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Gardners Falls hydroelectric plant seeks recertification

  • Water passes over the dam at Gardner Falls in Buckland on the Deerfield River. recorder file photo



Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 29, 2017

SHELBURNE FALLS — The Gardners Falls hydroelectric project has applied for recertification as a “low-impact” hydroelectric project.

The 3.5-megawatt plant, recently sold by Essential Power LLC of Princeton, N.J., to Nautilus Power LLC of Charlotte, N.C., has had its 2011 five-year certification from Lexington-based Low Impact Hydropower Institute renewed three times — most recently on March 1.

Its April 26 application, has a comment period that extends through Aug. 13.

Like other hyrdo facilities on the Deerfield River, low-impact hydropower certification is used by hydroelectric generators to be eligible for renewable energy credits in conjunction with the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio standards, according to Andrea Donlon, river steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy.

Gardners Falls, which dates to 1904, with expansions 10 years and 21 years afterward, has operated at reduced levels for more than six years as a result of Hurricane Irene flooding and a variety of problems that included seepage and sinkholes.

It has been operating partially since this spring, according to General Manager Kim Marsili.

Donlon said the Connecticut River Conservancy, the nonprofit organization formerly known as the Connecticut River Watershed Council, hopes to file comments on the current recertification process before the August deadline.

Donlon recommended against recertification in 2011, noting at the time that the watershed council agreed with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that until other dams upstream along the Deerfield — which are not owned by the same company — “are operated in a significantly more environmentally sensitive manner, neither Gardners Falls nor any other hydro project on the Deerfield River is deserving of LIHI certification.”

At the time, she added, “There is currently no upstream fish passage at any of the dams on the Deerfield River system” — a situation that has not changed. “CRWC is disappointed that this has not resulted in the requirement of upstream fish passage. Movement of resident species, such as brook trout, is also prevented by the presence of this dam. In addition, there is no passage or protection measures for migration of American eel, and this is typically required in most contemporary FERC licenses.”

Donlon, who complained in 2011 about recreational access to the river at Wilcox Hollow in Shelburne, said the Connecticut River Conservancy may comment on poor conditions at recreational facilities near the Gardners Falls plant.

Comments may be submitted by 5 p.m. on Aug 13 to the LIHI by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Gardners Falls Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420.

On the Web: http://bit.ly/GardnersFalls