18/karl-meyer-a-connecticut-river-return-to-the-bad-old-days/ and in the The Recorder, www.recorder.com, (no story link posted)

                        A Connecticut River return to the bad old days?

Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All rights reserved

On September 1st, FirstLight Power petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 3rd delay in submitting final license applications to run Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station and their Turners Falls hydro sites in Massachusetts. In a process now in its 9th year, the Canadian-owned company wants 4 more months to restudy NMPS’s water release impacts on endangered tiger beetles 30 miles downstream. It was bad news capping a dismal year for a Connecticut River that’s not seen any semblance of natural flows in the Bay State for half a century.

Despite recent on-air, print and social media stories of cleanup heroism, secret swimming holes, baby lamprey rescue and adult lamprey barbecues, our river seems headed back toward its time as “the nation’s best landscaped sewer.”

In August hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage overflows enter its main stem, fouling it from Springfield to Middletown CT. In June, for the second time in a year, toxic PFAS entered waterways at Bradley Airport triggering fish consumption warnings and menacing water supplies on the Farmington all the way to its meeting with the Connecticut. A year ago–almost exactly 19 years after a factory spill killed thousands of North River fish, that grizzly Colrain kill was replicated when sulfuric acid again flowed from that site into that same tributary. 

In Vermont this year structural problems at Vernon Dam likely led to the big downturn in American shad reaching central New England. At Vernon this spring structural problems at that fishway likely led to the big downturn in American shad passing upstream there to central New England. The partial blockage might have been caught–and repaired, had two students downriver at Greenfield Community College fulfilled their weekly fish counting obligations. Important tallying, via downloaded video, just didn’t happen–leaving the problem at Vernon Dam undetected for a full migration season.

Meanwhile in Turners Falls riverbanks were collapsing—some oozing grim puss that’s leaching to the most endangered habitat in the ecosystem. The Rock Dam is an in-river ledge that’s provided refuge to federally endangered shortnose sturgeon for centuries. It’s their sole documented natural spawning site. Pink-orange slurry has been flushing from the banks there for a year–running into the river’s cobble bed where early life stage sturgeon shelter and develop.

A red slurry enters the Connecticut at the Rock Dam
Photo
Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

Visitors to the river at Rock Dam off “Migratory Way” in Cabot Woods will see a 30 foot hemlock and saplings being eaten by a sinkhole now big enough for a Mini-Cooper. Banks there slump to a series of nasty, yards-wide, gashes—one with a dumped tire in its center. Slime squeezing from them sloughs in weeping riverlets that flow the final few yards to the river’s sturgeon nursery as a rusty precipitate of oxidizing iron, manganese and other unknown agents. In a drought year, the adjacent muck-choked canal is clearly the destabilizing water source.

Upriver failing FirstLight banks are threatening Millers Falls Road and houses on a buff there. Pipe failure is said to be a culprit. The town made expensive repairs, dumping rubble on that hillside at a sharp river curve called The Narrows. Failures at such nearby sites might merit closer examination. The Narrows is where current pushes against the outer riverbanks–a classic place for surging water to create erosional impact. Northfield Mountain creates big suck-and-surge cycles just 4 miles upstream–sending down powerful pulses that cause daily 3 foot “tides” at Turners Falls Dam. Some can reach 9 feet.

NMPS was completed in 1972 by Northeast Utilities. Rebranded as Eversource and now expanding into natural gas, they are still New England’s grid monopoly and perennial major sponsor of the Source to Sea Cleanup. NMPS is a now 48 year-old FirstLight holding, but still sending its surges down the Narrows to that dam. There, they get shunted into the power canal, ultimately exerting pressure against its massively muck-choked outer bank–adjacent and just 400 feet from those dissolving banks at Rock Dam. Ironically, any flow the canal can’t swallow gets flushed over the dam in channel-ramping surges to the starved, oft-empty riverbed below. That parch-and-flood cycle further impacts Rock Dam’s shores; then heads to endangered Puritan tiger beetle habitat 30 miles away.

