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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is THE PUBLIC’S RIVER!

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

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

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

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

READ THOSE DEFENDERS NAMES in the list below…

STAY THE COURSE; KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OF CRITICAL NOTE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is THE PUBLIC’S RIVER!

The Connecticut River’s staunch public defense broadens…

Posted by on 02 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Andrew Fisk, Connecticut River, conservancy, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, CRC, defense, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC license, FirstLight, Hudson Riverkeeper, Kathleen Theoharides, 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, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, right-to-know, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

THE PUBLIC CONTINUES TO STEP UP and defend the Connecticut River against a new half-century of ecosystem destruction.

IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS MORE THAN 40 CITIZENS–and counting, have entered testimony into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission public record stating that the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project is too destructive to be relicensed.

You can read the latest citizen FERC filings–and get directions for filing your own, further below.

These on-the-record defenses become part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s input as they ultimately make their “Environmental Assessment” of FirstLight’s full and final license application some months down the road. FERC, too, is mandated to ensure that federal and state environmental laws and statutes are followed when deliberating the issuance of a license.

Will they follow the citizenry and release Northfield’s deadly choke hold on this ecosystem in Massachusetts after 50 years of destruction??

I wish I could promise that will happen. What I can promise is that the MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, the MA DEP, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service–all agencies that have failed all these decades to protect and enforce environmental statutes and federal fish passage and protections on the Connecticut this last half century, will CERTAINLY be reading these comments. They will be reading them in the knowledge that people are paying attention as they participate in backroom “final” license negotiations with FirstLight.

WILL THESE AGENCIES, ALL WITH MASSACHUSETTS OFFICES, FINALLY STAND UP for what’s still the Nation’s best landscaped sewer here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts–AGAINST this deadly, river-reversing scourge crippling an entire ecosystem??

THEY ALL OWE NEW ENGLAND A LIVING CONNECTICUT RIVER!

Why we find ourselves here after half a century is because the river here has been left undefended since the mid-1960s when the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project was first proposed.

The photo above is of a little tourism, chamber-of-commerce Connecticut River promotion paddle that took place in October 2020. That little promo outing left from a site virtually next to the mouth of the Northfield Mountain’s deadly intake tunnels. That’s MA Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides in front of the camera, State Senator Jo Comerford is in the background on the left, and CRC Director Andy Fisk–though not pictured, was also a happy paddling participant that day.

While all were offered turns in front of those cameras and to talk to the print media on FirstLight’s turf–next to the grimmest machine ever installed on the Connecticut, NOT ONE spokesperson or representative took the opportunity to defend a defenseless river; not one made any reference to the grim fate of this ecosystem’s resident and migratory fish…imperiled, just yards away, when they had the opportunity to reach the public through the media.

Rather than green-wash the elephant in the room, any one of them could have offered this truth to the public: This river-reversing machine literally devours millions of eggs and young-of-the year migratory fish produced in a three-state(Vermont, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts)river reach annually. Instead, they paddled and picnicked.

For comparison, a nearly mirror-image pumped storage proposal was brought up in the mid-1960s by Consolidated Edison for Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River at virtually the same time.

Unlike on the Connecticut, where a “watershed council” had been in business since 1952, the citizens on the Hudson got together and decided to FIGHT against turning Storm King Mountain into their river’s deadly sewer. They fought ConEd in the courts, and defended their Hudson River, openly, in the court-of-public-opinion, for 15 years–and WON. They proudly bragged about their mission, their willingness and duty to investigate, enforce, and prosecute. That’s what bona fide river protection looks like. They forced the state and federal agencies to DO THEIR JOBS! That’s what real watchdogs do.

Do a quick bit of research on Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, Scenic Hudson, and ultimately, Hudson Riverkeeper, and you’ll see what enforcement and real river defense models–with staff lawyers and enforcement, look like.

