Harrington Park, New Jersey (May 4, 2016) – LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Benton Falls Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-5073) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria. This Preliminary Certification Decision includes three facility-specific conditions, as follows:
- Condition 1. If resource management agencies (MDMR, MIFWS, USFWS and/or NMFS) determine that a sufficient number of Atlantic Salmon and/or American Shad have been passed upstream of the facility, or other appropriate trigger has occurred, the Owner shall conduct fish passage effectiveness studies to demonstrate that Atlantic Salmon and/or American Shad are being safely passed downstream of the facility during outmigration. The Owner shall notify LIHI within 30 days of when the applicable resource agency(ies) determine that such fish passage effectiveness testing is required. The Owner shall then consult with the agencies in the design and implementation of these studies, allowing the agencies to participate in the testing if they so desire. The Owner shall provide LIHI the testing results along with an assessment made by the agencies as to whether or not they find that safe and effective passage is being provided by the current downstream passage methods. This condition can be satisfied by providing LIHI with a copy of the annual Fish and Eel Passage Facility Operating Report and Proposed Operating Plan, as long as appropriate data and agency positions regarding fish passage are contained in that report.
- Condition 2. As part of the Annual Compliance statement to LIHI, the Owner should include documentation of ongoing consultation with NMFS regarding Atlantic Salmon pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. The schedule for these ESA consultations shall be set through agreement of the Owner and NMFS. LIHI shall be notified of this schedule within 30 days of its establishment. LIHI shall also be provided a copy of any studies or authorizations issued during the course of this certification period on this issue.
- Condition 3. To contribute to water quality management on the lower Sebasticook River, the owner shall implement a MEDEP-approved water quality sampling plan that evaluates the role of Benton Falls dam and impoundment in the nonattainment status of the river and report back to LIHI and MDEP on the findings. In addition to new water quality data, the Owner shall describe other point-source discharges in the vicinity of the facility to provide context for the facility’s potential effects. The owner shall obtain a letter from MDEP on their assessment of whether or not the Benton Falls facility is the cause of the nonattainment status, and submit that letter to LIHI within 30 days of its receipt.
As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI 2nd Edition, the Preliminary Certification Decision to certify, along with the Application Reviewer’s report and (if prepared) report of the Executive Director, will be posted on the Institute’s Web page for 30 days. Notice of the posting will be provided to all individuals or organizations that commented on the initial Application Package.
Any Commenter may submit a letter to the Executive Director requesting an appeal within the 30-day period. The appeal request must state specific reasons why the hydropower facility should have failed one or more criteria. If an individual or organization did not comment on the initial Application Package, they may not file an appeal. Further information about the LIHI appeal process is available in the LIHI Handbook, available athttps://lowimpacthydro.org/certification-program-html/.
If no appeal is requested within the 30-day period, the Executive Director will issue LIHI Certification for the facility and post a notification of certification on the Institute’s website. Once final, the effective certification date for the Benton Falls Project is November 23, 2015 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on November 23, 2020.