The muck-choked outer bank of the drawn-down Turner Falls power canal on Sept. 14, 2020 Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

The US Geological Survey’s Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center sits 250 yards from Rock Dam. Shortnose sturgeon and their critical Rock Dam pool were extensively studied by their researchers there for decades. Now debased and failing, it is ignored. What about the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act? That lab sits on a bank opposite Greenfield, home to the 68 year-old, recently-rebranded Connecticut River Conservancy. Why isn’t CRC testing that Rock Dam slurry at their water lab? Have they sent any slime samples out for analysis? Where’s their Streambank Erosion Committee? Why would a federal lab abandon the long-term endangered species research site at its door?

As self-described champions of “Science for a Changing World” and “Healthy habitats,” neither has steered a reporter or video crew to that elephant in the room. Perhaps it’s their admission of powerlessness. CRC, dependent on various federal and state fish and environmental agencies for grant monies won’t likely be calling out their failures anytime soon. They have no enforcement mandate and employ no staff lawyers. Thus they never challenge the big dogs, and power companies know it.

If a river could talk I think it would say cleanups look nice, but they won’t save rivers. That requires an unencumbered 21st century organization—one with lawyers and an enforcement mandate corporations can’t ignore.

Honoring Peskeomscut

Posted by on 18 May 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, blueback herring, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Deerfield River, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, fish passage, Holyoke Dam, Narragansett, Nipmuck, Norwottuck, Peskeomscut, Pocumtuck, Relicensing, Riverside, sea lamprey, shad, The Dead Reach, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls Massacre, Uncategorized

THIS GREAT AND BROKEN RIVER IV

Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Issue # 4: Honoring Peskeomscut


Peskeomscut, Island?
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer(Click X 3 to enlarge; back arrow to return to text)

At a glance, this could be a photo of a quiet pond in New England. It is not. This is the mid-May, midstream view of an island in the Connecticut River, just 250 yards below the Turners Falls Dam in Massachusetts. With a quick look you might be wondering: where’s the river—and, what island?? This is a chasm and landscape robbed of its water, life and dignity. On any mid-spring day for ages past, thousands of American shad would’ve been pulsing through the rolling froth on both sides of what is a now-erased and bereft island. Today, shad here are not even offered a decent puddle to flop in.

Glancing quickly, you might not have made note of an island. But a closer look reveals a small, tree festooned bump in the center-right background. That site was identified by FirstLight Power as PesKeomscut Island in their initial 2012 application for a new federal hydro license to operate Turners Fall Dam—which is just out of view to the right of this photo. Unfortunately, Turners Falls Dam has been the place where New England’s Great River has died for well over two centuries now.

As far as any real river here?—there’s a just-visible bridge in the upper right, beneath which the mouth of the Fall River is adding a little flow and a tiny bit of froth to the barely-running current in the background. What should be the strong, rolling pulse of the spring Connecticut here should to be pushing downstream from left to right across the entire foreground of this photo. Instead, there’s just a stilled pond. And, yes, that island has been virtually erased. To be an island, you must have water.

On this May 14, 2020, FirstLight has subtracted that main ingredient. At mid-afternoon the Connecticut has been turned off in its own 200 million year-old chasm, robbed of all but a riverlet of dribbling flow. They do that most months out of the year. This spring day all but a tiny percentage of its life-giving current is diverted into FL’s adjacent power canal. The Connecticut is broken here at a place once called Peskeomscut–broken since the first dam stretched across this ancient chasm from Turners Falls to Gill in 1798. That began the 2-1/2 mile reach just downstream that robbed the river of life and flow. It gave rise to a landlocked “island” without a watery moat.

Further out and to the left in the photo, two more humans engage in a leisurely stroll over exposed sand—mid-river at mid-spring, padding over a dry shoal that should be teeming with river life at this season. But not here; not in northern Massachusetts. The place is a desert.

