LIHI Certificate #113 - Milford Project, Maine

The Milford Project is located on the main stem of the Penobscot River in the towns of Milford and Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine. The project is comprised of two dams, the Milford Dam, the most downstream dam on the Penobscot River, and the Gilman Falls dam, located on the Stillwater Branch of the Penobscot River. The Milford Dam is the first dam on the mainstem Penobscot River and is located downstream of the West Enfield Project. The project dams were originally constructed in 1905 and finished in 1906. The Milford dam was built for hydropower generation while the Gilman Falls dam was built to regulate flows in the Stillwater Branch of the Penobscot River.

The Milford project consists of a 1,159-foot-long, 30-foot-high, concrete gravity dam located across the main stem of the Penobscot River, topped with 4.5-foot-high flashboards, a 397-foot-long concrete gravity spillway, a concrete sluiceway with a 25-foot gate, and a powerhouse. The powerhouse contains four original and two new 700-kilowatt (kW) turbine/generator units. The new units began operations in 2011. The total installed capacity is 8.23 MW.

The Gilman Falls dam, at the head of the Stillwater Branch, consists of a 49-foot-wide non-overflow section, a 311-foot-long primary spillway with 4.4-foot-high flashboards, a 6-foot-wide sluice gate, and two Tainter gates, one 30 feet wide and the other 20 feet wide. No generation occurs at this dam. The project operates in a run-of-river mode and impounds a 235-acre reservoir. Flows are reallocated between the main stem of the Penobscot River and the Stillwater Branch through operation of the Milford Project. To accommodate the installation of new generation at the downstream Stillwater and Orono projects on the Stillwater Branch, more water now flows to that branch. The flow reallocation is within the range of operations allowed by the current licenses for these Projects. The Milford project also provides a minimum flow of 3,800 cfs or inflow, whichever is less, and a headpond elevation limit of one foot of the normal full pond when flashboards are in place.

Waters within the project reach achieve their designated uses including drinking water supply after treatment, fishing, agriculture, primary contact recreation, industrial process/cooling water supply, and aquatic biota support.

Project Name Milford
LIHI Certificate No. 113
LIHI Certificate Term November 13, 2018 - November 12, 2023
Owner Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC
State Maine
Location Located on the main stem of the Penobscot River at river mile 33.25, and the Gilmans Falls Dam, located on the Stillwater Branch, in Milford and Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine.
Installed Capacity 8.23 MW
Average Annual Generation 39,331 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-2534 issued 1998, expires 2038

The main stem of the Penobscot River is also identified as impaired for eutrophication, dissolved oxygen, dioxin, E. coli, and legacy pollutants. However, the Maine 2016 Water Quality Report notes that this is reasonably expected as a result of pulp and paper mills. None of these impairments result from project operations as confirmed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP).

The Penobscot River is host to several migratory fish species. Passage facilities at the project target species including American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel and the state and federally endangered Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment Atlantic salmon (Atlantic salmon). In the 2010s, the project had a 4-foot Denil style upstream fishway located at the west side of the powerhouse tailrace. This ladder is currently operated as a back-up to a fish lift that was constructed in 2014. A shore-based fish lift for upstream passage of anadromous fish species is located immediately downstream from the powerhouse on the east side of the project tailrace. This facility includes secondary collection facilities in the upper flume for counting, sorting, trapping, and trucking of fishes captured in the fish lift. An upstream fishway for American eel is installed seasonally at the spillway upon the mid-river ledges which abut the rubber dam and flashboard spillway sections. The eelway was modified in 2015 to improve its use. These fish passage provisions were developed with and approved by US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The project lands consist of roughly one acre. Most of this land is wooded or developed and do not exhibit any lands of ecological significance. A stream bank stabilization plan was implemented at the project in the early 2000s. Provisions include riprapping of shoreline areas to protect nearby islands owned by the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include yellow lampmussel, brook floater, Northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat, shortnose sturgeon, Atlantic sturgeon, and Atlantic salmon. Passage facilities at the project have helped to restore river connectivity for the three listed fish species. The two mussel species have been documented in the project vicinity though run-of-river operations support suitable habitat for these species. The bat species are not likely to be impacted by project operations as project facilities do not require regular tree clearing activities that could impact the species and their potential habitat. Should any tree clearing activities be planned, the project must first consult with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department to determine any impact.

