New York Field Office
Northeast Region

Hydropower Energy Projects

The New York Field Office reviews non-Federal hydroelectric projects that are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power Act (FPA).  Section 10(j) of the FPA allows the Service to make recommendations for measures to mitigate for project impacts to fish and wildlife resources and to provide protection and enhancement.  These measures or an equivalent level of protection must be accepted by the FERC and incorporated into the license unless the FERC determines that the recommendations are inconsistent with the Federal Power Act or other applicable law.  Section 18 of the FPA gives the Service mandatory conditioning authority to prescribe upstream or downstream fish passage; these prescriptions must be incorporated into the license by the FERC.

There are over 180 operating or proposed projects in New York, encompassing over 240 hydroelectric developments.  The major issues addressed by the Service are protecting fish from being entrained into the turbines, upstream and downstream fish passage past the dams, providing adequate base flows downstream of the projects, reducing impoundment fluctuations, flows in dewatered reaches, reducing impacts to wetlands, and nesting birds, and providing public access.

In recent years, many projects are being licensed or relicensed with wide-scale public participation, often resulting in negotiated settlements for license conditions.  This process allows interested stakeholders to negotiate a balanced package of conditions that include energy production, environmental protection and enhancement, economic benefits, and recreational amenities.  In the past 15 years, we have been instrumental in negotiating 17 settlements incorporating 56 hydroelectric developments on 14 rivers in New York.

Green Island:

Green Island Forebay

 

This project is located at the head of tide on the Hudson River, just downstream from the confluence with the Mohawk River.  During relicensing, Green Island Power Authority (GIPA) proposed expanding the energy capacity from 8 MW to 48 MW.  The Service worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to negotiate a settlement that provides an innovative fish protection and downstream passage technology utilizing a passive exclusion fish screen with ¼-inch hexagonal openings.  GIPA will also construct three ladders for American eel and two Denil fish ladders for other species such as blueback herring.

 

Oswegatchie River:

Natural dam - bypassed reach and power flume

Emeryville bypassed reach flow -  note landing on rocks

Emeryville - proposed flow release point

Brown falls bypassed reach at 30 cfs

Three projects located on the Oswegatchie River are currently undergoing relicensing, with current licenses expiring in 2012.  Settlements have been reached with Cellu Tissue Corporation at Natural Dam and with Hampshire Paper Company at Emeryville.  These settlements provide fish protection and downstream passage, bypassed reach flows, run-of-river operations, and recreational amenities.  Settlement discussions with Brookfield Power for the 6-development Oswegatchie River Project are scheduled to commence during the summer of 2010.  Key issues to be discussed during these negotiations include fish protection, downstream fish passage, upstream fish passage for American eel and lake sturgeon at the lower developments, common loon nesting at the upper developments, bypassed reach flows, base flows, impoundment fluctuations, and recreational access.

South Edwards bypass flow release
Eel weir development

Massena-Grasse River Project

The Massena Electric Department has proposed the construction of a new 2.5 MW hydroelectric project at a new 26-foot-high dam located 0.8 miles downstream of a breached weir.  The key issues of concern at this project include flooding of scarce riffle habitat, loss of walleye and lake sturgeon spawning habitat, blockage of upstream and downstream movements of many fish species (especially American eel, lake sturgeon, Chinook salmon, and muskellunge), fish entrainment mortality, and impacts to mussels and other benthic macroinvertebrates.  The site is also designated as a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat by the New York State Department of State.  Discussions among stakeholders are ongoing.  The result of this licensing process could be licensing the project as proposed, licensing the project with modifications to better protect and enhance fish and wildlife resources, or denial of license.

Proposed site of new dam, Grasse River

 

 

 

Breached weir on Grasse River



West Hudson Project:

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is proposing to develop hydroelectric power on three or four water supply reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains.  These include Neversink, Cannonsville, Pepacton, and possibly Schoharie.  Issues include maintenance of existing flow releases, fish protection, and downstream fish passage.

