LIHI Certificate #13 - Hoosic River Project, New York

The Hoosic River Project consists of two developments on the Hoosic River east of its confluence with the Hudson River: the Johnsonville Development and the Schaghticoke Development, located in Johnsonville and Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, New York, respectively. The Valley Falls Dam is located between the developments. One dam lies upstream of the project, the Hoosick Falls Project, with no dams downstream of the Schaghticoke facility. The facilities were built between 1909 and 1910 for the purpose of supplying power to the local area.

The project was relicensed by FERC in 2002 after a collaborative effort to develop the Hoosic River Project Settlement Offer (HRPSO). The HRPSO provides for the continued operation of the project with appropriate long-term environmental protection and diverse objectives for maintain a balance of power and non-power values in the Hoosic River Basin. Those included in this effort are as follows: the project owner, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), American Rivers (AR), American Whitewater (AW), New York Rivers United (NYRU), New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC), New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Rensselaer County Conservation Alliance (RCCA), Town of Schaghticoke (TOS), Trout Unlimited (TU), US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), US National Park Service (USNPS) and the Village of Schaghticoke (VOC).

The project includes two separate facilities, described below:

The Johnsonville Development consists of:

  • a 39-foot-high, 529-foot-long concrete gravity dam topped with 2.5-foot-high wooden flashboards;
  • a reservoir with a 450-acre surface area;
  • a sluice gate;
  • a forebay structure;
  • an intake structure equipped with 1-inch clear-spaced vertical trashracks;
  • a powerhouse immediately adjacent to the dam containing two turbine generators with a total installed capacity of 2.1 MW.
Project Name Hoosic River
LIHI Certificate No. 13
LIHI Certificate Term July 9, 2019 – July 8, 2024
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower LLC (Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
Location Located between river mile 7.4 and 13.4 on the Hoosic River in upstate New York, northeast of Albany and Troy.
Installed Capacity Total: 18.5 MW Johnsonville: 2.1 MW Schaghticoke: 16.4 MW
Average Annual Generation 83,000 MWh
Facility Type Peaking
FERC No. P-2616 issued 2002, expires 2042

The Schaghticoke Development consists of:

  • a 28-foot-high, 700-foot- long concrete gravity dam topped with 2.5-foot-high wooden flashboards and a pneumatic gate;
  • a reservoir with a 150-acre surface area;
  • a 2,300 foot-long open canal;
  • a set of forebay intake gates;
  • a forebay;
  • a pipeline intake equipped with 1-inch clear-spaced vertical trashracks;
  • an 820 foot-long, 12.5- foot-diameter steel pipeline. This pipeline directs water from the forebay downward to the bypassed reach. It passes over the bypassed reach by the means of a support bridge, then heads up the other side of the river overbank to a surge tank;
  • a surge tank;
  • five penstocks directing water from the surge tank to the powerhouse;
  • a powerhouse containing four turbine generators with a combined capacity of 16.4 MW.

The canal, forebay, pipeline, and penstocks create a two-mile bypassed reach between the dam and the powerhouse.

The project operates in a peaking mode. Reservoir fluctuations are seasonal and site-specific. The Johnsonville development limits daily fluctuations to 0.25 feet from June 1-September 30 and 0.5 feet from October 1-May 31. Daily fluctuations are limited to 0.5 feet at the Schaghticoke development. The Schaghticoke facility provides a year-round minimum flow of 60 cfs into the bypass reach to maintain habitat for nearly all fish species and life stages. Additionally, the Schaghticoke facility provides a year-round base flow of 240 cfs downstream of its powerhouse and the Johnsonville facility provides a year-round base flow of 220 cfs downstream of its powerhouse. This enhances aquatic habitat in periods of low flow and addresses a historic issue of dewatering the downstream reaches due to hydropower operations on the river. This flow regime was developed as a part of the HRPSO with guidance from the contributing members.

Waters within the project reach are designated Class B in the Hoosic River and Class C in the Schaghticoke Reservoir. Class B waters are best used for aquatic biota and wildlife habitat as well as primary and secondary contact recreation. Class C waters have similar designated uses, but some factors may limit the designated uses. A fish consumption advisory is in effect in the project area due PCB contaminated sediments. This impairment has been noted by NYSDEC as a result of legacy pollutants from past industrial discharges into the river upstream of the project and thus not a result of project operations.

Historically, the falls at Schaghticoke limited upstream movements for most anadromous fish species in the river. However, USFWS indicated that there are sufficient ledges, cracks and flumes in the falls to likely allow American eel to ascend them. In general, the Hoosic River in the Project area supports both warm and coldwater fish species, but the fish community is dominated by warmwater species. Common species include shiner, spottail shiner, golden shiner, fallfish, carp, white sucker, rainbow and brown trout, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, black crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill, and yellow perch. Both project facilities operate eel ladders between June 15 and September 15 to facilitate eel migration. The eel ladder systems, developed with USFWS and NYSDEC, use a gravity siphon pump and a solar-powered pump to facilitate passage. Downstream passage is available at Johnsonville via the 20-cfs bypass flow leading to a plunge pool. Schaghticoke’s 60-cfs bypass flow provides passage as well.

