Public comment period extended for FirstLight relicensing 

  • FirstLight Hydro Generating Co.’s Turners Falls dam. FIRSTLIGHT POWER

Staff Writer
Published: 5/15/2023 11:20:21 AM

MONTAGUE — The deadline for submitting public comment regarding FirstLight Hydro Generating Co.’s relicensing settlement has been extended to May 26, according to a Federal Register notice published last week.

FirstLight, which previously submitted its Amended Final License Application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a new 50-year license, has three facilities up for relicensing. Those facilities — the hydro-pump facility at Northfield Mountain and two hydroelectric dams in Turners Falls — have been criticized by environmental advocacy groups for their impact on fish, the Connecticut River and surrounding environment.

One section of the comprehensive settlement that is perhaps most controversial — the Flows and Fish Passage Settlement Agreement — was signed and submitted to FERC by the March 31 deadline. It commits $152 million toward environmental protection upgrades at FirstLight’s facilities.

In a “Notice of Settlement Agreement” on April 7, FERC set a May 7 deadline for the public to file comments regarding the agreement. Then, on April 26, FERC issued a request for information related to the costs of the provisions included in the March 31 agreement and provided 15 days for FirstLight to respond. While the settlement details eight operational and environmental commitments, it does not provide cost estimates for these measures.

FERC’s request for cost estimates can be viewed online at The Connecticut River Conservancy’s request for extension of public comment can be viewed online at Instructions for how to submit comments, review comments and subscribe to notifications from FERC can be found at

Recreation settlement

Montague Town Administrator Steve Ellis presented a slideshow summarizing a finalized recreation settlement agreement at the Selectboard’s May 8 meeting. The agreement, which is more than 200 pages long and signed by more than 30 stakeholder organizations, can be viewed at

Cabot Camp improvements are a primary commitment outlined in the agreement. The settlement affirms that FirstLight will “create a formal access trail for a put-in to the Millers River at Cabot Camp, add a picnic table, and improve signage,” as summarized by Ellis. They also will work with the town “to find a qualified organization within the first 3 years of license issuance to take responsibility for preserving the Cabot Camp historic buildings.”

Other notable additions planned as part of the settlement include a new car-top access and put-in at the northern end of Unity Park,  a viewing platform and picnic area below the Turners Falls Dam “with the best feasible view of the Falls and broader area,” a portage trail around Rock Dam and cultural signage.

Some residents criticized FERC for its leniency toward FirstLight to compromise in favor of the stakeholders. One such resident was Ariel Elan, who argued “that the rules set for this are a grave betrayal and a travesty.”

Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz expressed that while ideally, negotiations would be smoother, the reality is that an acceptable settlement agreement is paramount.

“This is going to have an impact, so I think we need to be reasonable,” he said. “These things are never easy … and I think we’ve done the best that we can.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy