RI (1)

The project is located at the mouth of the Blackstone River, one of the largest tributaries draining to Narragansett Bay; the waters immediately below the dam are fully tidal salt water (i.e., the dam is at “head of tide”), and also the head of the Seekonk River (an estuarine river). The Blackstone River, which originates in Massachusetts and crosses into Rhode Island, drains a watershed of 475 square miles that includes both highly urbanized and historically industrialized areas, such as the city of Pawtucket, and large undeveloped areas. The river is characterized by numerous dams and channelization for transportation, urban development, and flood control. The project dam at Pawtucket Falls is thought to have first been constructed in the early 1700s.

Project Name Pawtucket
LIHI Certificate Number 11
LIHI Effective and
Expiration Dates
April 23, 2014
April 23, 2019
Owner Pawtucket Hydropower LLC
State Rhode Island
Location Located on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Installed Capacity 1,300 KW
Average Annual Generation 4,700 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. 3689

The project consists of “(1) a brick and timber dam, about 200 feet long and 4 feet high, constructed at the top of waterfalls about 13 feet high; (2) a reservoir of negligible storage…; (3) an intake structure and brick-lined underground tunnel (penstock) 17.5 feet in diameter and 130 feet long; (4) a brick and granite hydroelectric station building…and a tailrace, 90 feet long and 45 feet wide…” In conjunction with FERC’s issuance of the 1981 license exemption to the project’s previous owner, Blackstone Valley Electric Company, waterwheels and generators were replaced with turbines. Today the project operates two 1.9 meter full Kaplan turbines with total installed capacity of 1,300 kilowatts and average annual generation of 4,000 megawatt hours. The facility operates in run-of-river mode, with a small impoundment of approximately 1 acre in surface and 2 acre-feet in volume; the facility inundates less than 1/2 acre. Non-reservoir facilities occupy 1/2 acre. Blackstone Valley Electric Company transferred facility ownership to the applicant in 1999.

Certification Benefits

The clean energy benefit of the Pawtucket facility is the generation of approximately 4.7 million kWh of electricity per year. Using current U.S. EPA data for typical household electricity demand, that annual generation is enough to supply electricity to more than 400 homes. In addition to those energy benefits, the Vine Street facility provides ecological benefits through its continuing efforts to restore fish passage to the Blackstone River. The applicable state and federal resource management agencies have agreed that the Vine Street facility is in compliance with all regulatory requirements.

Certification History

August 20, 2014: The Pawtucket Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a third five year term, effective April 23, 2014 and expiring April 23, 2019.

June 30, 2014: Executive Director Michael J. Sale has extended the current certificate term for the Pawtucket Project to July 31, 2014 to allow time for completion of the review of the application for a third term of certification.

May 28, 2014: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a comment letter from The Blackstone River Watershed Council regarding the recertification of the Pawtucket Project. The letter can be read in full in the “Files” section below.

April 28, 2014: The Pawtucket Project has been acquired by Gravity Renewables, Inc. Read the press release HERE.

April 9, 2014: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received an application for a third term of certification of the Pawtucket Project. The current certificate term is scheduled to expire on April 23, 2014, but the Institute is extending the term to June 30, 2014, in order to allow for a period of public comment on the application.

The application materials are located in the “Files” section below.

March 4, 2010: The Pawtucket Project has been certified as low impact for a second five year term, effective April 23, 2009 and expiring April 23, 2014.

June 11, 2009: LIHI received a brief response from Pawtucket Hydropower LLC to Cohen’s comments; it can be found in the Files section below.

June 11, 2009: LIHI received a comment email from Russ Cohen of the Massachusetts Riverways Program, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. A link to his comments in PDF form can be found in the “Files” section below.

April 10, 2009: Pawtucket Hydropower LLC has filed an application to recertify the Pawtucket Hydroelectric Project. The current certificate term is set to expire on April 23, 2009. A public comment period will remain open until June 13, 2009.


2014 Re-certification

2009 Re-certification

2004 Certification