HERE, BELOW, you can read a new citizen’s defense–the latest public filings defending our river and it’s ecosystem. Another half century of failure is simply unacceptable:

Document Accession #: 20220103-5007 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Frank Ribeiro, Bernardston, MA.

Hello
As a concerned citizen of Franklin County, Massachusetts, I have lived in the Connecticut river valley for fifty years. It is truly a wonderful place to live.

In today’s modern world there are many environmental challenges that we face to maintain the balance of nature. The one problem that has been obvious to me over the many years is the constant assault to our beautiful river.

We need to stop this assault and abuse. FirstLight MA Hydro LLC license request to continue operation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage must be rejected.

For the sake of company profits OUR river is out of balance. It needs your help to secure its future and the future of ALL things living who are dependent on its survival in a natural, balanced state.

Please reject this application.

Thank You
Frank Ribeiro

Document Accession #: 20220103-5010 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Andrew Hutchison, Greenfield, MA.

I ask FERC to deny FirstLight’s bid to relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station for the sake of all aquatic life in our beloved Connecticut River ecosystem. This system is clearly harmful to endangered species, such as the shortnose sturgeon. While the facility has been bought and sold numerous times over the years, the attention to preserving the ecosystem has been ignored repeatedly in search of profits. While private businesses have a right to seek profits for their shareholders, that does not supersede the endangered species act or the right of the stakeholders to a healthy river.

Document Accession #: 20220103-5011 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Mark Russo, Deerfield, MA.

RE: the request of First Light for re-licensing of Northfield, MA pumped storage facility (FERC project number P-2485). I have serious concerns about the damage caused by this facility to the critically important Connecticut River eco-system as graphically detailed in editorials submitted by Karl Meyer and published in the Greenfield Recorder. If your decision is to renew this controversial license, strong environmental safeguards must be required and regularly monitored; and given the current global environmental crisis, the term of the license renewal should be substantially reduced from 50 years to 25 years or less.

Document Accession #: 20220103-5012 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Judith Phillips, Northfield, MA.
RE: Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings FERC Project Number P-2485

Dear Commissioners,
I am seeking to comment on First Light’s relicensing bid for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station on the Connecticut River.

As a Northfield resident I urge FERC in the strongest possible terms to NOT relicense First Light’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility for another 50 years for the sake of all aquatic life in our beloved Connecticut River ecosystem. The River is in a perilous position with its ecosystem teetering in these “confidential” final license settlement negotiations between Canada-owned First Light and MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, MA Div. of Environmental Protection, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries that has been taking place during this December. All that has been discussed and ?agreed to? is being done behind closed doors.

I believe these license settlement negations should be moved out into the light of day and into a public forum.

In addition to the pumping station in Northfield adversely impacting our River by wasting energy from fossil fuels that they burn to send water uphill just so it can flow down back into the river which destroys the fish, and more recently First Light is impacting our tax base. Regarding taxes, First Light is a subsidiary of Canada owned power company and that they have moved their corporate assets for Northfield Pump Storage and the Turners Falls Hydroelectric to Delaware to avoid Massachusetts taxes, clearly shows their primary goal is maximum profit.

For me, in the face of the huge environmental crisis we all are in and the current environmental damage that is occurring daily from the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, for FERC to renew a 50-year license to First Light’s outdated pumping station should be unthinkable! Further I believe this ancient energy provider, is the exact opposite of sustainability both energetically and ecologically and needs to stop now!

Laura Doughty, Wendell, MA summarized it well.
“If we are to have any chance at keeping a livable planet, we must start *now* to use wiser and more efficient energy storage technologies. It isridiculous to let this corporation use far more energy than it can ever create so that it can perpetuate its business model of buying low and selling high. From an energy conservation point of view it makes no sense, but when one considers the vast ecological damage this facility has been allowed to inflict, it is shameful that it has not been shut down long ago. Please do what is right for our river, and for our planet.”

Please DO NOT relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility for the people and the environment upon which we depend for our continuing survival.

