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The West Branch of the St. Regis River originates in ponds near Saranac Lake, New York, flowing approximately 35 miles to the Parishville impoundment, then an additional 20 miles to its junction with the St. Regis River, which in turn enters the St. Lawrence River 20 miles further downriver.

Project Name West Branch St. Regis
LIHI Certificate Number 27
LIHI Effective and
Expiration Dates
September 14, 2015
September 14, 2020
Owner Brookfield Renewable Power
State New York
Location The West Branch of the St. Regis River originates in ponds near Saranac Lake, New York, flowing approximately 35 miles to the Parishville impoundment, then another 20 miles to its junction with the St. Regis River.
Installed Capacity Total: 6.8 MW
Parishville Development: 2.4 MW
Allens Falls Development: 4.4 MW
Average Annual Generation 34,730 MWh
Facility Type Pulsing
FERC No. 10461

The 6.8-MW West Branch St. Regis River Hydroelectric Project provides an average annual generation of 34,730 megawatt-hours. Erie has generally operated the project in a pulsing mode and proposes to continue to do so.

The West Branch St. Regis River Project consists of the Parishville development and the Allens Falls development. The Parishville development consists of a dam, a 70-acre reservoir, a 2,561-foot-long penstock, a powerhouse housing a 2.4-MW turbine/generator unit, a 4,175 foot bypass reach, a 4.8-kV transmission line, and associated facilities. The Allens Falls development consists of a concrete gravity-type dam, a 108-acre reservoir, a 9,344-foot-long pipeline, a surge tank, an 886-foot-long penstock, a powerhouse housing a 4.4-MW turbine/generator unit, a 13,700 foot bypass reach, a 2.4-mile-long 115-kV transmission line, and associated facilities.

The Parishville and Allens Falls developments were originally built in the 1920s, but were required to obtain a license only after a 1988 finding by FERC that the West Branch of the St. Regis River is a navigable waterway. The developments’ owner at the time, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, applied for separate licenses for each development in 1990. The upstream Parishville development discharges into the Allens Falls development impoundment, and the two are operated in an integrated fashion in a storage-and-release pulsing mode. In its 2001 license order FERC granted the request of Erie Boulevard Hydropower, Niagara Mohawk’s successor, to consolidate the developments into one project. Brascan Power NY is the current owner of Erie Boulevard Hydropower.

According to the FWS, the West Branch of the St. Regis River supports a mixed cool water-warm water fishery, with the more abundant game species being brook trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. The Settlement Agreement describes the project area as being located “in an area of transition between cold water fisheries in the headwaters (Adirondack Mountain Region) and the cool/warm water fisheries downstream (St. Lawrence River Lowlands)” with “[s]everal significant waterfalls…within the Project’s footprint which historically limited migration between these two regions.”

The FERC license for the Project was achieved through the use of a settlement agreement amongst the parties. The Settlement incorporates agreements reached among the parties with regard to the Parishville and Allens Falls developments. The parties provide in the settlement agreement recommended terms and conditions for the resolution of operational, fisheries, wildlife, water quality, and recreational issues raised by and analyzed by the parties as they are applicable to the issuance of a license and water quality certification for the West Branch St. Regis River Hydroelectric Project’s Parishville and Allens Falls developments.

The Settlement Agreement further notes that both impoundments contain and are managed for predominantly warm water fisheries, but that the bypass reaches below each are intended, in the case of the upstream Parishville project, “to be managed as a mixed coldwater/warmwater fishery to the extent practical,” and in the case of the Allens Falls project, “as a coldwater fishery.” For these reasons, state and federal fisheries managers do not want to encourage fish movement between the developments beyond that which already existed at the time of licensing. The natural Allens Falls represent a historic barrier to anadromous fish passage up the West Branch St. Regis River.

Highlights of the Settlement Agreement: The FERC license provisions reflect the terms and conditions of a settlement agreement entered into by the applicant and the Adirondack Mountain Club, American Rivers, American Whitewater, the New York State Conservation Council, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York Rivers United, St. Lawrence County, the Town of Parishville, Trout Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The provisions include “mitigation and protections measures to increase habitat gains for fish communities, the potential for benthic invertebrate and forage fish production increases, enhanced fish movement and fishing opportunities, increased habitat for riparian vegetation, wetland and wildlife resources, the reduction of the vulnerability of fish to illegal poaching, increased recreational access, enhanced awareness of cultural resources, and the establishment of a river advisory council and enhancement fund.” The Settlement Agreement contains other binding provisions that are not included in the FERC license related to public access and recreation, including the requirement to transfer a parcel of land to the Town of Parishville.

The most significant element of the Settlement Agreement is the restoration of flows to the bypassed reaches below each development that had been periodically dewatered for decades, returning both to functional year-round river reaches and creating the possibility of restoring a permanent fishery. The provisions on daily and seasonal impoundment fluctuations are designed to maintain existing shallow water littoral and wetland habitat while preserving the required instream flows to the bypassed reaches. The Settlement Agreement also includes a focus on maintaining and somewhat improving public access to the project areas for recreation, and provides for the establishment of a St. Regis River Fund to underwrite natural resource protection and restoration projects, as well as recreation projects; the fund is overseen by a new West Branch St. Regis River Advisory Committee (SRRAC).

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Certification History

March 15, 2016: LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has certified that the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-10461) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. A Preliminary Decision was announced on February 10, 2016, and a 30-day appeal period was open through March 10, 2016. No requests for appeal were received. This Certification Decision includes the following facility-specific condition, as follows:

  • Condition No. 1:  Should the maintenance activities along the powerhouse roadway and pipeline right-of-way be significantly altered, such as widespread herbicide application, widening of the roadway or placement of fill adjacent to the roadway where the plant has been observed, the facility owner shall consult with the NYDEC regarding potential impacts to the Fernald’s Sedge.  If such change occurs during this LIHI certification term, the facility owner shall provide LIHI the results of these consultations along with evidence of implementation of any requirements mandated by the NYDEC to protect this species if it is onsite.  The owner shall report on any such changes with the LIHI Annual Compliance Statement for the subject annual statement period.

The effective certification date for the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project is September 14, 2015 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on September 14, 2020.

February 9, 2016: LIHI posted the West Branch St. Regis Project application for recertification on December 4, 2015, and a public comment period was open for 60 days. A comment letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service was received and can be read in the Files section below. The period for public comment is closed as of February 8, 2016.

January 8, 2016: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a comment letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in regards to the recertification of the West Branch St. Regis project. The letter can be read in the Files section below.

December 4, 2015: On December 4, 2015, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric project.  The application materials can be found in the Files section below.

June 19, 2015: The West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric project has been granted an extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is December 31, 2015. See ExtensionLetter_2015Recert for explanation below.

August 3, 2012: The West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project has been recertified as low impact for a five year term, effective September 14, 2010 and expiring September 14, 2015.

December 2, 2010: Brookfield Renewable Power has submitted an application for recertification of the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project. Public comments are encouraged on this application and may be submitted by email to dhall@lowimpacthydro.org with the subject line “West Branch St. Regis Project Comments” or by mail to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, PO Box 194, Harrington Park, New Jersey, 07640. Comments must be received by February 2, 2011.

April 30, 2007: The West Branch St. Regis Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective August 29, 2005 and expiring August 29, 2010.

March 7, 2005: Brookfield Renewable Power has submitted an application for certification of the West Branch St. Regis Project.

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