Instead of a life-giving, roaring spring cataract–encircling an inaccessible island, just a salutary wash of water is spilling from the dam above. Peskeomscut Island has been reduced to an abandoned, rocky spit in a parching, emptied chasm.

Looking closely, lower left of center you can make out an angler at the quiet, current-less shore. He might as well be on a pond—migrating American shad won’t find an upstream current deep or strong enough to follow their ancient migratory path toward the lost waterfalls here this day. While downstream, Holyoke Dam had reported 10,000 shad passing there through May 8, Turners Falls Dam had a whopping 38 passing here…

Peskeomscut is an approximate spelling of an Algonquian term used to denote the place where an ancient waterfall, cataract and island anchored the landscape. That place, which teemed with life throughout its annual seasonal cycles back into the mists of time, is today robbed of its soul–deprived of dignity. What, in 2020, should be a restored, thriving, May Connecticut River–full of shad, herring, lamprey eels and frothing currents, is today a drying, emptied bed. Its “island” is simply a rocky spit, easily accessible across the barren, bedrock ledge.


Midstream Peskeomscut 1-1-2018 (Click X 3 to enlarge)
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

There is more than a little irony to this site being referenced today in Massachusetts as Turners Falls or the Great Falls. Any visitor here would more than likely find this curving, ancient chasm hollowed out at nearly any month of the year. There rarely are falls to see here. This is a broken place, a starved place. There is something raw and enduring about the injuries perpetrated here year in and year out. The once abundant life of this place is merely an afterthought here, if considered at all.

From Turners Falls Dam downstream to just above the river’s confluence with the Deerfield River, these 2-1/2 miles of the Connecticut are best described as its “Dead Reach.” There is no river in this stretch, just a parching/choking series of on-off flows that alternately starve and inundate what was once a life-filled artery.

In the spring of 2020, this should not be. It should all be the past history of the Great River. The current 52 year-old Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to operate Turners Falls Dam expired in 2018. But FERC has allowed repeated extensions of that license, in a so-called “5-year” relicensing process that began in 2012. This stilted, corporate-skewed federal process has seen virtually no forward movement for over a year–and will soon be celebrating its 8th birthday. That stale status quo seems to suit FERC and FirstLight–as well as their shareholders, quite nicely. It’s just another abuse in the ongoing nightmare for the central artery of Western New England’s largest ecosystem.

On May 19, 2004, I witnessed a reconciliation ceremony at a park in Montague adjacent to the Connecticut, just above Turners Falls Dam. Local officials, citizens, and representatives from several of the region’s Native American tribes were present. All were there to honor, and attempt to heal the lingering injuries and moldering legacy of a grim injustice committed here in the pre-dawn dark on the morning of May 19, 1676.


Turners Falls Dam and Riverside Massacre Site
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer(Click X 3 to enlarge, back arrow to return to text)

Just across the river in the Riverside flats of Gill, 160 colonial troops swept down a hillside, firing muskets and stabbing bayonets into the tents of sleeping elders, women, and children of the Narragansett, Nipmuck and Pocumtuck and other peoples—encamped there in a hungry and desperate attempt to harvest fish and plant sustaining corn in their ongoing attempt to defend and keep the territories of their ancient homelands. For the colonists, it was a grim and successful slaughter of hundreds of defenseless Indians. For the indigenous tribes, though their surprise counter attack quickly sent the blood-bathed attackers into a chaotic, F-Troop rout, the loss of life ultimately proved a spirit and soul crushing disaster.