Judith Phillips
482 Orange Road
Northfield, MA

Document Accession #: 20220103-5013 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Priscilla Lynch, Conway, MA.

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the renewal of FirstLight’s license to operate the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station on the Connecticut River in Northfield, Ma. It is way past time to cease this destructive assault on our environment, the river and its ecosystems. As you know I am sure, this facility uses power from the grid to pull the river’s water back and up the mountain to be released at peak times at peak prices. In the process it churns, chops and spits out fish and other essential aquatic life. At a time when our very best efforts should be to heal and preserve our waters and ecosystems as a means to ensure the very survival of life on earth, it is irresponsible to continue operation of this facility. FirstLight does not offer solutions or healing to our environment. It is foreign corporation making a great deal of money on losses to our environment and our well being. Please consider it your duty to act responsibility and do not renew FirstLight’s license to operate the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. As public servants, doing so will be doing immense good for those you are intended to serve. By not doing so, you will continue unnecessary extreme environmental damage and loss and will continue to feed the pockets of a foreign corporation at the expense of those you are intended to serve.

Priscilla Lynch
Conway, MA.

BE HEARD!! 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.

A Connecticut River extinction rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

juvenile Connecticut River shad, dead

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

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

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

* * ALSO, as we are at the holiday break, there is STILL time to enter your own on-the-record testimony to FERC. This ecosystem does not belong to FirstLight, or the Commonwealth, or the “environmental” agencies that have so long failed to protect it. It belongs to the children of the future. HERE’S HOW TO ENTER YOUR TESTIMONY:Go to: www.ferc.gov; then to “Documents and Filings”; then click on the “Quick Links” tab for FERC Online on the right; and then to “eComment” on the page that opens. Follow directions for “Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings (P – Project Number),” and BE SURE TO use Northfield’s FERC project number, P-2485, to enter your comments.

THIS is the giant mess in 2010 made when Northfield operators failed at flushing out the accumulated muck, detritus, and death that had been sucked up from the river into their 4 billion gallon reservoir for years. They clogged their mile-long suction tunnels with several feet of mud, and later got caught and ordered to CEASE AND DESIST by the EPA, after dumping truck-load after truck-load of polluting muck directly into the river for over 90 days straight. In direct violation of the CLEAN WATER ACT. This is the MASSIVE RIVER DREDGING OPERATION the EPA ordered. Northfield went down for over HALF a year, yet everyone’s lights stayed on…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Smethurst
5 Pleasant Avenue
Deerfield, MA

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

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

Thank you,
Rebecca Robbins
Williamsburg, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
Robert Porzio
Putney VT

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!

ENDGAME LOOMS FOR NEW ENGLAND’S GREAT RIVER

Posted by on 10 Sep 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Atlantic salmon, blueback herring, climate-destroying, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Endangered Species Act, ESA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC licensing process, FirstLight, FirstLight Power Resources, Fish and Aquatics Study Team, GHG, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, New Hampshire, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, pumped storage, right-to-know, Rock Dam, shad, shortnose sturgeon, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Revelator, The Society of Environmental Journalists, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont

Endgame Looms for England’s Great River Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer


The impoverished Connecticut River looking downstream to Turners Falls Dam. The run stops here. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved. (CLICK x 3 to enlarge)

NOTE: The following piece first appeared as an Op-Ed in The Revelator, an initiative of the Center for Biological Diversity on August 26, 2020. www.therevelator.org

FURTHER NOTE: * On September 1, 2020, after this piece first appeared, FirstLight petitioned FERC for an open-ended date to extend the filing of their Final License Applications citing a need for new test data to respond to the USF&WS. If FERC agrees, that would add another 4 months and possibly another full year, to this endless process–without any long-awaited relief for a flow starved Connecticut River. It’s time for FERC to wrap this up.

After a half-century of failures, the recovery of the Connecticut River ecosystem hangs in the balance. Will authorities finally act to save it?

