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 190 operating or proposed projects in New York, encompassing over 240 hydroelectric developments.  The major issues addressed by the Service include protecting fish from being entrained into the turbines or impinged on the trashracks, providing upstream and downstream fish passage past the dams, providing adequate base flows downstream from the projects, reducing impoundment fluctuations, providing 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 20 years, we have been instrumental in negotiating 19 settlements incorporating 62 hydroelectric developments on 14 rivers in New York.

Hydro projects active until 2020

New York Leads the FERC Relicensing Onslaught

In the next 5 years (through 2020), 42 projects will commence relicensing activities, more than any other state in the U.S.  Including the five projects currently undergoing relicensing, there will be 47 projects (encompassing 62 hydroelectric developments) located on 29 different rivers in 9 watersheds.  These projects are located in 24 counties and 8 congressional districts.  Twenty different power companies will be involved in relicensing.  This relicensing is a great opportunity to alter licenses to enable this renewable energy to be produced in a more environmentally-sound fashion, with protection and enhancement for a variety of fish and wildlife resources.  Among the fish species likely to benefit are American eel, blueback herring, lake sturgeon, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass.  Increased public access should also result from these relicensing activities.

Green Island:

Green Island Forebay
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
Natural dam - bypassed reach and power flume
Emeryville - former bypassed reach flow -  note landing on rocks
Emeryville - former bypassed reach flow - note landing on rocks

Emeryville - current flow release point
Emeryville - current flow release point

South Edwards bypass flow release
South Edwards bypass flow release

Three projects located on the Oswegatchie River received new 40-year licenses in 2012.  Settlements were reached with Brookfield Renewable Power (6-development Oswegatchie River Project), Hampshire Paper (Emeryville), and Cellu Tissue (now Dunn Paper) (Natural Dam).  Each of the eight developments relicensed incorporates fish protection, and downstream fish passage facilities are incorporated at each site wherever they are feasible.  A nature-like fishway is being completed at the Eel Weir development by Brookfield, with a similar fish passage facility to be constructed at Heuvelton in 2017.  Base flows have been provided where needed, and all bypassed reaches are receiving adequate flows.  Impoundment fluctuations have been reduced and trout stocking has taken place at Browns Falls.  Recreational access has been provided at each development.

The New York Field Office is also working with the new owners of the Ogdensburg Project, the first project at the mouth of the river, to improve fish protection and install downstream fish passage.  Options for upstream fish passage will also be explored.

Brown falls bypassed reach at 30 cfs
Brown Falls bypassed reach at 30 cfs

Eel weir development
Eel weir development Eel weir nature-like fish way
Eel weir nature-like fish way

Hogansburg Project:

The license for the Hogansburg project at the mouth of the St, Regis River expires in 2015.  The project is in disrepair and provides very little power.  It is also located in the middle of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation.  The Service worked with other stakeholders and Brookfield Renewable Energy to reach a license surrender, decommissioning, and dam removal settlement.  According to the agreement, the Tribe will become a co-licensee with Brookfield, and then remove the dam with funding provided by Brookfield.  This will open up over 100 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat to many species of fish in the St. Lawrence River.  The generating equipment will be salvaged by Brookfield, and the Tribe will own the land.

Hogansburg dam
Hogansburg dam

Stuyvesant Falls Project:

Stuyvesant Falls dam
Stuyvesant Falls dam
Stuyvesant Falls on Kinderhook Creek recently received a new 40-year license. The licensees will install fish protection and downstream passage in the form of the proprietary FISHIS™ system, which consists of a heavy-duty plastic screen with ¼” hexagonal openings that theoretically keeps all fish out of the intake.  The velocity through the screen is less than 0.5 feet per second, thus essentially eliminating fish impingement.  An associated bypass system will allow fish safe passage downstream.  The FISHIS system should be completed and functional before the end of 2016.  This will be the first facility of this specific design built in New York.  The FISHIS system has been proposed and/or licensed at several other facilities in the northeast, but none have been constructed.  Upstream passage facilities for American eel are under discussion.

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
St. Lawrence hydro project
Photo courtesy of New York Power Authority

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 have protection from fish entrainment.  Water level fluctuations have been greatly reduced throughout the system, providing benefits to numerous fish and wildlife species and wetland habitats.

Raquette before restoration
Raquette River bypassed reach before flows restored
Raquette River bypassed reach after flows restored
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 near 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
Niagara power project
Photo courtesy of New York Power Authority

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, and a passive exclusion inclined screen.
Clear-spaced trash rack, School Street
Clear-spaced trash rack, School Street
Powerhouse with fish passage pipe, School Street
Powerhouse with fish passage pipe, School Street

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
Eel ladder at Varick


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Last updated: October 6, 2015
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.