On this May 19th, 2020, much of the signaled healing and reconciliation of 16 years back seems to remain orphaned on the 344th anniversary of the Turners Falls Massacre. The wounds of that day are yet present. And, the later and ongoing theft of a river’s life-giving current–begun with that 1798 dam, still remains in place. The Connecticut here is–most days, an emptied and soulless place. It is long past time for the life and lives lost at Peskeomscut–and some of what is still missing as well, to see the beginning of a long overdue restoration. The river belongs to the people. Some of that healing must begin with water. Water is where life begins…

Visit the Rock Dam: endangered sturgeon sanctuary

Posted by on 05 Apr 2019 | Tagged as: Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Dr. Boyd Kynard, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, Holyoke Dam, Holyoke Fish Lift, Holyoke Gas & Electric, Northfield Mountain, Relicensing, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, shad, shad larvae, shortnose sturgeon, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam


Photo Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (Click, then click twice more to enlarge).

On Sunday, April 14; 10:30 a.m. in Turners Falls you can join sturgeon expert Dr. Boyd Kynard and myself for a short hike to an exceptional and beleaguered aquatic refuge on the Connecticut River. This is a fragile sanctuary that endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon and other species have used as a spawning and rearing refuge for thousands of years.

Today, industrial depredations that result in dribble-and-surge, see-saw flows in the riverbed continually threaten the spawning success of the only federal- and state- endangered migratory fish in this ecosystem. Another looming threat are pods of lumbering rafts, rafters and kayakers with nascent plans to repeatedly surf the single and brief rapid here–landing in fragile habitat, and dragging boats upstream through wetlands and cobbles for endless joy rides.

Photo Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (Click, then click twice more to enlarge).

Dr. Kynard recounts the shortnose sturgeon’s complex biology centered on this site and his results from decades of sturgeon research at the Rock Dam pool. Meyer gives an overview of this embattled river reach, including geology and human and industrial history. Free.

No pre-registration necessary. Meet at public lot off G Street in Turners Falls, near USGS Conte Fish Lab sign. Includes brief, steep, rugged terrain; not handicapped accessible. Walk best suited for ages 10 and above. Heavy rain cancels.

ALSO of note on the river, Holyoke Gas & Electric was scheduled to start running the fish lifts at South Hadley Falls on April 1st to begin passing this year’s migration of sturgeon, shad, lamprey and herring. As usual, the lifts were not readied in time, and the strongest, most eager migrants are treading water for a full week without upstream access. They are said to begin lifting fish next week, but flows have now come up, which may be an excuse for further delay.

Photo Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (Click, then click twice more to enlarge).

Meanwhile, as the federal relicensing process for Northfield Moutain and Turners Falls embarks on it SEVENTH year, both FERC and FirstLight appear in no hurry to see the process conclude. Thus, a beleaguered ecosystem and embattled fish and habitats remain starved of their legally required protections.

Photo Copyright © 2019 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (Click; then click twice more to enlarge).

FirstLight PSP Investments makes 12th hour move to divide CT River hydro assets

Posted by on 08 Jan 2019 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, PSP Investments, Relicensing, Rock Dam, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Below is the text of a formal Protest lodged with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on January 7, 2019. All comments and protests are due in this FERC request by January 15th–coming at a time when key relicensing stakeholders including the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service are on furlough and unable to Comment…

Public comments to FERC in Washington DC on this proposal for these two “hydro” projects cited as: “P-2485” Northfield Mountain, and “P-1889” Turners Falls Project, can be entered at www.ferc.gov under “documents and filings” using their e-comment button on the menu. NOTE: You MUST include your NAME and contact info at the end of your comments.

Photo above is of the flow-starved Connecticut River at the Rock Dam in Turners Falls, critical spawning habitat for the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon, and a key upstream passage route for spawning run American shad. It was taken on May 13, 2018, at the exact time shortnose sturgeon require flow at this ancient site. The river is impoverished here by flows diverted at Turners Falls Dam, controlled by operators inside Northfield Mountain, a half dozen miles upstream. (NOTE: click, then click again, and AGAIN to enlarge photo. Photo Copyright 2018 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved)

Karl Meyer, M.S. Environmental Science
91 Smith Street # 203
Greenfield, MA, 01301
413-773-0006 January 7, 2019
karlmeyer1809@verizon.net

The Honorable Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
88 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426

PROTEST re: P-2485 and P-1889, to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BEFORE THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION.

