LIHI Certificate #27 - West Branch St. Regis Project, New York

The West Branch St. Regis Project consists of two developments, Parishville and Allens Falls. The developments are located on the West Branch of the St. Regis River which originates near Saranac Lake, New York. The two facilities were constructed in the 1920s.

The West Branch of the St. Regis River is approximately 70 miles long and has a drainage area of approximately 271 square miles. The river originates in head ponds of Saranac Lake, New York, flowing northwest approximately 35 miles to the Parishville impoundment, another 2 miles to Allens Falls dam, and then another 18 miles to its junction with the St. Regis River, which in turn enters the St. Lawrence River 20 miles farther downstream.

The two developments were originally licensed separately in 1988, though they now are consolidated into one project, operating under terms of its federal license and a Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement (SA) was entered into by the project owner with signatories including the Adirondack Mountain Club, American Rivers, American Whitewater, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the New York State Conservation Council, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), New York Rivers United, St. Lawrence County, the Town of Parishville, and Trout Unlimited. The agreement provides provisions for “mitigation and protections measures to increase habitat gains for fish communities, the potential for benthic invertebrate and forage fish production increases, enhanced fish movement and fishing opportunities, increased habitat for riparian vegetation, wetland and wildlife resources, the reduction of the vulnerability of fish to illegal poaching, increased recreational access, enhanced awareness of cultural resources, and the establishment of a river advisory council and enhancement fund.”

The Parishville development consists of:

  • A dam composed of an earthen dike non-overflow section 80 feet long;
  • A reservoir with a surface area of 70 acres;
  • A 13.5-foot-wide spillway;
  • Two 14-foot-wide Tainter gates;
  • An 11-foot-wide sluice gate;
  • A 4,175-foot-long bypass reach;
  • An intake structure with 1 and 5/16-inch clear spaced trashracks;
  • A penstock, 2,561 feet long varying from six to ten feet in diameter;
  • A powerhouse with a horizontal Francis turbine and a 2.4 MW generator; and
  • A 400-foot-long tailrace
Project Name West Branch St. Regis
LIHI Certificate No. 27
LIHI Certificate Term September 14, 2020 - September 13, 2025
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LP (Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
Location Located between river mile 19 and 21 on the West Branch of the St. Regis River
Installed Capacity Total: 6.8 MW Parishville Development: 2.4 MW Allens Falls Development: 4.4 MW
Average Annual Generation 34,730 MWh
Facility Type Pulsing
FERC No. P-10461 issued 2002, expires 2042

The Allens Falls development consists of:

  • A concrete gravity type dam non-overflow section 130 feet long;
  • A 425-foot-long spillway with 1-foot-high flashboards;
  • A reservoir with a surface area of 108 acres;
  • Two 60-foot-wide by 9-foot-high crest gates;
  • A 10-foot-wide by 10-foot-high low level outlet gate;
  • A 13,700-foot-long bypass reach;
  • An intake structure with 1¾-inch clear spaced trashracks;
  • A seven foot diameter, 9,344-foot-long pipeline directing water to a surge tank which passes flow into a seven-foot-diameter, 886-foot-long penstock;
  • A powerhouse with a 4.4-MW turbine/generator; and
  • A 450-foot-long tailrace;

The project operates in a pulsing mode with minimum flows designed to restore previously periodically dewatered downstream reaches to year-round functional river reaches. The Parishville development limits impoundment fluctuations to one-half foot and provides a year-round minimum flow of 20 cfs. The Allens Falls development limits impoundment fluctuations to one-half foot, though impoundment elevation varies seasonally. Minimum flows from the dam are also seasonal: 30 cfs from October 1 through March 31; 50 cfs from April 1 through August 31; and 40 cfs from September 1 through September 30. The flow regime was developed based on demonstration flow studies conducted with the SA parties. The study data were assessed to maximize habitat gains for aquatic biota, riparian vegetation productivity, and wildlife protection. The Allens Falls minimum flows also provide potential base flow for the introduction of Atlantic salmon to the river below the Allens Falls waterfalls.

Waters within the project reach are designated as Class B waters in the Parishville impoundment, supportive of primary contact recreation and aquatic life. The Parishville bypassed and downstream reaches are Class C waters, similarly supportive of aquatic life, but not primary contact recreation. The Allens Falls impoundment, bypassed reach, and downstream reach are all designated as Class C waters. The lower portion of the West Branch of the St. Regis River is a threatened water due to unspecified pollutants endangering aquatic life uses.

According to the USFWS, the West Branch of the St. Regis River supports a mixed cool water-warm water fishery, with the more abundant game species being brook trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. The SA describes the project area as being located “in an area of transition between cold water fisheries in the headwaters (Adirondack Mountain Region) and the cool/warm water fisheries downstream (St. Lawrence River Lowlands)” with “several significant waterfalls…within the Project’s footprint which historically limited migration between these two regions.” Additional resident species include fallfish, minnow species, common shiner, golden shiner, creek chub, lake chub, longnose dace, black nose dace, longnose sucker, white sucker, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and fantail darter. Downstream passage is available via spillways and gates in the developments. Trashracks with 1.3-inch clear spacing (Parishville) and 1.75-inch clear spacing (Allens Falls) mitigate the potential for entrainment.