Rivers should not die in the dark.

On Aug. 31 FirstLight Power Resources is expected to file its final license applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue operating three hydro facilities profiting off massive water diversions from the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The conditions written into FERC licenses can last up to 50 years.

These applications signal the beginning of the final chapter in determining the future of the four-state river at the heart of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, founded to protect a 7.2-million-acre watershed. Their rendering will decide the future of migratory fish, river flows and a host of embattled ecosystem conditions on New England’s longest river, some running counter to laws in place since 1872.

When decisions affecting a river for decades are being made, the public has a right to know of the stakes, the players and the key decision makers. In this case the public knows little of issues potentially affecting 2.4 million people in a sprawling watershed.

One of the failed fish ladders sending all spring migrants into the Turners Falls power canal maize. Across 45 years just 5 shad in 100 have succeeded in passing the Turners Falls Dam–leaving 50 miles of spawning habitat in 3 states largely empty. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife have been at the table in this FERC license-determining process since 2012. But three years back, all parties signed nondisclosure agreements with FirstLight — ostensibly to facilitate settlement discussions on flows, habitat, dismal fish passage and endless mortality cycles at these Massachusetts hydro sites. Those NDAs have kept these issues largely out of the media, even as initial settlement talks broke off a year and a half ago.

*Since 2012 I’ve been a FERC-recognized intervener in the relicensing process. I chose not to sign the company’s confidentiality agreement in order to preserve the right to address and highlight the critical, long-term decisions being made about the Connecticut River in a process that remains largely out of public view.

FirstLight is part of the giant Canadian investment outfit PSP Investments, which arrived in Massachusetts four years back to buy up these facilities from GDF Suez. In 2018 it quickly reregistered the facilities as limited liability tax shelters in Delaware. Regardless of their state of incorporation, the licenses they now vie for will each be subject to current federal and state environmental laws, under terms mandated by the fish agencies and FERC.

Entranceway to the “Great Falls Discovery Center” where, most days out of the year, there are literally no great falls running here at all… The sprawling rocky riverbed is an emptied bowl. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer.

Of more than 500 U.S. refuges, Conte is one of just three with “fish” in its name. Today hopes for the long-term protections of its fish and the river comprising its central artery rest heavily in the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. They have “conditioning authority” in these relicensings — mandates to protect the life in this river system. FERC, the ultimate relicensing umpire here, is also mandated to ensure compliance with environmental laws. For the fish agencies this is their one chance to redeem some far-reaching mistakes made by their predecessors.

Forty-five years ago these agencies — operating on limited information and pursuing dreams of reprising a salmon not seen on this river since 1809 — signed agreements with different owners of these facilities. That hobbled, for generations, a four-state migratory fisheries restoration for American shad and river herring and a recovery for federally endangered shortnose sturgeon. They sanctioned the daily use of the massive river-reversing pumped storage facility still chewing through generations of migratory and resident fish today. Concurrently they left two miles of the river emptied downstream, its flow diverted into a turbine-lined power canal that all migrants must negotiate in order to access the next 50 miles of open spawning habitat. Just 5 shad in 100 have ever succeeded. Perhaps worse, the river’s only documented natural spawning habitat for the endangered shortnose sturgeon was left without life-sustaining flow.

A Tale of Two Salmon, a River Without Fish

The last wild salmon run on the Connecticut River was recorded in 1809.

Science later revealed the salmons’ end was likely a combination of warming temperatures following the unusually cold period known as the Little Ice Age coupled with modern dam building.

For 165 years there were no salmon. Then, in 1974, a single fish arrived at Holyoke Dam. Far from being a native of the Connecticut River, this was a new hybrid — a returning fish produced at one of several federal hatcheries completed five years prior. This salmon’s genes, like the genes of all the fish that would return in subsequent years, were cobbled together using salmon from several still-surviving runs in northern New England.