Specifically, the FirstLight Hydro Generating Company, Project No. 2485- Northfield Mountain LLC) APPLICATION FOR APPROVAL OF TRANSFER OF LICENSE, SUBSTITUTION OF APPLICANT, AND REQUEST FOR EXPEDITED CONSIDERATION; and FirstLight Hydro Generating Company, Project No. 1889, FirstLight MA Hydro LLC ) APPLICATION FOR APPROVAL OF TRANSFER OF LICENSE, SUBSTITUTION OF APPLICANT, AND REQUEST FOR EXPEDITED CONSIDERATION

Dear Secretary Bose,

I write to protest the request of FirstLight Hydro Generating Company for transfer of license, substitution of applicant, and request for expedited consideration filed with the FERC on December 20, 2018 for these two FirstLight Hydro Generating Company projects. I have been a participating Stakeholder in the FERC ILP relicensing proceedings for P-1889 and P-2485 since 2012. I serve on the Fish and Aquatics Studies Team for both projects and have been in attendance with fellow Stakeholders at all relevant FERC ILP meetings and consultations since that time.

Since its initial application in 2012, FirstLight has requested that all aspects of this ILP be predicated on its desire and application for a merged, single license for the Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain Projects. That requested configuration and understanding for license conditioning and requirements was thus accepted by all parties from the outset. FL’s formal submission was met with few objections. It has been the de facto understanding of all Stakeholders–and FERC, since the ILP process began over 6 years ago. Since that request in their initial filings, all parties have worked in good faith under their requested parameters, largely because of the common understanding that these operations have always been integrated.

Both FL projects operate and are controlled from a central location, in tandem, coordinating their adjacent peaking production units along a short, eight mile section of the Connecticut River. They have been running, thus, as a single entity for a quarter century. As witness to how the projects are a coordinating unit, Anne Harding, Compliance Administrator for FirstLight Power Resources wrote in the November 1, 2016, issue of HydroWorld, “The Northfield Mountain control room operators began to remotely operate the units at Cabot Station in the 1990s. In addition, the bascule gates on Montague Dam and head gates at the gatehouse are operated from Northfield Mountain.” (See https://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-35/issue-9/articles/62-mw-cabot-station-retains-much-of-its-1916-equipment.html ) Hence, this eight mile reach of river is indeed the single, integrated unit that FirstLight applied for a single, new ILP license for back in 2012.

Given these facts, and that all relicensing studies and consults have been predicated on their formal application requests through a process that has stretched over more than half a decade, it would be improper—and likely legally suspect, to change all the parameters of these highly regulated FERC ILP procedures at this time. If FERC were to allow this request, Stakeholders would thus have to undertake new studies under new operational assumptions, and ultimately have to enter into two-track negotiations with two separate, new entities–if new settlement agreements were to be undertaken. Most confounding at this late date—half a year after the current licenses have had to be extended, all ILP studies would have to be re-evaluated, or redone, in terms of different parameters and assumptions, stemming from FL new contentions that their coordinated operations are separate, unlinked entities.

This is a highly suspect maneuver. It smacks of bad faith bargaining since the time Canada’s PSP Investments purchased these FL projects in 2016. Further, witness that FirstLight’s Mr. Doug Bennett, Plant General Manager, Northfield Mountain/Turners Falls Projects. made a request of FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee (as well as now-disgraced former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt) to discuss a trio of issues that could impact FirstLight’s future market prospects under a new license back on January 30, 2018. Both officials were later to visit in tandem on February 14, 2018–but FERC first had to respond and make an obvious point in response to Mr. Bennett on January 30, 2018, noting that acceding to these requests would violate FERC ex parte rules, and Commissioner Chatterjee could hence not discuss any of the proposed topics.

