LIHI Certificate #14B - Middle Raquette River Project, New York

The Middle 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.

A total of 19 hydroelectric projects exist on the Raquette River including Piercefield (LIHI #156) and Upper Raquette (LIHI #14A) located upstream, and downstream including, Lower Raquette (LIHI #14C), and Yaleville (LIHI #157) located between two developments in the Lower Raquette Project. There are also four other hydroelectric facilities located on this stretch of the Raquette River: the Potsdam Project, Sissonville Project, Hewittville Project, and Unionville Project.

The project is comprised of four developments: Higley, Colton, Hannawa, and Sugar Island. All four developments were built between 1911 and 1924 for the purpose of power generation.

The project includes four developments:

  • Higley: The dam is a 34-foot-high concrete gravity dam with 3-foot-high wooden flashboards, a 209-foot-long concrete gravity ogee-crested spillway, two flood gates, eight steel forebay gates, each 12-foot-high by 5.75-foot-wide, a trashrack, and two 10-foot-high by 8-foot-wide waste gates. The dam impounds a 742-acre reservoir that creates a bypassed reach approximately 0.5 miles long. Concrete retaining walls create a 160 foot long by 50-foot-wide flume. A powerhouse four generating units with a combined capacity of 6.3 MW.
  • Colton: The dam is a 27-foot-high concrete gravity dam with 2-foot-high flashboards, an 8-foot-wide log flume, a trash gate, and a 207-foot-long ogee crested spillway equipped with a single Tainter gate measuring 10 feet high by 25 feet wide. The dam impounds a 195-acre reservoir that creates a 3-mile long bypassed reach. The intake structure is concrete with a brick superstructure, measuring 50 feet wide by 30 feet long by 12 feet high, equipped with a motor driven, 16-foot-high by 25.5-foot-wide Tainter gate. The pipeline consists of 9,890 ft of 13.5 ft diameter above ground steel pipe that transitions to 2,100 ft of 12 ft diameter buried steel pipe. The powerhouse is made of brick and steel and contains three vertical Francis turbine generators with total capacity of 30.1 MW. Other project works include an 80-foot-high surge tank, three penstocks, and a steel pipeline.
Project Name Middle Raquette
LIHI Certificate No. 14B
LIHI Certificate Term July 9, 2019 – July 8, 2024
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LP (Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
Location Located along the Raquette River between river mile 38 and 47 in St. Lawrence County, New York.
Installed Capacity Total: 48.3 MW Higley: 6.3 MW Colton: 30.1 MW Hannawa: 7.2 MW Sugar Island: 4.7 MW
Average Annual Generation 330,820 MWh
Facility Type Higley Development: Re-regulating Colton, Hannawa, Sugar Island: Pulsing
FERC No. P-2320 issued 2002, expires 2033
  • Hannawa: The dam is 38 feet high and made of stone and concrete with 3.5-foot-high wooden flashboards, a log chute, a motor operated Tainter gate measuring 14 feet high by 28 feet wide, a 215-foot long ogee crested spillway, and a sluice gate. The dam impounds a 204-acre reservoir that creates a 0.5-mile-long bypassed reach. The headworks structure has five sliding timber gates, all 18 feet high with three 9.7 feet wide, one 9 feet wide, and one 8.8 feet wide. The canal is 2,700 feet long and 30 feet wide at the bottom, 120 feet wide at the top, with an average depth of 22 feet. Trashracks completely cover the canal entrance. Two penstocks measuring 10 feet in diameter, 190 feet long convey flows to a sandstone and structural steel powerhouse that contains two generating units with combined capacity of 7.2 MW.
  • Sugar Island: The dam is a 37-foot-high concrete gravity dam with two Tainter gates and a 192-foot-long spillway. The dam impounds a 29-acre reservoir that creates a 1-mile-long bypassed reach. The intake structure is made of concrete and brick and has trashracks and a steel head gate measuring 14 feet wide by 16 feet high. The powerhouse is made of brick and structural steel and contains two generating units with a total capacity of 4.8 MW. Other project works include a 4,470-foot-long 13.5 ft diameter steel pipeline, a 71-foot-high surge tank, and an 11 ft diameter penstock to the second bifurcation into an 8 ft diameter penstock to Unit 2, as well as an 8-foot diameter penstock stub.