Cannonsville Reservoir
Neversink Reservoir Pepacton Reservoir

 

St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project:

This is the second largest project in New York relicensed to date (912 MW).  The major issues were a drastic decline in the population of American eels, water level fluctuations, fish entrainment, and lost spawning habitat for lake sturgeon and walleye during the original project construction in the 1950s.  The Service recommended an innovative mitigation approach consisting of a series of major Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs).  Eleven HIPs  were developed to benefit a variety of fish and wildlife species including common terns, Blandings turtles, osprey, bank swallows, muskellunge, northern pike, lake sturgeon, and walleye.  The license also includes funding for future, unspecified HIPs, improvements to the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area, and a research and education fund.  The Service also recommended and successfully negotiated another major fund entitled the Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund (FEMRF).  This $24 million fund was designed to provide funding for aquatic and fisheries research and mitigation and enhancement projects as well as for research on passage for American eel and other species.  Click on the link to find out more about our FEMRF activities.  The New York Power Authority also constructed a state-of-the-art ladder for upstream passage of American eel.

St. Lawrence hydro project

Raquette River Projects:

This settlement, with the predecessors of Brookfield Power, encompassed four projects, 13 powerhouses, and a water supply reservoir (158 MW total).  Settlement was achieved in 1998, and new licenses were issued by the FERC in 2002.  Over 10 miles of previously dewatered reaches are receiving year-round flows that have substantially improved aquatic habitat.  In addition, 12 of the 13 dams have downstream fish movement structures and all will have protection from fish entrainment within the next few years.  Water level fluctuations have been greatly reduced throughout the system, providing benefits to numerous fish and wildlife species and wetland habitats. Photos below (right to left): Raquette bypassed reach before flows restored, Raquette River bypassed reach after flows restored.

Raquette before restoration

Raquette River bypassed reach after flows restored

 

Niagara Power Project:

This is the largest FERC-regulated hydroelectric project in the country and ranks 2nd to the Grand Coulee Dam in hydroelectric energy production in the U.S.  This 2,755 MW project is located on one of the Seven Wonders of the World (Niagara Falls).  Relicensing was completed in 2007.  A settlement was reached among many governmental agencies and local citizens’ groups.  The template developed during the St. Lawrence-FDR relicensing was used at Niagara to facilitate negotiations.  The license includes a series of Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) for fish habitat, osprey nesting, common tern nesting, and wetland restoration.  It also includes a multimillion dollar fund for future HIPs and a multimillion dollar fund dedicated to ecological projects as part of the Niagara Greenway Commission.  The Service serves on two committees that disperse these funds.  Among the projects funded to date have been:

  1.  Niagara River Riparian Restoration Program (Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper)
  2. Muskellunge Genetic Structure, Reproductive Ecology, and Interaction with Fish Community (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry)
  3. Ecological Enhancement, Wetland Restoration, and Aquatic Habitat Restoration Project (Tuscarora Nation)
  4. Outer Harbor Bell Slip Stabilization Project (Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority)
  5. Tree Regeneration at Tift Nature Preserve (Buffalo Museum of Science)

The Niagara Power Project Relicensing Website contains links to activities of both funding committees.

Niagara power project

Mohawk River:

There are numerous hydroelectric projects on the Mohawk River owned by a variety of companies, with eight more developments proposed.  The Service has worked with many of the licensees to develop safe downstream fish passage, primarily for the anadromous blueback herring, an important forage species.  We are currently involved in testing a variety of fish protection and passage measures throughout the river.  Among the technologies in use or being developed are a perforated plate over trashracks to exclude fish, hydroacoustic monitoring to signal when to open or increase the flow through a fish diversion structure, sound deterrents, an angled narrow-spaced trashrack system, a fish-friendly turbine, and a passive exclusion inclined screen.

1" clear-spaced trash rack, School Street School street powerhouse with fish passage pipe

Oswego River:

These are relatively small projects (about 25 MW total for 5 powerhouses) owned by Brookfield Power.  The Service helped negotiate a settlement agreement that provides fish protection and downstream passage at all sites, ladders for upstream passage of American eel, base flows, flows in three bypassed reaches, and reduced impoundment fluctuations.  The Oswego River supports one of the most economically significant fishery resources in New York.

Eel ladder at Varick

 

Links:
FERC: http://www.ferc.gov
NYPA (St. Lawrence): http://stl.nypa.gov
NYPA (Niagara): http://niagara.nypa.gov

 

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Last updated: October 30, 2014
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.