Cultural resources at the project include two archaeological sites, Gut Island and Beaver. The project conducted analysis and provided reports on the status of these sites. These reports continued until a final report to FERC in 2019 when all required field work was completed.

Recreational resources at the project include canoe portages and boat ramps. A canoe portage was slated for installation around the dam on the western shore of the project, but public safety concerns ended that endeavor. However, the project owner agreed to collaborate with the City and Penobscot Indian Nation should they decide to install portage on city-owned lands. Public access is provided free of charge.

Certification History

June 24, 2019: The decision to recertify the Milford Hydroelectric Project is final. No appeals were received during the appeal period which closed on June 14, 2019. The new certification term for the Project is from November 13, 2018 through November 12, 2023. The Certificate includes the following conditions:

  • Condition 1: The Owner shall submit a copy of the Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring Report due in 2023 to LIHI with the submission of the Annual Compliance Statement for that year to confirm compliance with this FERC License requirement.
  • Condition 2: The Owner shall notify LIHI in the Annual Compliance Statements of receipt of agency notification of the following items. Data to be provided includes the documentation provided by the agency and in the case of item (c), the Owner’s response to this notice.
    1. upstream passage for Atlantic salmon has met the performance standards established by the Biological Order in place at the time of this determination, and
    2. upstream passage of alosines has been determined to be safe and effective, or
    3. ongoing studies indicate concern that safe upstream passage for these species cannot be assured, and that significant new measures are required at the Project.
  • Condition 3: The Owner shall notify LIHI in the Annual Compliance Statements of receipt of agency notification of the following items. Data to be provided includes the documentation provided by the agency and in the case of item (c), the Owner’s response to this notice.
    1. downstream passage for Atlantic salmon has met the performance standards established by the Biological Order in place at the time of this determination, and
    2. downstream passage of alosines and/or American eel has been determined to be safe and effective, or
    3. ongoing studies indicate concern that safe downstream passage for these species cannot be assured, and that significant new measures are required at the Project.
  • Condition 4: If significant drawdowns are scheduled (other than those needed for normal maintenance activities) that may adversely affect protected mussels, or tree clearing activities that may impact protected bats, the owner shall notify LIHI of the license-required consultation with applicable state resource agencies, along with mitigation actions developed to ensure impacts to these protected species are minimized.

May 15, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved Low Impact Certification for the Milford Hydroelectric Project.

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 “Milford 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 June 14, 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 (LIHI #113) will be November 13, 2018 through November 12, 2023.

March 7, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the Milford 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 Handbook and 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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Milford 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 6, 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.

February 12, 2014: The Milford Project is certified as low impact for a five-year term, effective November 13, 2013 and expiring November 13, 2018, with the following conditions:

  • Condition 1: Fish passage effectiveness studies, including numerical performance on specific standards for Atlantic salmon, are scheduled for the next three years (downstream passage) and two years (upstream passage) to confirm adequacy of the fishways installed.  The owner shall report to LIHI on the results of all fish passage effectiveness testing conducted within thirty (30) days of conclusion of each year’s studies, including reporting on any changes in operation of the passage facilities, as recommended or required by the resource agencies and/or the Penobscot Indian Nation (PIN). This reporting shall summarize the opinions (if rendered) of The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Maine Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) and PIN on the results of the effectiveness studies.
  • Condition 2: Three state threatened mussel species may be present in the vicinity of the Milford facility and these could be impacted during significant impoundment lowering.  If significant drawdowns are scheduled (other than those needed for normal maintenance activities) that may adversely affect mussels, the owner shall notify LIHI of the license-required consultation with FERC and applicable state resource agencies, along with mitigation actions developed to ensure impacts to sensitive mussel species are  minimized.
  • Condition Satisfied in 2018. Condition 3: The owner shall report to LIHI on the status and results of the consultations regarding the canoe portage trail, as well as the status of development of the trail.

January 13, 2014: Public comment period for the application has closed.

November 12, 2013: Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC submitted an application for the certification of the Milford Project; application was posted to website and public comment period opened.