LIHI Certificate #11 – Pawtucket Project, Rhode Island

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.

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.

Project Name Pawtucket
LIHI Certificate No. 11
LIHI Certificate Term April 23, 2019 - April 22, 2024
Owner Pawtucket Hydropower LLC
State Rhode Island
Location Located at the mouth of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Installed Capacity 1.6 MW
Average Annual Generation 4,000 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-3689 exempt 1981

Certification History

July 30, 2020: The decision to recertify the Pawtucket Project became final after the close of the appeals period on July 24, 2020 with no appeals filed. The Certification term is from April 23, 2019 – April 22, 2024.

June 24, 2020:  The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved the Pawtucket Project (LIHI #11) for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification. The Certificate includes the following condition:

Condition 1: The facility Owner shall continue to participate in efforts to restore fish passage in the lower Blackstone River in accordance with the MOA with RIDEM.  The Owner shall keep LIHI fully informed of all progress, delays, and changes in these efforts and agreements.  Any changes in the MOAs shall be reported within 30 days of their execution.  An updated status report on fish passage restoration shall be included with the facility’s annual compliance submittal to LIHI. LIHI certification is contingent on the Owner continuing to play a strong supportive and proactive role in achieving the goals of the Blackstone River Fish Passage Restoration Project where feasible.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented on the initial application during the 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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Pawtucket Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 6, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website. 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 July 24, 2020. The full application and reviewer’s report are available below.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be April 23, 2019 through April 22, 2024.

April 8, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact recertification of the Pawtucket Hydroelectric Project.  The Project’s application materials can be found below.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Pawtucket Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 6, Lexington, MA 02420.  Comments must be received on or before 5 pm Eastern time on June 7, 2020 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.

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.