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THIS CONNECTICUT RIVER DEFENSE IS SPOT-ON!

Posted by on 18 Nov 2021 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River ecosystem, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-1889, P-2485, Relicensing, State of Delaware, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, wildlife refuge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 by Karl Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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