The project operates in re-regulating and pulsing modes. Operations are coordinated with the owner’s other projects on the Raquette River. The Project’s most upstream development, Higley, operates as a re-regulating development to provide steadier inflows from upstream to the downstream hydroelectric facilities. Each of the developments below Higley operates in a pulsing mode that limits the normal reservoir fluctuation at Colton and Hannawa to no more than 0.4 feet, and at Sugar Island to no more than 1.0 foot. Each development generates when total inflow is available to pass the minimum bypass flow plus run one turbine at its minimum turbine limit. Minimum flows are provided at each development:

  • Higley: A 20-cfs year-round flow is provided through the stop log section of the dam to facilitate downstream fish passage.
  • Colton: A 20-cfs year-round flow is provided through the intake structure section which serves as the primary downstream fish movement point. Additionally, the development’s bypass reach is managed as a complete riverine ecosystem meaning:
    • 110 cfs is released from November 1 to the start of walleye spawning season.
    • 200 cfs is released throughout the walleye spawning season. If spring spillage is occurring, the 200 cfs is increased to 240 CFS.
    • From the end of the walleye spawning season through June 30, the minimum flow is set to 200 cfs, drops to 125 cfs from July 1 to August 15, drops further to 90 cfs from August16 to September 15, and increases to 125 cfs from September 16 through October 31.
  • Hannawa: Flows are meant to reflect natural hydrologic trends. Flows are released through a stop log section of the dam. 50 cfs is provided from October 31 to the start of walleye spawning season. This is increased to 90 cfs during walleye spawning season through June 30. 65 cfs is provided from July 1 through October 31.
  • Sugar Island: The bypass at Sugar Island is similar to Colton and is managed as its own complete riverine ecosystem. 300 cfs is provided year-round with an additional 100 cfs during walleye spawning season through June 30.

Waters within the project reach are designated as Class C, managed to achieve and maintain a level of quality that fully support aquatic biota, wildlife, aquatic habitat, swimming and other primary contact recreation, boating, fishing, and other recreational uses. There are no impaired waters in the project reach.

No anadromous or catadromous fish species are present in the river reach. 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 development dams. Trashracks with 1-inch bar spacing are installed at the developments except Sugar Island, as the far larger instream flow empties into a plunge pool with adequate depth for fish protection.

The project lands consist of 406 acres. The overbank areas of the Middle Raquette River located between the project developments are comprised of natural lands of non-significant ecological value. Land around the project is largely rural or forested and is dependent on forestry, some agriculture, wood products, and tourism.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Northern long-eared bat, yellow lampmussel, common loon, spruce grouse, and several migratory birds as identified by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). No critical habitat was identified in the project area for the Northern long-eared bat and the only migratory bird found at the project year-round is the bald eagle, of which no critical habitat is located at the project. The project supports some habitat for the spruce grouse though it is at the southernmost extent of the species range. USFWS and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation surveyed the project area for yellow lampmussel and determined that the population was larger than previously thought.

The foundation of an early tanning factory is located downstream of the Colton dam between the bypass reach and a hiking trail. The tannery was of particular importance to the local economy when it operated between 1856 and 1898. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was consulted to determine other potential historic properties. The SHPO concluded that the Higley development met eligibility requirements for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A historic properties management plan was developed for the project to provide guidance and provisions for the proper stewardship of these resources.

Public access is provided free of charge and recreational resources at the project include canoe portages at each development and:

  • Colton: whitewater access and a car top boat launch.
  • Hannawa: whitewater access, a scenic overlook, hiking trail, and picnic facility.
  • Sugar island: a day use area and two hiking trails.

Certification History:

February 7, 2020: The decision to recertify the Middle Raquette Project became final after the close of the appeals period on February 5, 2020 with no appeals filed.  The Certification term is from July 9, 2019 – July 8, 2024.

January 6, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the Middle Raquette Hydroelectric Project, LIHI #14B. The Certification includes one condition:

  • Condition 1: The Facility Owner shall continue to provide annual reports to LIHI in annual compliance submittals that document operational deviations that occurred throughout the year whether unintentional or planned. The report will be due at the same time as the annual compliance statement.

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 “Middle Raquette 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 February 5, 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.

August 13, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the Middle Raquette 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 “Middle Raquette 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 12, 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.

May 15, 2015: The Middle Raquette River Hydroelectric Project has been certified for a third term of low impact certification, effective July 9, 2014 and expiring July 9, 2019, with the following conditions:

  • Condition satisfied in 2017. Facility owner shall develop a draft Deviation Reduction Plan (DRP) and submit it to LIHI no later than three months after LIHI certification of MRRP. The DRP define proactive operational control approaches for dam releases and pond level maintenance that will reduce the likelihood of operational deviations occurring in the future.  The DRP needs to address the specific problems and potential recommendations identified in the reviewer’s report. Options to be considered should include audible alarms in control centers and programmable logic controllers. The DRP shall describe options considered, those selected, and a schedule for implementation.  LIHI staff will review and comment on the draft plan and be available to assist in the development of the DRP, if requested. The final DRP needs to be completed and agreed to by both EBH and LIHI no later the six months after LIHI certification.
  • Condition continued in 2020 certification. Facility owner shall provide annual reports to LIHI documenting operational deviations from instream flow or pond levels that occurred throughout each year of certification. The report shall describe all deviations that have occurred, regardless of whether the deviations were planned or unintentional or whether they are eventually deemed as not violating the license by FERC. The report is due at the same time as the annual compliance statement and payment of the annual certification fee.

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.