This past June 30 marked a different milestone on the river. It ended the first season in 46 years when not a single hatchery-derived Atlantic salmon returned past Massachusetts’ Holyoke Dam.

That unnatural history event passed with little fanfare. Its silent-spring absence marked the end of a half-century-old program that consumed hundreds of millions of dollars and ate up far too much room in a badly broken ecosystem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned its hatchery program at the end of the 2012 migration season, but across its 43 years — which saw the annual release of millions of fry and smolts to tributaries in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire — so few adults returned that no one was ever allowed to catch one.

This second salmon ending highlights the fish agencies’ last shot at returning ancient ocean connections to the river’s still-viable, age-old runs of American shad, blueback herring and federally endangered shortnose sturgeon in three states.

All these species have been guaranteed safe passage on U.S. rivers, going back to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Holyoke Company v. Lyman in 1872. That finding centered on the dam in Holyoke, Massachusetts and held that private dam owners operating on U.S. rivers must provide for the free movement, upstream and down, of migratory fish past their facilities.

Looking west across the CT to the Holyoke Dam fish lift complex. Since 1955 it is one of the East Coast’s few fish passage successes. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

Its implementation on New England’s river is now 148 years overdue.

A River Run in Reverse

What’s ultimately at issue here is flow.

Having taken a back seat for generations, wild runs of shad, herring and sturgeon remain in desperate need of passage and consistent, exponentially increased river flow in FirstLight’s hydro-complex dominated reach. It’s literally the weight of water that matters most to FirstLight. It’s money in the bank. And where flow diversion is concerned, it’s been pretty much a free ride for companies here for the past 50 years.

The 20 miles of river backed up into Vermont and New Hampshire behind Turners Falls Dam are massively suctioned for hours at up to 15,000 cubic feet per second to fill the 4-billion-gallon reservoir above the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station.

Northfield’s suction is so violent it literally reverses the Connecticut’s current for up to a mile downstream at times, erasing the essence of a living river system. The station kills everything it sucks in, from tiny fish eggs to full-size eels. In pumping mode it suctions the equivalent of 3,600 seven-bedroom mansions, each filled with the aquatic life of a river, vaporized every hour, for hours on end. Agency studies on America shad show tens of millions of eggs and larvae extinguished at Northfield annually, plus the deaths of over 2 million juvenile shad sucked in on migrations back to the sea. Five migrant species are subjected to Northfield. In all 24 species live here, most unstudied.

Warning floats on the CT at the entranceway to Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station’s massive subsurface suctioning site. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

Northfield’s operations are nothing like classic hydro, operating to produce virgin electricity via a dam in or adjacent to a river. It’s actually an electric appliance, built to take advantage of excess, unused megawatts produced nightly at the nearby Vermont Yankee nuclear station. Northfield burns electricity to pump water from the river a mile uphill to into its reservoir tank, which was created by blasting off the top of a mountain. The company’s original owners would buy up Vermont Yankee’s cheap electricity to power its giant, reversible turbines. Later, during peak energy times, that now-lifeless river water would get sent back through the turbines to generate hours-long pulses of energy at peak market prices.

It’s a buy-low, sell-high operation, still running at the expense of a river system six years after Vermont Yankee shut down.

Idle bulldozers sit in the emptied bed of the giant NMPS reservoir on June 27, 2010–the year they broke their giant appliance by fouling the pumps with muck and silt. Sanctioned by the EPA for a cover-up and massively dumping the muck from their mile-long intake tunnel directly into the river, Northfield didn’t operate for over half a year. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer. All Rights Reserved. (Click x3 to enlarge.)

Northfield is a net-loss energy machine — a giant underground appliance consuming massive amounts of grid electricity, half of it now generated by the climate-scorching natural gas that dominates New England’s power grid today. The station consumes 25% to 33% more juice than the secondhand megawatts it sends back by dumping deadened river water back through its turbines. It and a smaller pumped storage station in Connecticut are responsible for gobbling up 1.4% percent of the region’s energy in order to reproduce the few hours of secondhand juice they regenerate. According to grid operator ISO-New England, they are the only facilities whose operations flush out as negative input in the regional power mix.

