LIHI Certificate #112 - Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project, Massachusetts

The Indian Orchard Project (the “Project”) is exempt from licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) as Project No. 10678.  The Project is owned by Central Rivers Power MA, LLC. The Project is located in the Town of Ludlow and City of Springfield in Hampden County, Massachusetts, at approximate river mile 7.8 on the Chicopee River.  The dam crosses the municipal line between Ludlow and Springfield. The powerhouse is located in Springfield.  The impoundment extends in a northeasterly direction, bordering Ludlow and Springfield.  In 1988, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the Chicopee River was a navigable waterway under its jurisdiction and ordered WMECO to prepare an application for Exemption from Licensing.

The existing major project works include a cut-stone dam with a crest elevation of 159.4 feet (NGVD), topped with 1.6-foot flashboards, an impoundment, a canal headgate house, a power canal, an intake structure for two operating penstocks, a powerhouse with two operating generating units, a tailrace channel (125.25 feet NGVD) and appurtenant facilities.

The dam, built prior to 1885, crosses the Chicopee River in a roughly north-to-south direction, and is a masonry, gravity structure with a timber deck approximately 402-foot long by 28-foot high.  The deck elevation is El. 159.4, topped with 1.6 foot flashboards to create an impoundment elevation of 161.0 feet.

At normal pond elevation the Indian Orchard Project impoundment extends approximately 4,200 feet upstream of the dam.  At normal pond condition, the maximum surface area is approximately 74 acres at El. 161.0 feet.  While the maximum useable storage of the reservoir is 70 acre-feet, the used storage capacity is just 35 acre-feet.  While the permitted daily drawdown is 0.5 foot during the spring and 1 foot for the balance of the year (except during energy audits and system emergencies when this limit may be exceeded), the actual year-round drawdown is six inches.

The canal headgate structure is a brick structure on a concrete foundation, housing the seven intake gates that control the flow from the impoundment to the power canal. The seven head gates are all of steel construction, 8.4 feet high by 9.4 feet wide. Each gate is equipped with rack and pinion hoists.  The gate hoists are motor-driven by seven 3-hp, 60-cycle, 220/440V, 1730 rpm motors.  A minimum flow discharge pipe was installed just downstream of the canal gatehouse.  This facility is to be replaced with a new structure.

The power canal extends from the headgates to the penstock intake structure.  The canal is approximately 1,300 feet long by 76 feet wide at the gatehouse, narrowing to 52 wide at the penstock intake.  The inner sidewalls are constructed of cut-granite, and earthen embankments create the outer walls.  The canal has a cobble floor.  An 88-foot long canal is on the north wall of the canal, adjacent to the headgate house.  The spillway has a crest elevation of 160.9 feet.

The canal leads to the intake structure for the two operating and two abandoned penstocks.  Adjacent to the trashracks on the upstream face of the intake is a concrete sluiceway that discharges back to the Chicopee River.  There are stop log slots for isolation of Unit 3.  There are two steel penstock gates for Unit No.4, each measuring 11.3 feet wide by 14.7 feet wide.  These gates also have filler gates.  The penstock gates are operated by two 5-hp, 440 V, 60-cycle, 2-phase electrical motors.  There is also one long steel skimmer gate, 2 foot wide by 23 feet long.

Two operable and two inoperable steel penstocks lead underground from the intake structure to the powerhouse.  The two inoperable penstocks are plugged with concrete and were taken out of service in 1970.  The penstock for Unit No.3 is 190 feet long and 11 feet in diameter.  The penstock for Unit No.4 is 160 feet long and 16 feet in diameter.

The Indian Orchard Project powerhouse is constructed of brick and concrete and was built ca. 1896.  The original equipment included horizontal waterwheels that were belt-connected to generators.  The original waterwheels for Units No.1 and No.2 were retired in 1970.

The powerhouse measures approximately 190.5 feet by 50 feet in plan, with bays for the discontinued Units No.1 and No.2 at the easterly end, and operating Units No.3 and No.4 at the westerly end of the structure. The two operating units discharge through two tailrace bays directly to the Chicopee River.  The normal tailrace elevation is 125.3 feet.

The powerhouse’s 5.5 KV generator bus is connected to two 3 MVA transformers located adjacent to the powerhouse.  These transformers convert the 5.5 KV, 2-phase, 4-wire system in the generating station to 13.8 KV, 3-phase, 3-wire system for connection to the 13.8 KV bus in WMECO Orchard substation.

The Indian Orchard project is situated upstream of two other hydroelectric facilities located on the Chicopee River and downstream of three other dams on the Chicopee River as well as other dams on the Ware, Swift and Quaboag Rivers. One of the two downstream hydroelectric facilities are owned and operated by Central Rivers Power MA – Dwight Station Project (P-10675).  The Putts Bridge (P-10677) and Red Bridge Projects (P-10676) are owned and operated by Central Rivers Power MA and are located upstream of the Project.  The Project drains an area of 687 square miles.