At this late stage in the ILP process, good faith and procedure would dictate that FERC now reject FirstLight Hydro’s request to reconfigure this monolithic relicensing to their unfounded contention that these are not a single, integrated entity—one intricately coordinated to maximize output and profitability along an 8 mile segment of the Connecticut River.

Further, due to the current partial Federal Government shutdown, key federal agencies, experts, and Stakeholders are on furlough, and cannot participate or weigh-in on the merits of this 12th hour request. You cannot expedite a process when the participants are barred from the proceedings.

I thus formally protest FirstLight’s requests to separate this singular operation into two individual LLCs, and ask that FERC deny the transfer of these licenses at this time; and deny any substitution of new applicants until this ILP is complete. Further, I contend that any request for expedited consideration is unwarranted and patently unsupportable given the absence of key stakeholders. Unites States federal Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, federal trust fish, and inter-agency coordination statutes are integral to this ILP on a four-state river that is the centerpiece of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. These laws and tenets must be respected and abided-by wherever international ownership comes into question.

Lastly, I formally request Intervener Status in FERC P-2485 and P-1889 at this time.

Thank you for your careful attention to these matters.

Sincerely,
Karl Meyer, M.S.
Cc: Marc Silver, FirstLightpower

The Broken Connecticut

Posted by on 09 Oct 2018 | Tagged as: American shad, Clean Water Act, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, EPA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, FERC, FirstLight, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Reservoir, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, pumped storage, Relicensing, shad, Uncategorized


Copyright © 2018 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved

Eight years ago, almost to the day, this is how the Connecticut River in front of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage intake looked. (Click, then Click twice more)

The owners were under sanction from the EPA and had been scrambling for months to suction the mountain of reservoir silt they’d illegally dumped directly into the Connecticut after massively botching their reservoir de-watering and clean-out.Northfield remained inoperable from May 1st through early November. To minimize the reactivation of silt they’d already fouled the river with, they set up a ponderously long silt curtain–supposed to keep their gunk in place. Below, is how their silt-safety set-up looked on July 20, 2010 (Click, the Click twice more)

However, if you look at how effectively that sanctioned-solution was when employed-by–and deployed by the company, you would have to look at this photo below from October 2, 2010. (Click, then Click twice)

The sole solution FirstLight has proposed in these FERC proceedings to prevent the suctioning deaths of millions of juvenile shad–and that’s disregarding their round-the-year evisceration of adult and young fish of dozens of species, is to place a barrier net across the mouth of their giant suction and slice pumped storage contraption. This, for the next several decades, would be like putting a band-aid on a massively severed artery. If they couldn’t keep a net in place in the river when Northfield was sanctioned NOT pumping at all, what gives anyone the idea that this bit of window dressing will be of any service to a broken river system at all.

Since FirstLight is proposing to suck more water out of the river to suck into that reservoir, why not trade that money-making scheme for having NFMT shut down at key seasons to comply with the law and protect the Public Trust.

In delivering the 1872 Supreme Court’s decision in Holyoke Company vs. Lyman, Justice Nathan Clifford entered the following into his decision:

“Ownership of the banks and bed of the stream, as before remarked, gives to the proprietor the exclusive right of fishery, opposite his land, as well as the right to use the water to create power to operate mills, but neither the one nor the other right nor both combined confer any right to erect obstructions in the river to prevent the free passage of the fish up and down the river at their accustomed seasons.”

In deciding against the dam owners who had repeatedly refused to construct fish passage at their dam as settled law in the Commonwealth had long required, the Court made upstream and downstream passage of the public’s fish a precedent and legal right in rivers throughout the United States.

“Fish rights below a dam, constructed without passageways for the fish, are liable to be injured by such a structure as well as those owned above the dam, as the migratory fish, if they cannot ascend to the head waters of the stream at their accustomed seasons will soon cease to frequent the stream at all, or in greatly diminished numbers.”

Next Page »