Northfield has never generated a single watt of its own electricity. And though it may be fine as blunt instrument for use during the occasional power grid slump or rare emergency blackout, its endless, river-crippling, pump-and-purge cycle of regenerated megawatts is unnecessary for the daily operation of the New England grid. While its owners brag of being able to power a million homes for a few hours, they never mention having already burned through the energy of 1.25 million homes to do so. After its daily flush, Northfield is virtually dead in the water and must begin pulling from the grid and sucking life from the river all over.

Past mistakes not only allowed for this massive upstream disruption, they sanctioned diversion of nearly all flow, as well as all migrating fish, into a downstream power canal that on average just 5% of shad have ever successfully negotiated. That left another two miles of New England’s river dysfunctional, with the company providing just a dribble flow of 400 cubic feet per second in the riverbed in spring, when fish are moving upriver. That riverbed remains emptied of all flow more than half the other days of the year.

The most critical time for sustaining flows and the river’s migrants is April through June, when New England’s energy consumption is at its low annual ebb. But federal and state studies and in-river findings show that spring flows will need to be increased by a factor of 20, supplying 8,000 cfs rather than the current brook-like drizzle of 400 cfs. That’s what it will take to guide shad and blueback herring upstream in the river past Turners Falls Dam. That will also provide this river’s only endangered migrant the consistent flows required to successfully allow the shortnose sturgeon to spawn and ensure its larvae can develop in the cobbles at an ancient river pool in that impoverished reach.

Flow starved Connecticut River at the Rock Dam–critical shortnose sturgeon spawning and rearing site, May 13, 2018. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

Back in 1967, when four New England states and these agencies signed the “Statement of Intent for the Cooperative Fishery Restoration Program for the Connecticut River Basin,” they projected some 38,000 salmon would return annually to this four-state ecosystem. For salmon, a pinnacle of sorts was reached in 1981, when 592 were tallied passing Holyoke. But for a hybrid fish whose wild prototype disappeared 160 years prior, it was downhill from there. Most years fewer than 100 salmon returned to the river.

That 1967 agreement also set annual run targets of one million American shad heading upstream, with 850,000 shad passing Turners Falls and 750,000 entering Vermont and New Hampshire habitats above Vernon Dam. The highest shad return saw 720,000 passing Holyoke in 1992. Sadly, they’ve never made it much farther.

The Run Stops in Massachusetts.

Just 36 miles upstream of Holyoke, all semblance of a successful restoration ends when the annual shad run reaches Turners Falls Dam. Of the 537,000 shad that passed Holyoke in 2017, just 48,000 — a mere 9% — squeezed back into the river beyond Turners Falls.

Vernon Dam between Vernon VT and Hinsdale NH, March 2020. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer

The annual inversion at the next upstream dam in Vermont illustrates the perils on this broken river. In 2017 29,000 or 59% of the shad that survived the miseries of Turners Falls were subsequently counted passing Vernon Dam, 20 miles upriver. That inverted interstate ratio has been the case since 1975, with few shad managing to break out beyond the brutal ecosystem conditions in Massachusetts.

Why the Restoration Failed

The current restoration, congressionally authorized in 1967 and still operating today under the moniker of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, made their biggest blunder in 1975 when they signed off on new license requirements for upstream fish passage. They ultimately chose a design based on hydro project fish ladders on Washington State’s giant Columbia River, known for huge Pacific salmon runs. What got built was a three-ladder fish passage that forced all migrants out of their ancient river highway and into the byzantine maze of the company’s power canal, while leaving two miles of riverbed all but emptied of flow.

