TU Applauds Conditions of Federal Relicensing of Dams on the Housatonic River
Eastern Conservation Director
6/24/2004 -- Washington -- The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) today hailed the issuance of a license for the Housatonic River hydroelectric projects by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The issuance of the license culminates more than five years of work.
The license issued to Northeast Generation Services covers the future operation of five dams on the Housatonic River – Falls Village, Bulls Bridge, Rocky River, Shepaug and Stevenson. The license includes a variety of provisions that will increase the health of the Housatonic below these projects. Most significantly, the license includes a requirement that the Falls Village and Bulls Bridge project be operated as “run-of-river.” These facilities historically have been operated as “peaking” facilities, where water was stored during low-demand times of day, and released when demand for electricity was highest. These operations produced daily fluctuations in river flows that impaired the health of the river.
As part of the renewal process, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) required the license under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to include natural flows below these dams because of the negative effects of peaking generation.
“DEP’s water quality certification and now the new FERC license will bring natural flows to virtually all of the free-flowing Housatonic in Connecticut. Natural flows have the potential to dramatically improve the health of the Housatonic and its trout fishery,” said Mike Piquette of Trout Unlimited’s Connecticut Council, who also serves as chair of the Housatonic Coalition, a bloc of conservation groups that advocated for natural flows during the relicensing.
The water quality certification is one of the few issued by any state that requires the conversion of a hydroelectric dam from peaking flows to run-of-river flows. Under the Clean Water Act and the Federal Power Act, FERC is required to include the terms of such state certifications in the licenses they issue.
“We really appreciate DEP issuing the certification and then sticking to their guns, even though they received some criticism for it. They required run-of-river because it is the right thing for the ecological health of the Housatonic, and we hope that more states will follow Connecticut’s lead,” said Leon Szeptycki, TU’s Eastern Conservation Director.
The license also includes other provisions to enhance river health, including:
• minimum flows in the bypassed reaches of the river at the Falls Village and Bulls Bridge facilities;
• minimum flows downstream of the Shepaug development tailrace and the Stevenson development dam; and
• fish passage facilities for various species of fish and American eel.
The license will govern operation of these dams for the next 40 years.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 127,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.