Methuen Falls

Methuen Falls

The Methuen Falls Hydroelectric Project (the 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.

Project Name Methuen Falls
LIHI Certificate Number 111
LIHI Effective and Expiration Dates August 8, 2013
August 8, 2018
Owner Olson Electric Development Company, Inc.
State Massachusetts
Location Located on the Spicket River in the City of Methuen, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 335 KW
Average Annual Generation 1,000,000 KWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. 8093

The Spicket River (the River), a tributary of the Merrimack River, part of the Gulf of Maine watershed, is a 17.7-mile-long river located in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Spicket begins at the outlet of Island Pond in Derry, New Hampshire, and flows south into Salem, New Hampshire, 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. The drainage area is approximately 73.8 square miles. There are two USGS gauges on the river. USGS 01100561 SPICKET RIVER NEAR METHUEN is located 1½ miles upstream from the Project at the Hampshire Road Bridge on the Salem NH and Methuen MA boarder. USGS 01100505 SPICKET RIVER AT NORTH SALEM, NH is located 9 miles upstream from the Project on the boarder of Salem and Derry.

The Project utilizes the Methuen Falls Dam (ID #605921) (the Dam) to achieve it hydraulic head. Methuen Falls is the second of five existing dams on the river. The first and most immediate upstream is Wheeler Dam (ID #870816) 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. The 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 (2) 3 foot wide by 4 foot high fully automated flood gates located on the southern pier. The dam is classified as a “Low Hazard” dam. The Project intake is located on the northern side of the dam. The intake structure 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 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.

30r Hampshire Street Methuen MA 01844   PH: (978) 975-0400   FX: (978) 975-0044 10

  • 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 one million kilowatt hours 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 one 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.

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.

Fish passage facilities have not been recommended for the facility.



Certification History

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:

  1. Condition satisfied 2013. Effective immediately upon receipt of this grant of certification, Olson shall increase the minimum bypass flow to 16 cfs, or instantaneous inflow if less.
  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.
  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.