Scaled down and put in place at Turners Falls, it worked fine for the program’s few successfully returning hybrid salmon but failed immediately for 95% of the hundreds of thousands of migrating shad. No big run has ever passed that site, leaving three states without their promised bounties. Vermont and New Hampshire remain this river’s shad deserts today.

The Prescription

It’s now 2020. At this late date, corporate re-registrations can’t hide what’s legally required and a half-century overdue on New England’s river. The last opportunity to undo those festering mistakes for the Connecticut now rest in the hands of the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife. They are the people’s gatekeepers, mandated to guard the public trust — agencies with the authority to change to the generations-old crippling conditions here in Massachusetts.

Across 45 years of tracking fish runs passing upstream at successive dams on the Connecticut, shad counts have averaged 315,369 at Holyoke, 17,579 at Turners Falls, and just 9,299 at the Vernon Dam in Vermont. But recently long-term federal and state studies on passage and juvenile survival for American shad have led to new minimum benchmarks for fish passage at each dam to ensure the long-term survival of the river’s runs.

Using those findings, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the four states have formally adopted new Connecticut River fish passage goals. They include annual minimums of 687,000 shad passing Holyoke, 297,000 passing Turners Falls, and 227,000 at Vernon Dam annually. Those federal and state targets are now part of the public record in the current FERC relicensings. Their implementation would also ensure the endangered shortnose sturgeon gets the flows needed to begin its recovery here.

It’s time to return flow to the Connecticut River below Turners Falls. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer All Rights Reserved.

The time has come for facilities operating and profiting off the life of New England’s river to come into compliance with the laws of the land, including the Supreme Court’s 1872 finding in Holyoke Company v. Lyman, the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and a host of others. For the fisheries agencies charged with protecting a river’s bounty, standing up for their implementation is the sole prescription for success in a four-state restoration undertaken when back Lyndon Johnson was president.

By law, by right and by the public trust, the Connecticut River’s time has come.

Karl Meyer has been a member of the Fish & Aquatics Studies Team and an intervener in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process for three Massachusetts facilities on the Connecticut River since 2012. He lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Meyer is a member of The Society of Environmental Journalists.

* * FINAL NOTE from the author: if all this history is new and troubling to you it must be considered that: this is the only river in the Northeast with several federal designations that has remained the only major waterway without an independent and effective watchdog–one with a full legal team on staff, and a mandate to investigate, enforce, and go to court. The generations-long mistakes and brutal conditions that have existed here would’ve long ago been challenged in court had there been an effective organization protecting the integrity of this river system. If the Connecticut River is to have a future as a living ecosystem, a new model will have to come into being.

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

DSCF8552
(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.

The curious nucelar history of Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station

Posted by on 08 May 2014 | Tagged as: American shad, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, ecosystem, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC license, FirstLight, GDF-Suez FirstLight, Haddam nuclear plant, Millstone 1, Montague Nuclear Station, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, right-to-know, shad, shad larvae, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont Yankee, Yankee Atomic

Copyright © 2014, by Karl Meyer

The curious nuclear history of Northfield Mountain’s pumped storage plant

(The following piece first appeared on April 30, 2014 in The Recorder in Greenfield, MA, under: Follow the power currents; How the pumping station once fit)

GDF-Suez FirstLight has applied for a new 30-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage plant on the Connecticut.  In this 5-year relicensing process US Fish & Wildlife Service has requested a study to protect a public resource: they want to know the mortality impacts NMPS has on eggs and larvae of migratory American shad.  But FirstLight wants FERC to substitute data from a 22 year-old Northfield study–their counsel has argued that eggs and larvae aren’t technically migratory, and thus have no right to protection at NMPS. 

Pumped storage is a most inefficient form of generating “hydro” electricity, and NMPS is not what it once was.  When proposed, Northfield was to be a nuclear-charged plant designed to gulp-up massive amounts of the Connecticut River, pushing it uphill to a reservoir carved into a mountain.  This would be done purchasing cheap, otherwise-wasted, night-generated nuclear energy from a fleet of soon-to-be-built local plants–which don’t switch off at night.