The project lands consist of 1,066.3 acres across the two facilities (696.3 acres at Johnsonville, 370 acres at Schaghticoke). Project lands at the Johnsonville development are primarily forested, low-density developed, or open space. Schaghticoke lands are limited primarily to the power facilities and some forested areas. No lands of significant ecological value exist in these areas.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include bald eagle, Karner blue butterfly, and Provancher’s fleabane. Surveys conducted at the project’s concluded that the Karner blue butterfly or its host species, the blue lupine, are not found in the project area and not likely to be adversely impacted by project operations. Further, review of the NYSDEC’s Environmental Resource Mapper and the Environmental Assessment Form Mapper found that bald eagles may use the Johnsonville development for access to food and potentially to overwinter. However, operational and recreational measures do not affect the distribution or abundance of prey and no impacts on the species are expected. The Provancher’s fleabane may be found in the Schaghticoke vicinity though only in the bypass reach, if at all. The species grows on cliffs along the Hudson river and seasonally exposed bedrock of large rivers, more specifically in rocky crevices along rivers and streams where it can receive splashed water. NYSDEC only noted the presence of bald eagles in the project vicinity and does not expect any impact on the listed species.

The Schaghticoke development’s turbines, generators, dam, gates, and powerhouse are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of early 20th century hydroelectric generation. The New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has noted that project operations will not impact cultural or historic resources at the project. The project owner submits annual reports to the SHPO summarizing activities relevant to the resources at the project.

Recreational resources at the project include fishing access, a car-top boat launch, canoe portage and put-in/take-out locations, whitewater releases based on annual attendance (in collaboration with American Whitewater), and an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant fishing platform. Public access is provided free of charge where safety and private property do not preclude access.


Certification History

January 6, 2020: The decision to recertify the Hoosic River project became final after the close of the appeals period on January 2, 2020 with no appeals filed.  The Certification term is from July 9, 2019 – July 8, 2024.

December 3, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the Hoosic River Hydroelectric Project, LIHI #13. The Certification includes two conditions:

  • Partially satisfied 2020 and 2021, flashboards to be replaced and design filed with FERC Condition 1: Within one year from the effective date of this re-certification, the Owner shall notify LIHI of its final decision about whether or not the Johnsonville flashboards will be replaced. Consideration must be given to the environmental and recreational impacts associated with continued absence of the flashboards, especially to use of the public boat launch site required by the FERC license. If it is determined that the flashboards will be replaced, the notification shall include a copy of the notification to FERC, the Owner’s schedule for submission of the flashboard failure design for FERC approval and the schedule for reinstallation. If the decision is to not replace the flashboards, the notification shall include an assessment of the effects of this “material change” in Project operations on applicable LIHI criteria and how access will be accommodated at the Johnsonville boat launch. LIHI reserves the right to modify the Project certification pending results of the assessment.
  • Partially satisfied 2020, 2021 only annual reporting requirement to FERC remains Condition 2: The Owner shall post a sign by April 1, 2020, at the access area used by whitewater boaters at the Schaghticoke bypass providing, at a minimum: the phone number to call for access, that access is allowed between sunrise and two hours before sunset, and the required flow conditions for access (flow of at least 1,920 cfs at USGS river gage at Eagle Bridge (gage no. 01334500). A meeting with American Whitewater to discuss the release program shall be conducted by April 1, 2020, with a commitment to hold such meetings every five years thereafter in accordance with the Settlement Agreement. Annual reporting to FERC required under license article 406 shall also be resumed.  Copies of all correspondence, meeting notes, and confirmation of sign installation shall be submitted to LIHI in the next annual compliance submittal due in July 2020, and copies of future meeting notes and FERC filings shall be submitted in annual compliance statements thereafter.

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 “Hoosic River 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 2, 2020.  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 from July 9, 2019 to July 8, 2024.

September 4, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the Hoosic River 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 “Hoosic River 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 3, 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 20, 2015 – The Hoosic River Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2616), LIHI Certificate No. 13 has been determined by the Executive Director, Michael J. Sale to satisfy the requirements of the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) Certification Program. The Hoosic River Project is located on the Hoosic River in upstate New York, northeast of Albany and Troy.

In rendering this Certification, the Institute’s Executive Director used authority delegated by the LIHI Governing Board and the unanimous recommendation by the LIHI Governing Board Technical Committee resulting from a full review of the Application Reviewer’s report and all public comments and additional materials provided by the Applicant.  The decision to certify the Hoosic River Hydroelectric Project is for a 5-year term, effective July 9, 2014 and expiring July 9, 2019, with the following condition:

“The potential for ice buildup in the head pond stilling well and the hydraulic controls of the pneumatic gate on the Schaghticoke spillway is a recurring issue at the Hoosic River facility. Therefore, one new condition is added to the LIHI certificate:

  • Condition satisfied in 2018.Condition 1:The facility owner shall develop a proactive procedure that can be followed during the winter season to prevent ice buildup problems at their facilities and to reduce the occurrence of water level or flow violations that have been evident in the past. A final report documenting the improved operating procedures will be provided to LIHI along with the first annual compliance letter following recertification. If similar violations of water level or flow requirements occur in future years, they shall be reported in the annual compliance letters to LIHI.  These annual reports shall contain copies of any pertinent correspondence and documents, as well as a description of any corrective actions taken.

April 17, 2014: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute received an application for a third term of certification of the Hoosic River Project. The current certificate term is scheduled to expire on July 9, 2014.

April 15, 2010: The Hoosic River Project has been certified for a second five year term of low impact certification, effective July 9, 2009 and expiring July 9, 2014.

October 21, 2004: The Hoosic River Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective July 9, 2004 and expiring July 9, 2009.