LIHI Certificate #127 – Crocker Dam Project, Massachusetts

The Crocker Dam Hydroelectric Project is located on the Whitman River in the town of Westminster, Worcester County, Massachusetts. The Whitman River originates at the outlet of Lake Wampanoag, flowing through Ashburnham, Westminster, and Fitchburg, Massachusetts, ultimately merging with Flag Brook to form the North Nashua River. The North Nashua River flows to the Nashua River, eventually joining the Merrimack River in Nashua, NH. The dam and gatehouse were built in 1933 to provide water supply for the former Crocker Paper Company and its predecessors for industrial purposes. The hydroelectric project began construction in 2016 and was completed in 2019. Project operations commenced in 2020. Two dams lie upstream of the project, Lake Wampanoag Dam and Westminster Impoundment Dam, both of which are non-powered and owned by the project owner. The only downstream dam on the Whitman River is Snows Mill Pond, also non-powered. Other downstream dams on the Nashua River include the non-powered Arden Mill Dam, the Ice House Hydroelectric Project (LIHI #44), the Pepperell Dam in Pepperell, Massachusetts and additional dams in NH.

The project includes a 520‐foot‐long, 38.5‐foot‐high earthen embankment and masonry dam with a 120‐foot‐long arched spillway section topped with 26‐inch‐high wooden flashboards. The floodgate is 8 feet wide, 12 feet high and the mud gate is 3 feet wide, 3 feet high. The gate house is equipped with a 47‐foot‐long, 42‐inch‐diameter penstock and a new 18‐foot‐high, 6.5‐foot‐wide metal trashrack with 1‐inch bar spacing. The new powerhouse contains one 174‐kW turbine generating unit. The tailrace is new, measuring 20 feet wide, 6 feet deep, and 35 feet long. The project is a true run‐of-river project with the powerhouse located adjacent to the impoundment creating a very short (~57 ft.) bypass reach.

Project Name Crocker Dam
LIHI Certificate No. 127
LIHI Certificate Term September 15, 2020 - September 14, 2025
Owner Whitman River Dam, Inc.
State Massachusetts
Location Located at river mile 2.5 on the Whitman River in Westminster, MA.
Installed Capacity 0.174 MW
Average Annual Generation 887 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-13237 issued 2012, expires 2052

The project operates in run-of-river mode and impounds a 102.9-acre reservoir. Pond elevation sensors send data to a Programmable Logic Controller which ensures the reservoir elevation is maintained within one-half foot. All flows less than the turbine’s minimum hydraulic capacity of 13 cfs are spilled and all flows above the turbine’s maximum hydraulic capacity of 60 cfs are spilled. The flow regime was developed in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Waters within the project reach are designated Class B, suitable for fish and aquatic habitat, wildlife support, and primary and secondary recreation. The project is currently conducting water quality monitoring to confirm that the project does not adversely impact water temperature and dissolved oxygen concentrations.

Downstream dams on the main stem of the Nashua River create barriers to upstream fish passage for anadromous fish species. Thus, no migratory fish species are present in the river. American eels are present in the Nashua River and at the downstream Ice House Project but no eels have been recorded in the Crocker Dam project area. Resident riverine species include a natural population of brook trout as well as common species like bluegill, blacknose and longnose dace, banded sunfish, chain pickerel, common and golden shiner, fallfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, white sucker, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch. The installation of full-depth trashracks with 1-inch clear spacing mitigate the potential for entrainment. Approach velocity averages 0.46 feet/second and even under high water conditions this velocity would not exceed the recommended 2.0 feet/second threshold.