Once the net-loss task of pushing water uphill was accomplished via nuclear megawatts and reversing turbines, they’d send that water charging downhill to generate large pulses of energy during peak-use times.  Profits would come from reselling that energy back into the electric grid when demand and prices were highest, with consumers picking up the tab. 

But a river system also bore the hidden costs of NMPS and now USFWS wants to know what they are. FirstLight today doesn’t dispute NMPS kills all adult and juvenile shad drawn into its plant.  But that’s just one species.  FERC itself is mandated to protect federal trust fish, and the public is entitled to information on NMPS’s impacts.  Researchers report it sometimes draws so much river water that boats 5 miles downstream are pulled backward.    

Because of the limits of physics NMPS can only operate for 6 – 8 hours.  Then, water-depleted and power-less—it must again purchase new outside electricity to pump water uphill.  It was new technology when NMPS was proposed–technically “hydro” electricity, but not in the way people commonly understood it. 

During mid-1960s Federal Power Commission hearings, questions arose about the proposed NMPS plant’s impacts on the ecosystem.  One option, never implemented, was that it would cease operating during migration season to avoid slicing up the public’s fish in accordance with goals of the federal Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965.

Back then just one local nuclear plant was operating, Yankee Atomic, 20 miles away in Rowe, MA.  But big, local, nuclear build-out plans were in the offing—the lion’s share of which would come to be owned by Northeast Utilities.  Fifteen miles upstream Vermont Yankee was under construction.  It opened in 1972 in lock-step with the completion of Northfield.  As VY and NMPS began tandem, nuclear-powered operation, plans were already underway for NU to build two reactors at a new Montague Nuclear Station, five miles from Northfield.

By fall of 1973 a 500 foot tower loomed over the Montague Plains, testing humidity, temperature, and prevailing winds in preparation for construction.  That tower was toppled in an act of civil disobedience by Sam Lovejoy the following February, helping bolster opposition to the plants.  But NU rebuilt the tower and collected the mandated data by 1975.  By then however, the playing field was changing.

Environmental questions were raised about the effects of Montague Nuclear Station’s drawing huge amounts of river water and dumping heated effluent back into the Connecticut on the federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon.  Questions also arose about the cumulative effects of entraining various life stages of American shad into the intake systems of two Montague plants and NMPS. 

Meanwhile, NU moved ahead on planned nuclear plants for the heavily-populated I-95 Providence-/New Haven corridor–some 100 and 125 miles distant from Northfield.  Four got built, but just two operate today. Their Haddam nuclear plant on our river was shut permanently in 1996 for safety and equipment failures.  So too in 1998 was Millstone Unit I in Waterford, CT.  In 1999 NU to accepted the largest nuclear fine to that time–$10 million for operational failures at those plants. 

Opposition, environmental impacts, soaring costs, and a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island saw NU abandon Montague Station in 1980.  Thus the Connecticut River basin doesn’t today host a forth, de-facto, nuclear waste dump.  Rowe’s Yankee Atomic closed in 1992—it’s now repository to hundreds of tons of spent nuclear fuel.  Vermont Yankee will close in December.  Entergy Nuclear has yet to fully endow their mandated decommissioning fund. 

Local nuclear power to push a river up Northfield Mountain is today nearly nonexistent.  The net-loss “hydro” generating process now taking place there essentially derives from a non-renewable, climate-warming mix of oil, coal and natural gas, plus some nuclear and even pulses of conventional hydropower purchased from as far away as Quebec. Beyond the yet-to-be-examined costs to the public’s ecosystem and fish, consumers are paying dearly for Northfield’s twice-sold electricity.  A fair relicensing process requires robust public information on the lethal aspects of Northfield’s operations.  FERC will decide the issue by early May.

Greenfield writer and journalist Karl Meyer has contributed written and oral testimony in the FERC relicensing process for the Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls power stations.