FERC solicits public comment for FirstLight relicensing projects

The Turners Falls dam.

The Turners Falls dam. FIRSTLIGHT POWER


Staff Writer

Published: 03-01-2024 5:00 PM

GREENFIELD — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has accepted the relicensing application for FirstLight’s hydroelectric dam in Turners Falls and pump storage facility in Northfield and area residents now have 60 days to submit comments on the project as it readies for an environmental analysis.

On Feb. 22, FERC issued a public notice for the projects, soliciting interventions, protests, comments, recommendations, and set a deadline for FirstLight’s reply comments.

Debbie-Anne Reese, Acting FERC Secretary, wrote in the Ready for Analysis document, “Take notice that the following hydroelectric application has been filed with the Commission and is available for public inspection.” The public has until April 22 to submit comments to the federal agency.

This signifies that the relicensing applications have entered a post-filing phase in the decade-long process for FirstLight’s 50-year relicensing. The company most recently submitted a Fish and Flows Agreement Settlement and a Recreation Settlement Agreement in 2023.

The notice regarding the Northfield Mountain facility highlights three changes to the current project boundary, including the addition of 135.5 acres of land with recreation trails, a proposal to increase the maximum and decrease the minimum water surface elevation of the upper reservoir, and a proposal to install a barrier net in the lower impoundment to prevent fish entrapment.

The notice regarding the dam in Turners Falls also highlights three changes in the project’s boundary, proposals to construct new fish passage facilities and recreational access trails, and a proposal to change project operation that would generally reduce impoundment fluctuations and increase flow releases to the portion of the Connecticut River bypassed by the dam.

A copy of the application can be viewed on FERC’s website using the eLibrary link. The document can be found by searching the two docket numbers. The docket number for Northfield is P-2485, and Turners Falls is P-1889. The deadline for filing reply comments to motions is 30 days after the application deadline.

“The Commission’s Office of Public Participation (OPP) supports meaningful public engagement and participation in Commission proceedings. OPP can help members of the public, including landowners, environmental justice communities, Tribal members, and others, access publicly available information and navigate Commission Processes,” Reese said.

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Also on Feb. 22, FERC accepted three applications from Great River Hydro’s Vernon, Bellows Falls, and Wilder projects. These correspond respectively to docket numbers P-1904, P-1855, and P-1892.

Once the environmental analysis is complete, FERC will provide additional opportunities to comment on that document, according to Celeste Miller, a FERC spokesperson.

“The final environmental analysis will become part of the record (along with the applications and settlements and comments) that the Commission considers when acting on the license applications,” Miller wrote in an email.

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.