LIHI Certificate #104 - Rolfe Canal Project, New Hampshire

The Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project (“the Rolfe Project”) is located on the Contoocook River in the City of Concord, New Hampshire. Concord is the state capital of New Hampshire.  The project area is located on the extreme northern end of the city.

The project utilizes the previously existing impoundment formed by the state-owned York Dam. Water is diverted from this impoundment to the Rolfe canal, a canal that also existed prior to the construction of the Rolfe Project. A penstock intake structure is located at the end of the canal that conveys water into a penstock that is connected to the Briar powerhouse. Water is returned from the powerhouse to the Contoocook River by means of a tailrace channel. The approximate latitude and longitude of the project area are 43°16’29”N and 71°36’14”W.

Project works consist of: (a) previously existing reservoir with negligible storage capacity, a surface area of 5-acres and a normal surface elevation of 349.0 feel NGVD; (b) the York dam, a 10-foot-high, 130-foot-long granite block dam, (c) a gated concrete canal intake structure leading to a 7,000-foot-long, 75-foot-wide and 9-foot deep wide –foot- power canal; (d) a 130-foot-long concrete penstock intake structure; (e) a 900-foot-long 14 foot diameter steel penstock; (f) a concrete powerhouse containing a single generating unit with an installed nameplate capacity of 4,285 kw; (g) a 100-foot long 4.16KV interconnecting power line; (h) a 4.16/34.5 KV (i) a tailrace, 47 feet wide and 350 feet long; and (j) appurtenant facilities.

The canal banks consist of sections that are riprapped with stone in areas of high flow and earthen banks in the remaining sections of the canal.  The tailrace banks immediately downstream of the powerhouse are stabilized with riprap. Other banks are earthen. There have been no observed areas of high erosion during the 24 years that the Project has operated.

The project is located immediately upstream of the Penacook Upper Falls and Penacook Lower Falls projects. These projects, also owned by Briar Hydro Associates, were certified by LIHI in 2010 (LIHI Certificates 52 and 64).  The plant is unmanned, but operation is monitored on a 24/7 basis.

The Contoocook River rises on the eastern slopes of Mt. Monadnock in southeastern New Hampshire and ends where it enters the Merrimack River approximately 2.5 miles downstream from the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project. The river, about 66 miles long, flows in a generally north-easterly direction through the towns of Jaffrey, Peterborough, Bennington, Antrim, Hillsboro, Henniker, and Contoocook, and has a total drainage area of 766 square miles. Its major tributaries, the Warner and Blackwater Rivers, both enter from the north, only two miles apart, near the village of Contoocook. The watershed, which is primarily forested, contains numerous other small tributaries and many natural lakes. Elevations in the watershed range from 3165 ft MSL at the top of Mt. Monadnock to 243 ft. MSL at the confluence with the Merrimack. The Contoocook drops about 130 feet in its final 20 miles (6.5 ft/mile), thus explaining the location of the village of Penacook and the development of numerous water-powered mills over the past two centuries.

A gauge, located one-half mile upstream from the mouth, was maintained in the Contoocook from 1928 to 1977. The average flow over the 49 years of record was 1255 cfs. The maximum discharge of record, 46,800 cfs (estimated), occurred on March 20, 1936; the minimum, 38 cfs, occurred August 17, 1965. Daily minimum flows of 57 cfs were recorded on October 12, 1964 and August 16, 1965.

In accordance with its FERC License (project No. 3240-001) the Project is operated as a run of river facility and is required to maintain a continuous minimum flow of 285 cubic feet per second, to be measured at the confluence of the Contoocook River and the outlet of the Rolfe Canal, with at least 50 cfs of this flow released at the York Dam. The project is also required to release at least 5 cfs in the reach of the canal that is bypassed by the penstock and powerhouse and FERC letter dated February 28, 1986.

Project Name Rolfe Canal
LIHI Certificate No. 104
LIHI Certificate Term December 4, 2017 - December 3, 2022 (option to extend to December 3, 2025)
Owner Briar Hydro Associates
State New Hampshire
Location Located at river mile 2.3 on the Contoocook River in the City of Concord, New Hampshire.
Installed Capacity 4.285 MW
Average Annual Generation 21,418 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-3240 issued 1984, expires 2024

Certification History

June 19, 2018 – The 30-day appeal window for the preliminary recertification decision of the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project closed on June 14, 2018 with no appeals to the decision received. The decision is therefore final and the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project is recertified for a 5-year term from December 4, 2017 through December 3, 2022, with an opportunity to extend the term to December 3, 2025.

May 15, 2018 - On May 14, 2018, the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric project has received preliminary approval for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification, with the following conditions:

  • Condition 1 - testing started in 2018, extension granted to 2021: LIHI shall be provided a copy of the report submitted to NHDES on the results of the planned 2018 water quality studies along with the Owner’s interpretation of compliance with state standards. This LIHI submittal shall be within three months of completion of the testing and can be included with the applicable annual compliance statement if the timing aligns. A copy of NHDES’s response to the testing results shall also be forwarded to LIHI within 30 days of receipt from NHDES.
  • Condition 2 (optional): To support the requested PLUS standard for downstream passage, the Owner shall provide updates to LIHI as part of the annual compliance statements on the status of the new downstream eel exclusion screen planned for 2018 installation.  The updates should include a summary of activities during the prior year related to installation, post-installation testing, operational or structural changes planned or made as a result of testing; and any agency consultation, comments or acceptance of the installation once completed. The Owner can request the PLUS standard’s 3-year term extension up to six months in advance of the LIHI term expiration of December 3, 2022, and once the system has been tested and shown to be effective.  At that time, LIHI will make a determination whether to award an extra 3 years of certification.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented in the initial application 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to with “Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond and any response will also be posted. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on June 14, 2018.  The full application and reviewers report are available at the bottom of this page.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the new term for the Rolfe Canal Project will be December 4, 2017 through December 3, 2022.  If the PLUS standard is granted, the new term will expire on December 3, 2025.

August 31, 2017: On August 30, 2017, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) received a complete application from the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project for the Low Impact Recertification of the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric project, FERC No. 3240, located on the Contoocook River in the City of Concord, New Hampshire.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook released in March 2016.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2016 application materials posted on the project page.

Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Rolfe Canal Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2, Lexington, MA, 02420.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on October 31, 2017 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.

March 12, 2013: The Rolfe Canal Project has been certified as low impact for five year term, effective December 4, 2012 and expiring December 4, 2017.

February 4, 2013: Public comment period on application has closed.

December 4, 2012: Briar Hydro Associates has submitted an application for the certification of its Rolfe Canal Hydroelectric Project. The application was posted and the public comment period was opened.


2018 Recertification

2013 Certification