The project lands consist of roughly 260 acres. The SA established a St. Regis River Fund to support ecosystem enhancement, fish stocking, new recreation, and other environmental improvements. The project owner provides annual contributions to the fund and flow operations support preservation of shoreline habitat, riparian zone enhancement, as well as wetland and wildlife resources. The Parishville impoundment is undeveloped with public recreational facilities. The shoreline is forested with some seasonal residences nearby. The Allens Falls impoundment is surrounded by residential housing and some wetlands in the backwaters of small coves. The bypassed reach is forested with several seasonal residences.

Based on consultation with the USFWS, there are no federally threatened or endangered species present in the project vicinity. Some transient bird species may be found in the project area including bald eagle, black-billed cuckoo, bobolink, Canada warbler, Cape May warbler, Eastern whippoorwill, evening grosbeak, and wood thrush. These species are protected under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Several migratory fish species including lake sturgeon and Atlantic salmon, state and federally protected species respectively, are found in the West Branch of the St. Regis River. However, it is unlikely that these species are able to access the project reaches due to the natural falls downstream. The Parishville development supports a state-threatened species, Fernald’s sedge, and the rare Schweinitz’s flat sedge. The species were found in the early 2000s near the powerhouse and NYSDEC has recommended that the project owner seek consultation before performing any activities that could alter this potential habitat.

The Parishville and Allens Falls dams and powerhouses are considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for their embodiment of construction and period characteristics. The New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has noted that the developments are representative of hydroelectric architecture and engineering that reflect the Post World War I standardization of hydro facilities. The project must consult with the SHPO if any further resources are found.

Recreational resources at the project include fishing access points, a boat ramp, and hiking trails. Public access is provided free of charge where safe.


Certification History

February 11, 2021:  The decision to recertify the West Branch St. Regis Project became final after the close of the appeals period on February 5, 2021 with no appeals filed. The Certification term is from September 14, 2020 – September 13, 2025. The Certification includes the following condition:

  • Condition 1:If maintenance activities along the Parishville powerhouse roadway and pipeline right-of-way are significantly altered, such as widespread herbicide application, widening of the roadway or placement of fill adjacent to the roadway where the Fernald’s sedge plant has been observed, the facility Owner shall consult with the NYSDEC regarding potential impacts to the species. The Owner shall report on any such activities in the LIHI annual compliance submittals including results of consultation and evidence of implementation of any requirements mandated by the NYSDEC to protect this species if it is found onsite.

January 6, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved recertification of the West Branch St. Regis Project (LIHI #27) for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification. The Project is located on the West Branch of the St. Regis River in New York.

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 "West Branch St. Regis Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476. 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, 2021.

October 30, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact recertification of the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project located on the West Branch of the St. Regis River, NY. The complete application can be found HERE. 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 “West Branch St. Regis 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 December 29, 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.

March 15, 2016: LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has certified that the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-10461) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. A Preliminary Decision was announced on February 10, 2016, and a 30-day appeal period was open through March 10, 2016. No requests for appeal were received. This Certification Decision includes the following facility-specific condition, as follows:

  • Condition No. 1:  Should the maintenance activities along the powerhouse roadway and pipeline right-of-way be significantly altered, such as widespread herbicide application, widening of the roadway or placement of fill adjacent to the roadway where the plant has been observed, the facility owner shall consult with the NYDEC regarding potential impacts to the Fernald’s Sedge.  If such change occurs during this LIHI certification term, the facility owner shall provide LIHI the results of these consultations along with evidence of implementation of any requirements mandated by the NYDEC to protect this species if it is onsite.  The owner shall report on any such changes with the LIHI Annual Compliance Statement for the subject annual statement period.

The effective certification date for the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project is September 14, 2015 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on September 14, 2020.

February 9, 2016: LIHI posted the West Branch St. Regis Project application for recertification on December 4, 2015, and a public comment period was open for 60 days. A comment letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service was received and can be read in the Files section below. The period for public comment is closed as of February 8, 2016.

January 8, 2016: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a comment letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in regards to the recertification of the West Branch St. Regis project. The letter can be read in the Files section below.

December 4, 2015: On December 4, 2015, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric project.  The application materials can be found in the Files section below.

June 19, 2015: The West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric project has been granted an extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is December 31, 2015.

August 3, 2012: The West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project has been recertified as low impact for a five year term, effective September 14, 2010 and expiring September 14, 2015.

December 2, 2010: Brookfield Renewable Power has submitted an application for recertification of the West Branch St. Regis Hydroelectric Project. Public comments are encouraged on this application and may be submitted by email to dhall@lowimpacthydro.org with the subject line “West Branch St. Regis Project Comments” or by mail to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, PO Box 194, Harrington Park, New Jersey, 07640. Comments must be received by February 2, 2011.

April 30, 2007: The West Branch St. Regis Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective August 29, 2005 and expiring August 29, 2010.

March 7, 2005: Brookfield Renewable Power has submitted an application for certification of the West Branch St. Regis Project.