Upstream of the Indian Orchard Project is Collins Dam Project (P-6544) and immediately upstream of Dwight Station Project is Chicopee Falls Dam (P-6522).  The Project and the other Essential Power dams on the Chicopee River have little to no control over their inflows.  Collins Hydro and Chicopee Falls dams are owned by unrelated entitie as are all of the hydroelectric projects on the upstream tributaries of the Chicopee River.  In addition, the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency diverts permanently nearly all of the water from the upper Swift River watershed and diverts for eight months of year nearly all of the water from the uppermost portion of the Ware River watershed.  These waters are then transferred through aqueducts to the metropolitan Boston area.

Based upon inflow into the Project, Indian Orchard is operated in a limited pond-and-release mode, utilizing the useable storage capacity (35 acre-feet) afforded by a 0.5 foot drawdown year round. The station is operated automatically by float controls.  The operating mode of the Indian Orchard project does not change during dry, mean or high water years.  As flows vary at the Project, the number of turbines operating and the duration of operation changes, increasing and decreasing the amount of generation realized.

Project Name Indian Orchard
LIHI Certificate No. 112
LIHI Certificate Term July 19, 2018 - July 18, 2023 (option to extend to July 18, 2026)
Owner Central Rivers Power MA, LLC
State Massachusetts
Location Located at approximately river mile 7.8 on the Chicopee River in the Town of Ludlow and the City of Springfield in Hampden County, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 3.7 MW
Average Annual Generation 12,700 MWh
 Facility Type  Limited pond-and-release mode
 FERC No. P-10678 exempt 1992

Certification History

January 6, 2020: The decision to recertify the Indian Orchard project became final after the close of the appeals period on January 5, 2020 with no appeals filed. The Certification term is from July 19, 2018 – July 18, 2023.

December 5, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project, LIHI #112. The Certification includes four conditions:

Condition 1:  The Owner shall revise the Minimum Flow and Impoundment Fluctuation Plan to reflect the minimum flow gate, incorporating appropriate resource agency comments; and confirm the top-of-flashboard elevation. A copy of the plan shall be provided to LIHI within 60 days of FERC submission. LIHI shall also be provided a copy of FERC’s final approval of the plan within 60 days of its receipt.

Condition 2: Should the Owner receive notification during the term of this LIHI Certification from either the USFWS or MDFW that upstream and/or downstream passage for anadromous or catadromous fish is required, based on sound science / technical data that has shown that such passage is required at the Indian Orchard Project, the Owner shall forward a copy of that notification and its response to LIHI within 60 days of receipt of the notification.

Condition 3: Should ground disturbance or removal of large trees be required during the term of this LIHI Certification that could affect habitat for bald eagles or Northern long-eared bats, the Owner shall consult with MDFW and USFWS to determine impacts to these species that may occur in the Project area. LIHI shall be provided copies of agency communications (e.g. approvals, denials, mitigation measures, etc.) associated with such activities. This information should be submitted as part of annual compliance submittals to LIHI.

Condition 4 (optional): The Owner shall seek to collaborate with local recreational interests and abutting landowners  on potential options for providing a cartop  put-in far enough downstream from the confluence of the bypass and tailrace to minimize hazards from sudden release of flows to the bypass in the event the generating unit suddenly trips offline. If a put-in is installed, whether or not on Project land, the Owner can request a PLUS standard at any time prior to six months before the expiration of the Certification term. LIHI will determine whether or not to award a PLUS standard for recreation and extend the Certificate term for three additional years.

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 “Indian Orchard 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 January 5, 2020.  The full application and reviewers report are available HERE.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be from July 19, 2018 to July 18, 2023.

September 6, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the Indian Orchard 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 “Indian Orchard 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 November 5, 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: Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective July 19, 2013 and expiring July 19, 2018.  The certification was granted with the following compliance obligations:

Condition satisfied, 2018. Condition 1. The Indian Orchard project owner, Essential Power LLC, will convene an annual workshop on Chicopee River Hydropower Operations designed to promote better understanding of regulated flows and impoundment fluctuations on the river, and to identify operational flow enhancements that can benefit the dual goals of clean, renewable energy and environmental protection.  This workshop will be a forum for sharing annual operational data from all the projects on the river.  The first such workshop will happen no later than June 2014, scheduled at a time when all the Chicopee hydropower owners and the applicable resource agencies can attend (i.e., FWS, MDFW and MDEP).  A summary report describing the outcomes for this workshop will be provided to LIHI and to workshop participants.  If the workshop is deemed a success, it will be repeated annually.  If it is less than successful, Essential Power may petition LIHI to discontinue it.  LIHI staff will be available to assist with this workshop, if so requested.

September 19, 2013: Public comment period on application has closed.

July 19, 2013: Essential Power LLC has submitted an application for the certification of the Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project; application has been posted to website and public comment period was opened.


2019 Recertification