The project lands consist of 4.5 acres. The shorelines surrounding the impoundment consist of heavy vegetation including wood lands, brush and weedy thicket sub-growth, and several house lots. The project was constructed under a Town of Westminster Conservation Commission Order of Conditions under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. Westminster also has a local wetlands bylaw that protects the quality and quantity of surface and ground water, prevents flooding and storm damage, and protects wetlands-dependent wildlife and their habitat. Since the completion of construction in January 2020 there have been no activities that impact the shoreline or watershed. No lands of significant ecological value exist in the project area.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Northern long-eared bat. Consultation with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Bureau indicates that no hibernacula or roosting trees for the species are located in the project area. Due to the project’s small footprint and lack of tree cutting, it is unlikely that the project impacts the listed bat species. Priority habitat for the wood turtle is located nearby but not within the project area. Run-of-river operations and maintenance of stable impoundment levels mitigate any impact on the habitat. There are also several migratory bird species that have the potential to be found in the project area, but operations do not affect these species due to the lack of tree cutting in the area. These species include bald eagle, black-billed cuckoo, bobolink, Canada warbler, Cape May warbler, prairie warbler, rusty blackbird, and wood thrush.

Historic resources in the project area include the dam and gatehouse which were originally constructed in 1933. Though not currently listed, these properties are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A sign in the nearby recreational area details the history of the site as far back as 1767 when the first grist mill was built at the site. The State Historic Preservation Office has concluded that the project is unlikely to impact any historic properties.

The project does not include any formal recreational facilities. Public access is provided free of charge where safe to do so at the project. The Town of Westminster’s Crocker Pond Recreation Area is adjacent to the dam and tailrace on the southwest side and is a popular developed recreational area including a large parking area and impoundment beach. Additional facilities include picnic areas, a gazebo, playground, swimming area, trails, and boat launch.


Certification History

November 17, 2020: The decision to recertify the Crocker Project became final after the close of the appeals period on November 29, 2020 with no appeals filed. The Certification term is from September 15, 2020 – September 14, 2025. The certificate includes the following condition:

  • Condition 1. The facility Owner shall provide to LIHI a copy of the final post-operational water quality monitoring report for the monitoring that will be conducted in summer 2021. The submittal shall include MDEP comments and any recommendations for modifications to operations to ensure that water quality standards are satisfied.

October 30, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved recertification of the Crocker Dam Project (LIHI #127) for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification. The Project is located on the Whitman River in Massachusetts. 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 "Crocker Dam 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 November 29, 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 September 15, 2020 through September 14, 2025.

August 28, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact recertification of the Crocker Dam Hydroelectric Project. The complete application 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 “Crocker Dam 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 October 27, 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.

December 4, 2015: LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board and a full review of the Application Reviewer’s report and all public comments and additional materials provided by the Applicant, has certified that the Crocker Dam Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-13237) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria. A Preliminary Decision was announced on December 14, 2015, and a 30-day appeal period was open through January 14, 2016. No requests for appeal were received. This Certification Decision includes five facility-specific conditions, as follows:

  • Satisfied 2020, Condition 1.  Within 3 months of turbine installation, the facility owner shall send LIHI a copy of the plan they submit to MDEP for monitoring run-of-river operation.  The owner shall notify LIHI when plan has been approved by MDEP.
  • Satisfied 2020, Condition 2.  Within 3 months of turbine installation, the facility owner shall send LIHI a copy of the plan submitted to MDEP for monitoring and maintenance of the 6 mg/l dissolved oxygen standards, and shall notify LIHI when that plan has been approved by MDEP.
  • Satisfied 2020, Condition 3.  In accordance with applicable Water Quality Certificate, the facility owner shall install full-depth, one-inch clear trashracks with velocities less than or equal to 2 feet per second at the intakes to reduce impingement and entrainment of fish at the facility.
  • Waived 2020, Condition 4.  The facility owner shall notify LIHI within 30 days of any decision by relevant fish resource agencies (MDFW and/or USFWS) that would require the installation of fish passage facilities.
  • Satisfied 2020, Condition 5.  The facility owner shall notify LIHI when the facility comes online and begins producing electricity.  This notice shall occur as soon as possible and no later than 30 days after startup.

The effective certification date for the Crocker Dam Project is September 15, 2015 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on September 15, 2020.

September 21, 2015: On September 15, 2015, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) received a complete application from Whitman River Dam, Inc. for the Low Impact Certification of the Crocker Dam Hydroelectric Project, FERC No. 13237, located on the Whitman River in Westminster, Massachusetts.