LIHI Certificate #34 - Black River and Beebee Island Projects, New York

The Black River and Beebee Island certification includes the Black River Project (FERC No. 2569) consisting of five hydroelectric developments along the Black River in Jefferson County, New York (Black River, Sewalls, Herrings, Kamargo, Deferiet) and the Beebee Island Project (FERC No. 2538). The five hydropower dams and powerhouses that comprise the Black River Project lie between the City of Watertown and west of the Village of Carthage. Progressing downstream from Carthage, these are the Herrings, Deferiet, Kamargo, Black River, and Sewalls developments. The Beebee Island development lies one mile downstream of the Sewalls development. The Black River began providing hydroelectric power for pulp and paper mills and other industries during the mid-1800s. While most of the mills and industries are no longer operating, 21 operating hydropower developments still line the Black River. The Black River developments were constructed or converted from hydromechanical to hydroelectric plants between 1920 and 1925.

The Beebee Island Project dam was originally constructed in 1802 to power a sawmill and grist mill. The project was redeveloped for hydroelectric generation around 1931.

The project includes six developments:

  • Herrings Development: The 140-acre reservoir is impounded by a 512-foot-wide by 25-foot-high, L-shaped concrete gravity dam. The dam is topped with seasonally installed 1-foot-high wooden flashboards. The intake structure is integral with the powerhouse and consists of a 9-foot-wide stoplog waste sluice, an 11-foot-wide stoplog waste sluice downstream of the trashracks, and nine motor-operated slide gates. The intake structure is equipped with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks with 1-inch clear-spaced seasonal trashracks in the top half of the water column. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains three vertical Allis-Chalmers generating units with a total installed capacity of 5.4 MW. The units discharge to the Black River via a short, excavated rock tailrace. There is no true bypassed reach, but there is a 100-foot-long area between the foot of the angled dam and the powerhouse tailrace.
  • Deferiet Development: The dam consists of a 503-foot-long by 18-foot-high Ambursen dam section topped with a 3-foot-high pneumatic flashboard system. There is also a 192-foot-long sluice gate section with eleven stoplog bays and a 180-foot-wide concrete power canal headworks section with ten steel gates. The dam forms a reservoir with a surface area of 70 acres. A 4,200-foot-long canal connects the intake headworks with the powerhouse. The intake structure consists of three steel slide gates and an 11-foot-wide ice sluice controlled by stoplogs. The existing 3.5-inch clear-spaced trashracks were replaced in 2008 with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks with 1-inch clear-spaced seasonal trashracks in the top half of the water column. The powerhouse is adjacent to a now-idle paper mill, which was originally owned by St. Regis Paper Company. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains three vertical Francis generating units with a total installed capacity of 10.8 MW that discharge to a 1,400-foot-long excavated tailrace. The bypassed reach is 1.6 miles long, with the lower 0.5 mile backwatered from riffles and a split channel complex around an island immediately downstream of the tailrace.
Project Name Black River and Beebee Island
LIHI Certificate No. 34
LIHI Certificate Term December 7, 2017 - December 6, 2025
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower (subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
Location Six hydroelectric developments located between river mile 9 and 27.5 on the Black River in Jefferson County, New York.
Installed Capacity Black River Project: 29.6 MW Herrings Development: 5.4 MW Deferiet Development: 10.8 MW Kamargo Development: 5.4 MW Black River Development: 6.0 MW Sewalls Development: 2.0 MW Beebee Island Project: 8.0 MW
Average Annual Generation Black River Project: 137,927 MWh Herrings Development: 18,813 MWh Deferiet Development: 54,743 MWh Kamargo Development: 20,596 MWh Black River Development: 32,839 MWh Sewalls Development: 10,936 MWh Beebee Island Project: 44,312 MWh
FERC No. Black River Project: P-2569 issued 1996, expires 2026 Beebee Island Project: P-2538 issued 1996, expires 2026
  • Kamargo Development: The main spillway section of the dam is a 647-foot-long by 12-foot-high concrete gravity section, topped with seasonally installed 2-foot- high wooden flashboards. The dam, which forms a reservoir with a surface area of 40 acres, also includes a 150-foot-long non-overflow section and a 131-foot-long power canal gated headworks structure. A 3,850-foot-long unlined canal leads to the 580-foot-long concrete forebay channel, which consists of a 190-foot-long concrete gravity overflow section, a 230-foot-long concrete gravity section topped with 1- foot-high wooden flashboards, and a 160-foot-long side channel spillway section equipped with twelve stoplog bays. The intake structure includes a waste sluice and nine timber gates with stoplog slots and is equipped with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks with 1-inch clear-spaced seasonal trashracks in the top half of the water column. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains three vertical Francis generating units with a total installed capacity of 5.4 MW that discharge directly to the river via a short excavated tailrace. The bypassed reach is 3,000 feet long.
  • Black River Development: The 25-acre reservoir is formed by a 327-foot-long by 16-foot-high horseshoe-shaped dam. The dam includes a concrete wall abutment, a 36.5-foot-long gated section housing two sluice gates with an abandoned substructure powerhouse and a 291-foot-long by 25-foot-high concrete gravity spillway with 2-foot-high wooden flashboards. An 80-foot-long concrete power canal headworks structure with thirteen timber slide gates leads to the 2,250- foot-long concrete-lined power canal with a side concrete waste weir. The intake structure consists of nine timber slide gates and is equipped with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks with 1-inch clear-spaced seasonal trashracks in the top half of the water column. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains three vertical Francis generating units with a total installed capacity of 6 MW that discharge directly to the river via a short excavated tailrace. The bypassed reach is 2,800 feet long.
  • Sewalls Development: The last two developments of the Black River Projects, the Sewalls and Beebee Island Developments, are located within the City of Watertown. The Sewalls Development formerly consisted of powerhouses and dams on the south and north channels of Sewalls Island. The north channel facility is no longer used for power generation. The south channel dam is a 243-foot-long by 15.5-foot-high concrete gravity dam with no flashboards. The reservoir has a surface area of only 4 acres. A 65.5-foot-long gated power canal headworks structure with two stoplog bays and two steel slide gates leads to the 400-foot-long by approximately 34-foot-wide concrete-lined power canal. The wall of the canal is adjacent to the Black River and is topped with 2-foot-high flashboards. The intake structure includes a waste sluice, low-level drain, and four steel slide gates and is equipped with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains three vertical Allis-Chalmers propeller-type generating units with a total installed capacity of 2 MW that discharge directly to the river via a short, excavated tailrace. Bypassed reaches exist in both the south and north channels around Sewalls Island. The south channel bypass is only 400 feet long, and a minimum flow of 137 cfs is maintained in at all times. The north channel bypass consists of two large, connected pools, one immediately downstream of the dam and one immediately upstream of Black Clawson dam.
  • Beebee Island: The dam is a 266-foot-long by 18-foot-high, U-shaped concrete gravity dam, topped with seasonally installed 3-foot-high wooden flashboards, and a 50-foot-long by 15-foot-high, concrete-capped stone auxiliary non-overflow dam. The reservoir has a surface area of 20 acres. The intake structure, which is integral with the powerhouse, is 82 feet long by 27 feet wide and includes four steel gates, a skimmer section, and stoplog slots. The intake structure is equipped with 2-inch clear-spaced trashracks with 1-inch clear-spaced seasonal trashracks in the top half of the water column. Ice and debris circumvent the powerhouse by way of an 8-foot-wide by 15-foot-high ice sluice between the steel gates and a retaining wall. The brick and masonry powerhouse contains two vertical generating units with a total installed capacity of 8 MW that discharge directly at the base of the dam. The powerhouse and dam are on the north side of the island, so there is no bypassed reach in the north channel.

