wildlife refuge

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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…

CONNECTICUT RIVER pumped storage: assault and battery on an ecosystem at a tipping point

Posted by on 19 Apr 2018 | Tagged as: 5-year FERC licensing process, CommonWealth Magazine, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Drew Huthchison, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman, federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeion, FERC, FirstLight, Local Bias, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, pumped storage, Turners Falls, Turners Falls power canal, US Fish & Wildlife Service, wildlife refuge

Connecticut River Pumped Storage: assault and battery on an ecosystem at a tipping point

Copyright © 2018 by Karl Meyer. All rights reserved.

Downstream end of the starved and brutalized 10 mile reach of the Connecticut, looking upstream from just above the Deerfield River confluence. (Click, then click again to enlarge).

The following links offer the most up-to-date understanding of current and future conditions in the most embattled, crippled reach of the entire Connecticut River. It consists of the Massachusetts river corridor from Greenfield/Turners Falls above the Connecticut’s confluence with the Deerfield, to some 10 miles further upstream to beyond the immediate and deadly impacts of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station.

Most stakeholders in the ongoing 5-year (now into it’s 6th year) FERC licensing process for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage and Turners Falls hydro projects have signed confidentiality agreements with FirstLight. Though relicensing studies on the impacts of these facilities on fish and aquatic life will continue through this fall, signed-on stakeholders have now been participating in closed-door settlement discussions out of the public eye with FirstLight for nearly a year. Any negotiated–or FERC-mandated, river conditions under a new license will be permanently in place for decades on this key US ecosystem that is part and parcel of the watershed-wide Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. They must comply with federal and state environmental law. FirstLight is a MA-registered, Canadian-owned subsidiary of PSP Investments–a 100% Canadian Crown-owned corporation.

Thus, the National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, and state agency representatives from four New England states are charged with ensuring the Connecticut River ecosystem gets the long-awaited critical environmental protections for its US public trust fish and efforts to restore both the federally-endangered Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, and the foundered half-century old mandate to bring migratory fish back to Vermont and New Hampshire–as both abundant resources for sport fishing, and seafood. That is their actual federal mandate, in place since 1967.

Given the embargo on public information in these closed-door settlement talks, people interested in the survival of the Connecticut River ecosystem and a viable four-state river for generations to come may find information contained in the following links helpful.

The first link is a piece published by CommonWealth Magazine in March. https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/this-energy-storage-is-tough-on-connecticut-river/

The second is an interview by Drew Hutchison, creator of Local Bias, at Greenfield Community Television, also from March. Public participation information is included along with the credits at the end of the video. This is Local Bias production # 172.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivbXCGAwKWw

Redeem the promise at Great Falls

Posted by on 16 Nov 2015 | Tagged as: 5-year FERC licensing process, American shad, bald eagle, canal shad, Captain William Turner, Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, Connecticut River Refuge, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Conte, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Daily Hampshire Gazette, endangerd shortnose sturgeon, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal trust fish, federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon, FERC, FERC license, FERC licensing process, Greenfield Recorder, Holyoke Fish Lift, New Hampshire, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, Relicensing, Rock Dam, Rock Dam Pool, shad, shad fishing, shortnose sturgeon, The Greenfield Recorder, The Recorder, Turners Falls, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, USFWS, Vermont, Vermont Yankee, wildlife refuge

The following piece, with edits, appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder on November 12, 2015 as: “Federal wildlife service must preserve the promise at Great Falls,” and “River restoration retreat”

The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent abandonment of their flagship Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at Turners Falls defies all logic. In August they abruptly withdrew their on-site interpreter and funding for The Great Falls Discover Center. That center was located above the falls two decades back precisely because of the site’s importance as an ecological refuge—perched at a river crossroads critical to the success of their new “watershed-based” refuge.

Back then bald eagles had just returned to Turners Falls; it was once again the place that hundreds of thousands of migrating American shad surged to each spring. And just downstream was the sole natural site where the only federally-endangered migratory fish in the watershed–the ancient Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, attempted to spawn each May. Known as the Rock Dam, its an ancient geological formation that remains a premiere retreat for spring shad anglers. For its biological and historic importance alone, Rock Dam should have long ago been offered the Refuge’s first “in-river” sanctuary designation.

Yet today, USFWS seems ready to walk away from its core mission and long history on the river at Turners Falls. Doing so would be no less an historic retreat than that of Captain Turner and his battalion after their pre-dawn attack on hundreds of Native American women, children and old men seeking refuge at that very site nearly 340 years ago. On May 19, 1676–having accomplished their grizzly goal with the loss of just one man, they were sent in reeling retreat when the first counter-attacking Native warriors arrived from a downstream island encampment opposite today’s Rock Dam. They’d been stationed there to intercept the teeming May shad runs to help feed their people. Turner and 37 of his troops died in the ensuing rout.

Today, Turners Falls remains the site of the US Fish & Wildlife’s biggest regional blunder in a mission to protect a nation’s fish and wildlife resources on New England’s Great River. In the late 1970s they signed off on the plan resulting in a series of fish ladders being built there. It forced all migratory fish out of the river and into the Turners Falls Power Canal. That resulted in a half century of failed fisheries and habitat restoration—largely drawing the curtain down on a spring ocean-connection for riverine habitats in Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts. That 1967 USFWS/four-state migratory fisheries restoration compact for the Connecticut River still founders at Turners Falls today.

That is why the recent USFW’s retreat from their ecologically and historically unique flagship perch remains inexplicable. Currently federal hydro-relicensing studies of dam and canal operations at Turners Falls are taking place. Their outcomes will determine environmental conditions governing the Connecticut River in this reach for two generations to come. The USFWS is playing a key role in these studies as the lead agency empowered to define and require changes at Turners respecting the protection and restoration of the public’s federal-trust and federally-endangered fish species there. In short, they’re at a crossroads. They are the key player able to restore past mistakes and make the Conte Connecticut River Watershed National Fish and Wildlife Refuge a true refuge for annual migrants passing from Connecticut to Massachusetts; then Vermont and New Hampshire.

That long-awaited success would occur at the doorstep of the Great Falls Discovery Center–replete with its life-sized displays of watershed fish and wildlife, and its accessible public auditorium. It’s a huge opportunity at a site virtually on the river, easily reachable by visitors from a broad swath of southern New England travelling the I-91/Route 2 Corridor. Great Falls is the only brick and mortar place for the public to regularly interact with USFW staff and a diversity of displays of characterizing watershed habitats for 80 miles in any direction. What’s more it’s the only publicly-funded flagship Refuge site where admission is free.

Without a touchstone site in this populous reach of the watershed, most citizens will remain unaware of the restoration and conservation work of the USFWS. They’ll be left to surmise instead that Conte is more a theoretical Refuge—a concept and an amorphous jumble of disparate parts lacking any true core.

In practice and in theory, Turners Falls and the Discovery Center site represent the best of opportunities for the US Fish & Wildlife Service to succeed in their core missions of conservation, restoration, public access and education. A second retreat at Turners Falls would be an historic failure. This fabulously rich reach of the Connecticut is uniquely situated to showcase the Service’s long-awaited success in river restoration on the public’s behalf. Many mistakes could be redeemed with the right decisions at this time. Don’t abandon the Great River at the Great Falls.

Public comments are being accepted through November 13th on the USFWS’s plans for Conte Refuge priorities for the next 15 years at: www.fws.gov/refuge/silvio_o_conte/

Karl Meyer
Greenfield