Applauding a teen’s river defense

Published: 11/29/2021 10:58:09 AM
Modified: 11/29/2021 10:57:38 AM

Gill teenager Shayla Freeland’s Nov. 20 My Turn was a smart, passionate defense of FirstLight’s massive impacts on the Connecticut, “Where the turbines of the pump station suck in life and throw out death.” Her public stand against the ecosystem’s deadliest machine puts to shame the federal and state agencies charged with river protection. All have been publicly AWOL on these critical issues during the nine-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing that will govern river habitats for decades. The self-proclaimed watch dogs groups have offered mere public platitudes as well.

I hope Shayla’s defense helps prevent decades of future fish obliteration at Northfield and refills a ravaged Connecticut–central artery of the Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Conte is one of just two national refuges with “fish” specifically in their title. Yet in Massachusetts the Connecticut remains perhaps this Nation’s most lethal habitat for fish.

On Dec. 2, the US Fish & Wildife Service, Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, and the state Department of Environmental Protection will meet with FirstLight in final river “settlement” negotiations. As a stakeholder who didn’t sign FirstLight’s non-disclosure agreement, I can tell you openly their proposed protections for aquatic life at Northfield is a death trap. Their final application states: ”FirstLight proposes to install a barrier net in front of the Northfield Mountain Project intake/tailrace to prevent the entrainment of migratory fish when the Northfield Mountain Project is pumping. The net will be approximately 30-foot-high by 1050-feet-long wide with 3/4-inch mesh from top to bottom.”

That proposed temporary net, August to November, has mesh so large it amounts to a literal lethal doorway for the millions eggs, larvae and juvenile shad, and 26 other resident and migratory species. Shayla’s generation is owed a living river. Will the agencies stand with them?

Karl Meyer



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