The five Black River developments operate in run-of-river mode with pondage with flows subject to flood control and augmentation from upstream storage projects. The Beebee Island project operates in run-of-river mode with minimal storage. Each development has differing flow requirements which were developed via recommendations from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

  • Herrings: A minimum flow of 20 cfs is released through the stoplog section located between the dam and trashracks. Reservoir fluctuations are limited to 0.5 ft and a continuous base flow of 1,000 cfs is provided year-round.
  • Deferiet: A minimum flow of 245 cfs is released at the dam at all times, and an additional 555 cfs is released during walleye spawning season. Reservoir fluctuations are limited to 0.5 ft and a continuous base flow of 1,000 cfs is provided year-round.
  • Kamargo: A minimum flow of 120 cfs (or inflow) is released through a notched section of the dam at all times. Reservoir fluctuations are limited to 0.5 ft. and a continuous base flow of1,000 cfs is provided year-round.
  • Black River: A minimum flow of 80 cfs (or inflow) is released through a notched section of the dam at all times, and an additional 220 cfs released at the dam during walleye spawning season. Reservoir fluctuations are limited to 0.5 ft and a continuous base flow of 1,000 cfs is provided year-round.
  • Sewalls: A minimum flow of 32 cfs is released into the north channel at all times and a minimum flow of 137 cfs is released in south channel. Reservoir fluctuations are limited to 0.5 ft and a continuous base flow of 1,000 cfs is provided year-round. Between May 1 and September 30, if flows are less than 2,000 cfs, the development is operated in run-of-river mode.
  • Beebee Island: The project is operated automatically to maintain impoundment levels within 0.5 foot below the dam crest or the top of flashboards and provides a continuous base flow of 1,000 cfs (or inflow). A minimum flow of 14 cfs is released at all times to the 750-foot-long south channel bypass.

Waters within the project reaches are generally of good quality, although the upland lakes and ponds are significantly impacted by atmospheric deposition and acidic precipitation. No portion of the main stem of the Black River is listed as impaired. The following water quality designations are classified by NYSDEC.

  • Herrings: Designated Class C, non-trout waters. Best usage of Class C waters is fishing, fish propagation and survival, as well as primary and secondary contact recreation.
  • Deferiet: Designated Class C, non-trout waters.
  • Kamargo: Designated Class C, non-trout waters.
  • Black River: Designated Class C, non-trout waters.
  • Sewalls: Designated Class A. Class A waters are best suited for all uses, including drinking water, aquatic biota habitat, and primary and secondary contact recreation.
  • Beebee Island: Designated Class A.

