FirstLight Power (FirstLight) today filed a Flows and Fish Passage Settlement Agreement (Agreement) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relative to the relicensing of the Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project1 and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, located on the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts. The Agreement follows a decade-long process involving dozens of scientific studies and stakeholder engagement, collaboration, and negotiation to reach an agreement on the construction of fish passage facilities, providing recreational and ecological flows, protection of federally and state endangered species and aquatic habitat, and future project operations.
Signatories to this foundational Agreement include the federal and state agencies with responsibility for protecting the natural resources, aquatic species and habitats of the Connecticut River including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, as well as leading nature and conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy, American Whitewater, Appalachian Mountain Club, Crab Apple Whitewater, Inc., New England Flow, and Zoar Outdoor.
“Over the past several years, FirstLight has undertaken extensive collaboration with numerous public and private stakeholders across the wide variety of issues raised in this Relicensing process, and we are proud to have now reached this major settlement agreement to establish beneficial, science-based environmental protections for fish passage, endangered species habitat, and overall river health,” said Justin Trudell, Chief Operating Officer of FirstLight Power. “This agreement is a huge win for the environment by committing FirstLight to groundbreaking new investments to support and enhance the Connecticut River while protecting the critical role of these facilities in delivering electric system reliability and advancing the decarbonization of the electric grid in New England to combat the existential threat to our environment and our communities posed by climate change.”
The commitments made in this Agreement represent new direct investments in environmental protection measures, as well as reduced future revenue due to operational changes agreed to for the benefit of the river’s health and whitewater recreation access, collectively totaling over $350 million2. The Agreement requires FirstLight to invest in state-of-the-art upstream and downstream fish passage facilities to restore populations of migratory fish species, most notably American Shad, River Herring, Sea Lamprey, and American Eel, to the Connecticut River Basin. Committed investments associated with fish passage total approximately $152 million2. These include:
- Construction of a new fish lift at the Turners Falls Dam allowing migratory fish to follow the natural route of the Connecticut River between Cabot Station and the Turners Falls Dam, where they can utilize additional spawning habitat in the Connecticut River.
- Construction of upstream passage facilities designed specifically for American Eel to help restore the species within the Connecticut River Basin.
- Installation of a seasonal barrier net to safely pass juvenile American Shad and adult silver phase American Eel by the Northfield Mountain Project.
- Construction of a plunge pool below the Turners Falls Dam to provide a safe landing zone for fish migrating downstream over the dam.
- Intake protection at Cabot Station and Station No. 1 and a downstream passage structure to safely move fish migrating down the Turners Falls Power Canal to the Connecticut River.
- Funding for conservation, management, and restoration activities for the state-listed Cobblestone Tiger Beetle.
- Funding for habitat improvement projects and American Shad and river herring management activities.
In addition to the construction of new upstream and downstream passage facilities, the Agreement includes performance goals relative to passing a percentage of migratory fish, to measure the effectiveness of the new upstream and downstream fish passage facilities. If effectiveness testing demonstrates performance goals are not achieved, FirstLight has committed to implementing other adaptive fish passage management measures to improve the fish passage performance of the facilities, after consultation with federal and state agencies.
The Agreement also establishes increased seasonal river flow regimes both between the Turners Dam and Cabot Station and below Cabot Station to enhance aquatic habitat and recreation flows for boaters, while allowing for the continued use of the facilities to generate renewable energy. These changes include:
- A stabilized flow regime downstream of Cabot Station to protect the federally endangered Puritan Tiger Beetle, Shortnose Sturgeon and other aquatic species.
- Enhanced flows between the Turners Falls Dam and Cabot Station to protect Shortnose Sturgeon, facilitate upstream passage of migratory fish to a new fish lift, and improve the habitat for a variety of native fish, invertebrates, and plant species.
- Several improvements to flows and rate of water rise to protect Shortnose Sturgeon spawning habitat, dragonflies, and other fish, plants, and invertebrates.
- Enhanced flows to support recreation boating use of the Connecticut River between the Turners Falls Dam and Cabot Station.
1 The Turners Falls Hydroelectric includes two projects on the Turners Falls canal including Station No. 1 and Cabot Station. Cabot Station is located at the end of the canal.
2 Values are presented in nominal dollars inclusive of inflation over the life of the license, using the inflation forecast by third party Oxford Economics.
ABOUT FIRSTLIGHT POWER
FirstLight Power (FirstLight) is a leading clean power producer, developer, and energy storage company serving North America. With a diversified portfolio that includes over 1.6 GW of operating renewable energy and energy storage technologies and a development pipeline with 2,000+ MW of solar, battery, and offshore wind projects, FirstLight specializes in hybrid solutions that pair hydroelectric, pumped-hydro storage, utility-scale solar, large-scale battery, and offshore wind assets. The company’s mission is to accelerate the decarbonization of the electric grid by supporting the development, operation, and integration of renewable energy and storage to meet the world’s growing clean energy needs and deliver an electric system that is clean, reliable, affordable, and equitable. Based in Burlington, MA, with operating offices in Northfield, MA, and New Milford, CT, FirstLight is a steward of more than 14,000 acres and hundreds of miles of shoreline along some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in North America. To learn more, visit firstlightpdev.wpengine.com or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter