LIHI Certificate #14A - Upper Raquette River Project, New York

The Upper Raquette River Project is located on the Raquette River in St. Lawrence County, New York. The Raquette River has a total drainage basin of 1,269 square miles at its mouth and originates in the Adirondack highlands at Blue Mountain Lake, Raquette Lake and Long Lake. The river flows generally north-northwest for more than 146 miles, through Potsdam, New York, and empties into the St. Lawrence River, near Massena, New York. Historically, the river has been developed for waterpower for sawmills, paper mills, tanneries, and other industry.

The project is comprised of six developments: Carry Falls, Stark Falls, Blake Falls, Rainbow Falls, Five Falls, and South Colton. A total of 19 hydroelectric projects exist on the Raquette River including Piercefield (LIHI #156) located upstream, and downstream including Middle Raquette (LIHI # 14B), Lower Raquette (LIHI #14C), and Yaleville (LIHI #157) located between two developments in the Lower Raquette Project.

The project includes six developments:

  • Carry Falls: The storage dam is 826 feet long with a 547.75-foot-long, 76-foot-high (maximum) concrete gravity spillway and a 258-foot-long, 63-foot-high concrete gated non-overflow spillway. The non-overflow section includes two 14.5-foot by 27-foot Tainter reregulating gates, two 10 by 10-foot low-level sluice gates, and an intake structure with two 15 by 15-foot openings. There are five earth dikes totaling 2,500 feet in length with heights varying from 12 to 31 feet. The dam creates a 7 mile long, 3,000-acre reservoir. There is no hydroelectric production at this development.
  • Stark Falls: The dam is a 35-foot-high concrete gravity structure with a 294-foot-long concrete ogee spillway section and a control gate section flanked by earthen dikes. There are a total of seven earthen dikes totaling approximately 3,700 ft, an intake, penstock, and a powerhouse containing a single 23.87 MW generating unit. The dam impounds a 1.5 mile long, 641-acre reservoir that creates a 1.5-mile-long bypassed reach.
  • Blake Falls: The dam is a 60-foot-high (maximum) concrete gravity structure with a 592-foot-long concrete ogee overflow section. Other project works include four earthen dikes totaling approximately 1,586 ft, an intake, a penstock, and a powerhouse containing a single 13.91 MW generating unit. The dam impounds a 5.5 mile long, 660-acre reservoir that creates a 0.85-mile-long bypassed reach.
Project Name Upper Raquette
LIHI Certificate No. 14A
LIHI Certificate Term July 9, 2014 - July 9, 2022
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LP (Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
Location Located along the Raquette River between river mile 52 and 68 in St. Lawrence County, New York.
Installed Capacity Total: 102.3 MW Carry Falls: 0 (storage) Stark Falls: 23.9 MW Blake Falls: 13.9 MW Rainbow Falls: 22.8 MW Five Falls: 22.8 MW South Colton: 18.9 MW
Average Annual Generation 439.79 GWh
Facility Type Pulsing
FERC No. P-2060 (Carry Falls ) and P-2084 both issued 2002, expire 2033
  • Rainbow Falls: The dam is an 81.5-foot-high (maximum) concrete gravity structure with a 751-foot-long concrete ogee overflow section flanked by a 1,600 foot-long earthen dike on the North and a 100-foot-long earthen dike on the South. Additional project works include an intake, a penstock, and a powerhouse containing a single 22.83 MW generating unit. The dam impounds a 3.5 mile long, 710-acre reservoir that creates a bypassed reach approximately 100 feet long.
  • Five Falls: The dam is a 55-foot-high (maximum) concrete gravity structure with a 500-foot-long concrete ogee overflow section flanked at each end by an earthen dike. The South dike is ~290 ft in length and the North dike is ~685 ft in length. The facility has an intake, 1,200-foot-long penstock, and a powerhouse containing a single 22.83 MW generating unit. The dam impounds a 1.0 mile long, 120-acre reservoir that creates a 0.54-mile-long bypassed reach.
  • South Colton: The dam is a 42-foot-high (maximum) concrete gravity structure with a 592-foot-long concrete ogee overflow section and earthen abutments. Other project works include an intake, a 1,300-foot-long penstock, and a powerhouse containing a single 18.95 MW generating unit. The dam impounds a 1.5 mile long, 225-acre reservoir that creates a bypassed reach approximately 0.4 miles long.

The project operates in coordination with the owner’s other developments on the Raquette River, including the Middle and Lower Raquette River Projects. Each of the developments operate in a pulsing mode. The maximum daily reservoir fluctuation limits under normal flow conditions are 1 foot at Stark Falls, Blake Falls and Rainbow Falls and 2 feet at Five Falls and South Colton. Minimum flows are provided at the developments:

  • Stark Falls: A year-round release of 45 cfs is provided through the stop log section of the dam. Should flows be passed through the Tainter gates for a period of 24 hours or more, the release is increased to 90 cfs until 24 hours after the Tainter gates are closed.
  • Blake Falls: A year-round release of 55 cfs is provided through the stop log section of the dam with an increase to 120 cfs from the start of walleye spawning season through the end of June.
  • Rainbow Falls: A year-round release of 20 cfs is provided through the stop log section of the dam.
  • Five Falls: A year-round release of 50 cfs is provided through the stop log section of the dam with an increase to 145 cfs during walleye spawning season.
  • South Colton: A year-round release of 20 cfs is provided over the visible portion of the falls.

Waters within the project reach are designated variously as Class B, Class C trout waters, and a Class D warm water fishery. Class B waters are best used for primary contact recreation and aquatic biota support. Class C trout waters are supportive of fishing and secondary contact recreation. Class D waters are best used for secondary contact recreation. The Carry Falls Reservoir is listed as impaired for due to atmospheric deposition of mercury, leading to bioaccumulation of mercury in fish tissue. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) does not attribute this impairment to project operations.

No migratory fish species are present in the project’s river reaches. The downstream Lower Raquette River project has installed upstream passage for the catadromous American eel but resource agencies have not yet prescribed such measures at this project. Downstream fish passage is provided via the aforementioned minimum flow structures in the dams. Trashracks with 1-inch bar spacing are installed at each development.

The project lands are sparsely populated, with much of the area forested and brush land. The project owner divested 12,000 acres of land in the watershed and lands associated with the project, though the divestment is outside the project boundary.

PLUS-Standard: The project owner voluntarily collaborated with NYSDEC to develop land-use practices consistent with adjoining State properties and developed a land use management plan for project lands that manages shorelines previously developed and protects undeveloped properties. In addition, the owner established the Raquette River Raquette River Advisory Council Fund to fund management plan activities.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include bald eagle. The project has signage near bald eagle nesting sites near Carry Falls detailing the eagle’s presence to deter boaters from adversely impacting the species.

Based on consultation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, no historic or cultural properties exist in the project area. A historic properties management plan was developed to provide guidance should any properties be identified.

Public access is provided free of charge and recreational resources at the project include:

  • Carry Falls: Jordan River canoe portage and Carry Falls Dam canoe portage
  • Stark Falls: canoe portage
  • Blake Falls: canoe portage and Dead Creek access
  • Rainbow Falls: canoe portage and Clear Pond Wild Forest Trail
  • Five Falls: canoe portage
  • South Colton: canoe portage

Certification History

May 15, 2015: The Upper Raquette River Hydroelectric Project has been certified for a third term of low impact certification, effective July 9, 2014 and expiring July 9, 2022.  The certification includes the following project specific condition:

  • Partially satisfied in 2015, fully satisfied in 2021 Condition 1: Within 90 days after recertification, the owner of the Upper Raquette River hydropower projects shall provide LIHI with an updated description of the existing mitigation measures for fish passage and protection at all dams (e.g., eel ladders and 1”-spaced bar racks) and the current schedule for installation of new measures.  Additionally, an annual status report shall be provided along with the annual compliance statement to LIHI, describing new installations in the past year and any changes in operation of fish passage facilities.  If any events occur to delay or otherwise affect fishway operations, those shall be described in the annual status report.

In rendering this Certification, the Institute’s Executive Director used authority delegated by the LIHI Governing Board and a full review of the Application Reviewer’s report (available in the Files section below) and all public comments and additional materials provided by the Applicant.

May 12, 2014: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute received an application for a third term of certification of the Raquette River Project. The current certificate term is set to expire on July 9, 2014, but to allow time for public comment and internal review, the term has been extended to August 30, 2014.

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

October 27, 2004: The Raquette River Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective July 9, 2004 and expiring July 9, 2009.