LIHI Certificate #111 - Methuen Falls Project, Massachusetts

The Methuen Falls Hydroelectric Project is located in the City of Methuen, Essex County, Massachusetts on the Spicket River near Route 28, south of the junction of Routes 28 and 213.

The Spicket River is a tributary of the Merrimack River, part of the Gulf of Maine watershed. It is 17.7 miles long and flows from New Hampshire into Massachusetts. The Spicket River begins at the outlet of Island Pond in Derry, New Hampshire, and flows south into Salem, passing through the Arlington Mill Reservoir. The river continues through Salem, and enters the city of Methuen, Massachusetts, where it drops nearly 100 feet over a series of dams on its way to the Merrimack River in Lawrence.

Methuen Falls is the second of five existing dams on the river. The first and most immediate upstream is Wheeler Dam  located approximately 7 miles to the north at the outlet of Arlington Mill Reservoir in Salem, New Hampshire. The third, and most immediate downstream, is Harvey’s Falls Dam located approximately ½ mile to the south.

Methuen Falls dam, which was originally constructed in 1880 to 1890, is a gravity dam made of cut granite built on a bedrock foundation. The downstream face is vertical dry stone masonry laid on a running bond pattern. Its maximum height above the river bed is twenty feet with three feet of plywood flashboards on the crest. The overflow spillway consists of three sections separated by two large masonry piers and has a total length of 130 feet. There are two fully automated flood gates located on the southern pier.  The Project intake is located on the northern side of the dam and consists of a formed concrete box protected by 16 foot wide by 10 foot deep galvanized trash racks. The intake is sealed by a 10 foot wide by 10 foot deep fully automated aluminum head gate. Water is transported to the power house via a 150 foot long, 7 foot high by 10 foot wide granite topped brick channel that transitions into a 4 foot diameter steel penstock at a ninety degree angle. The penstock transfers water into a 7 foot high by 20 foot square concrete pressure case which houses Unit #1. A 3 foot long, 3 foot diameter steel penstock supplies water from the concrete pressure case to a 6 foot high by 6 foot square steel pressure case that houses Unit #2. Each pressure case passes water to the tailrace via conical draft tubes.

The project is located within the Spicket Falls Historic District. The Historic District is part of the Methuen Multiple Resource Area which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Methuen Company Spinning Mill #5, which houses the power plant, has been preserved and restored in accordance with Historic District guidelines. The powerhouse is located in the historically restored Methuen Company Spinning Mill #5. The c. 1840 structure contains 6000 square feet of finished interior space and sits 3½ stories above grade.  The first floor houses the following major components:

  • Turbine #1: 405hp Vertical Leffel - Francis Unit
  • Generator #1: 285kw Vertical General Electric
  • Turbine #2: 120hp Vertical S. Morgan Smith - Francis Unit
  • Generator #2: 90kw Vertical Westinghouse
  • Switchgear, Excitation, HPU, & other Controls & Automation Equipment

On average, the facility produces approximately 1,000 MWh of electricity on an annual basis. As is the case with most hydroelectric faculties, production varies seasonally. The spring run-off months of March, April, May and June typically make up the largest percentage (42%) of annual production. The dryer summer and fall months of July, August, September and October make up the smallest percentage (20%) with the winter months of November, December, January and February making up the balance (38%).

The project operates as a true run-of-river project and discharges a continuous minimum flow of 16 cfs through the 150 foot long bypass reach. The project is also in compliance with its requirement to provide an instantaneous instream flow release of at least 37 cfs, or inflow, whichever is less.

Fish passage facilities have not been recommended for the facility.

Project Name Methuen Falls
LIHI Certificate No. 111
LIHI Certificate Term August 8, 2018 - August 7, 2023
Owner Olson Electric Development Company, Inc.
State Massachusetts
Location Located  at river mile 3 on the Spicket River in the City of Methuen, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 0.357 MW
Average Annual Generation 1,000 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-8093 issued 1986, expires 2026

Certification History

August 8, 2019: The decision to recertify the Methuen Falls Hydroelectric Project is final. No appeals were received during the appeal period which closed on July 18, 2019. The new certification term for the Project is from August 8, 2018 through August 7, 2023.

June 18, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the Methuen Falls Hydroelectric Project. The Certification includes two conditions:

  • Condition 1:  The Facility Owner shall continue to voluntarily provide a minimum flow of 16 cfs into the bypassed reach.
  • Condition 2: Due to the potential for American eel presence in the Project area, the Facility Owner shall report whether US Fish and Wildlife Service and/or Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife has requested fish passage facilities in annual compliance submittals to LIHI.  If fish passage is required during the LIHI Certification term, the Owner shall provide annual updates on passage design, installation and acceptance by the resource agencies in annual compliance submittals to LIHI.

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 with “Methuen Falls Hydroelectric 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 18, 2019.  The full application and reviewers report are available below.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be August 8, 2018 for a five (5) year term which will expire on August 7, 2023.

March 26, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the Methuen Falls Hydroelectric Project.  LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbookand then review the Project’s application materials below.

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 “Methuen Falls 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 May 25, 2019 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.

December 11, 2013: The Methuen Falls Hydroelectric project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective August 8, 2013 and expiring August 8, 2018, with the following conditions:

  • Condition satisfied 2013. Condition 1: Effective immediately upon receipt of this grant of certification, Olson shall increase the minimum bypass flow to 16 cfs, or instantaneous inflow if less.
  • Condition satisfied 2014. Condition 2: Within 90 days of LIHI’s grant of certification, Olson shall develop a flow monitoring and record keeping plan in consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service “USFWS”) and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (“MassWildlife”) and file the plan with LIHI. The plan shall include the information on the mechanism for maintaining the bypass minimum flow (noting that at least 3 cfs should be provided as full-crest spillage for consistency with the license). Before filing the plan with LIHI, Olson shall seek written approval from the agencies and include any written responses to LIHI at the same time the plan is filed.
  • Condition 3: Upon notification by the USFWS that a final determination has been made that fish passage is required for American eel at Methuen Falls dam, Olson shall immediately start work to establish a cooperative Agreement with USFWS and MassWildlife to implement and provide such eel passage, including both permanent and interim measures that are requested by these agencies.  Olson shall notify LIHI within 30 days of this notification on the eel passage requirement, and the Agreement shall be in place within 90 days of such notification.  The interim measures that are identified in the Agreement shall be put in place within 120 days of the notification, and permanent eel passage measures shall be in place no later than two years after notification of the requirement.  Two weeks after the eel passage Agreement is in place, Olson shall provide a report to LIHI describing the planned passage and protection measures and the implementation schedule for design, installation, and operations, along with a copy of the Agreement.  Progress and any monitoring data collected shall be reported to LIHI in Olson’s annual compliance letter.

October 8, 2013: Public comment period on application has closed.

August 8, 2013: Olson Electric Development Co., Inc. has submitted an application for certification of the Methuen Falls project; application was posted to website and the public comment period was opened.