Historically, migratory fish species such as Atlantic salmon were found in the lower reaches of the Black River. The historical extent of their reach stopped at the Mill Street Falls at Beebee Island as this waterfall may have prevented further upstream migration of Atlantic salmon. NYSDEC and USFWS has been successful in restoring these populations as far upstream as the Beebee Island waterfall. Downstream passage is provided at all six developments and trashracks at each development mitigate the potential for entrainment. Seasonal trashrack overlays (1-inch bar spacing) are installed at each development, except Sewalls, in the top half of the water column from May 1 to October 1 to further minimize entrainment in migration season.

The project lands at the Black River developments are governed by the project’s Vegetative Buffer Plan which maintains the existing natural woodland buffer areas along the shorelines of the five developments. This plan does not apply to the Beebee Island Project which is located in an urban environment and has a small footprint.

PLUS-Standard: 100% of owned lands within the wooded shoreline buffer are protected, amounting to over 240 acres of protected natural shoreland. The project owner contributes $4,000 annually to the Black River Fund that allocates assets according to recommendations of the Black River Advisory Council. Funds are utilized for ecosystem restoration, natural resource stewardship, public education, research, and improving recreational access and resources.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Blanding’s turtle, Indiana bat, and piping plover. Consultation with NYSDEC’s Natural Heritage Program found that the only species potentially in the project area is the Indiana bat. No hibernacula are known to exist in the area, but project operations are not likely to affect the species especially with the woodland buffer preservation actions in place.

Of the six developments, only the Beebee Island project is currently eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The project owner consulted with the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to develop a Cultural Resource Management Plan for the project to ensure proper stewardship and enhancement of any resources in the project area.

Recreational resources at the developments include car-top boat launches, canoe portages, shore fishing areas, and scenic overlooks. Public access is provided free of charge at each development where safety concerns/private ownership do not preclude access.


Certification History

June 19, 2018 – The 30-day appeal window for the preliminary recertification decision of the Black River/Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects closed on June 16, 2018 with no appeals to the decision received. The decision is therefore final and the Black River/Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects is recertified for a 8-year term from December 7, 2017 through December 6, 2025.

May 17, 2018: On May 16, 2018, the Black River/Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects received preliminary approval for a new 8-year term of Low Impact Certification.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented in the initial application 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the projects do not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Black River/Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website and 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 June 16, 2018.  The full application and reviewers report are available at the bottom of this page.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the new term for the Black River/Beebee Island Projects will be December 7, 2017 through December 6, 2025.

January 2, 2018: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Black River and Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects. The Black River and Beebee Island certification includes the Black River Project (FERC No. 2569) consisting of five hydroelectric developments along the Black River in Jefferson County, New York (Black River, Sewalls, Herrings, Kamargo, Deferiet) and the Beebee Island Project (FERC No. 2538). The 2017 application materials can be found below. LIHI is seeking public comment on this application. Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Black River and Beebee Island projects meet the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook released in March 2016. Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2017 application materials posted on the project page. 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 "Black River and Beebee Island Comments" in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420. Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on March 3, 2018 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.

October 12, 2017: The Black River and Beebee Island Hydroelectric Projects have been granted an extension of the current term through June 30, 2018.

January 6, 2015: Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has determined that the Black River project continues to satisfy the Low Impact Certification program requirements.  A new certification term, effective December 7, 2012 and expiring 2017 has been issued, with the following non standard condition:

  • Based on the LIHI reviewer’s report on the recertification application and subsequent discussions with the applicant, several issues were identified regarding the short-term operation of hydraulic control structures, flashboards, and trashracks, where operational improvements can be made to stabilize downstream flows. While LIHI understands that the facility owner is working to make these improvements and to be more proactive in avoiding situations where downstream minimum flows cannot be maintained, more attention to these issues must be paid over the course of the next certification period. Therefore, the owner shall provide a letter report on annual river control operations, describing any and all events where downstream flows fell below minimums required, the cause of these events, and actions being taken by the owner to avoid such events in the future. This annual report will cover all operational issues in the past year with new pneumatic controls, flashboards, and trashracks, as well as any consultations with U.S. FWS and the NYSDEC regarding these issues. The report on river control operations shall be due at the same time as the annual compliance statement and payment of the annual certification fee. Based on LIHI’s review of this report, and at LIHI’s sole discretion, certification may be rescinded or modified.

January 16, 2013: Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P. has submitted an application for recertification of the Black River and the Beebee Island Projects. The current certificate expires on December 7, 2012.

March 27, 2008: The Black River Hydroelectric Projects have been certified as low impact for a term of five years, effective December 7, 2007 and expiring December 7, 2012.

December 7, 2007: Brookfield Power submitted an application for certification of the Black River and Beebee Island Projects. A public comment period on the application for certification will remain open for 60 days, closing February 7, 2008.