LIHI Certificate #35A - Oswego Falls Project, New York

The Oswego Falls Project is located on the Oswego River in the city of Fulton, Oswego County, New York and consists of two powerhouses, the Oswego Falls East (OFE) and Oswego Falls West (OFW) developments, that share a single dam, spillway, and impoundment. The dam was constructed in 1914. Upper Fulton Dam/Lock 2 located in the impoundment on the east side was constructed in 1927, along with forebay gate structures, both of which are owned by the New York State Canal Corporation.

The Oswego River is formed at the confluence of the Seneca and Oneida rivers and flows north approximately 23 river miles to Lake Ontario. The Oswego River first flows through the Lock 1 dam impoundment at the Phoenix Project (FERC No. 4113). The water flow then enters the Oswego Falls impoundment formed by the Upper Fulton Dam (Lock 2, River Mile 12.6). The upstream most development of the Oswego River Project (LIHI #35B) is located about 0.7 miles downstream.

The dam at Oswego Falls has a weir section and a spillway section for overflow, equipped with a 1.5-foot-high pneumatic flashboard system installed and maintained by the project owner. To the west of the weir section, there are six Tainter gates which allow lowering of the impoundment. The Oswego Falls West development is located on the left bank (looking downstream), and the Oswego Falls East development is located on the opposite (right) bank. Oswego Falls East powerhouse contains three vertical Francis-type turbine-generators with a combined capacity of 4.5 MW, and Oswego Falls West powerhouse contains four turbine-generator units with a combined capacity of 2,860 KW. There is a bypassed reach in the center of the river, bounded by both powerhouse and intake structures.

Project Name Oswego Falls
LIHI Certificate No. 35A
LIHI Certificate Term December 7, 2017 - December 6, 2022
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P.
State New York
Location Located at river mile 12.3 on the Oswego River, New York.
Installed Capacity Total: 7.36 MW East: 4.5 MW West: 2.86 MW
Average Annual Generation 33,780 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-5984 issued 1996, expires 2036

The project operates in a modified run-of-river mode and impounds a 580-acre reservoir. The modified operational mode allows for 0.5-foot impoundment fluctuation. The project provides bypass reach flows of 236 cfs with 70 cfs released at the East development and 166 cfs through the No.1 Tainter gate. These flows are designed to protect and enhance riffle habitat per consultation with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The project also coordinates river releases and flow events with the other river stakeholders to ensure proper stewardship of the river.

Waters within the project reach are designated Class B in the upstream reaches and Class C in the downstream reaches. Class B waters are suited for fish propagation and survival as well as primary contact recreation. Class C waters are suited for fishing, fish propagation and survival, as well as primary contact recreation where such use is not limited by other factors. The modified run-of-river operations and limited impoundment fluctuations were designed with consultation from NYSDEC to improve water quality in the river. The river reach is listed as impaired for Fish Consumption due to PCB-contaminated sediments. NYSDEC confirmed that the project is not causing or contributing to this impairment.

This region of the Oswego River is home to a variety of warm-cool water and cold-water species, including walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, Chinook salmon and coho salmon (introduced), American eel, rainbow trout (steelhead), brown trout, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, yellow perch, white perch, black crappie, brown bullhead, channel catfish, freshwater drum, bowfin, common carp, alewife, round goby, and gizzard shad. The project owner voluntarily installed upstream eel passage for American eel as recommended by USFWS. The eel population in the river is relatively low due to declining numbers in the St. Lawrence River. The aforementioned minimum flow facilities also provide passage for resident and migratory species. Seasonal trashracks with 1-inch spacing are installed from May 1 through November 30 to mitigate the potential for entrainment.

The project lands are located in a heavily urbanized area with impervious surfaces and residential/commercial development surrounding the project boundary. The shoreline does not exhibit any lands of significant ecological value and are outside of project ownership.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Indiana bat, Northern long-eared bat, bald eagle, bog turtle, eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, and lake sturgeon. Recovery plans are in place for the bat, turtle, and snake species. Provisions include minimizing vegetation removal and seasonal tree-clearing, habitat protection, and run-of-river operation to minimize impact on the species. NYSDEC has employed habitat enhancement and artificial propagation to support lake sturgeon populations. The project’s flow regime and passage facilities support NYSDEC’s efforts.

The project area does not house any cultural or historic resources although project facilities are old enough to be considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Consultation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office determined that project operations would not impact any listed properties or properties eligible for listing.

Recreational resources near the project include handicap-accessible fishing and river viewing areas. Public access is provided free of charge.


Certification History

June 4, 2018 – The 30-day appeal window for the preliminary certification decision of the Oswego Falls  Hydroelectric Project closed on May 31, 2018 with no appeals to the decision received. The decision is therefore final and the Oswego Falls Hydroelectric Project is recertified for a term from December 7, 2017 through December 6, 2022.

May 1, 2018 – On April 27, 2018, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved the Oswego Falls Project for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification.

The reviewer’s report is attached at the bottom of this page. 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 project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted to comments@lowimpacthydro.org. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on May 31, 2018. 

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the new term for the Oswego Falls Project will be December 7, 2017 through December 6, 2022.

January 2, 2018: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Oswego Falls Hydroelectric Project. The Oswego Falls Project is located on the Oswego River in the city of Fulton, Oswego County, New York. 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 Oswego Falls project meets 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 with͞ Oswego Falls 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 Oswego Falls Hydroelectric Project has been granted an extension of the current term through June 30, 2018.

March 10, 2015:  The Oswego Falls Project has been determined to continue to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria, and a new Low Impact Certification term is effective December 7, 2012 with an expiration on December 7, 2017.  The newly defined Oswego Falls Project has been certified for an additional 5-year term as LIHI Certificate No. 35A.  The Oswego Falls Project comprised of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) license 5984 for Erie Boulevard Hydropower’s Oswego Falls East & West hydro developments.  In December 2007, the Oswego Falls Project was certified as part of the larger Oswego River Project (LIHI 35), which was comprised of hydro developments in FERC licenses 5984 and 2474 (Oswego Falls East, Oswego Falls West, Fulton, Minetto and Varick). LIHI’s five year certification for the ORP ended on December 7, 2012. Due to the large disparity in the FERC licensing time frames, LIHI determined that the ORP needs to be separated into two individual LIHI projects. The Oswego Falls will now be defined as LIHI Project 35A going forward.  The remaining part of the Oswego project, for developments in FERC license 2474, will now be defined as the Oswego River Project (LIHI 35B)

January 16, 2013:  Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P. has submitted an application for recertification of the Oswego Falls and Oswego River Projects.

July 3, 2008: The Oswego Falls and Oswego River Projects have been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective December 7, 2007 and expiring December 7, 2012.

December 7, 2007: Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P. has submitted an application for certification of the Oswego Falls and Oswego River Projects. A public comment period will be open for 60 days; all comments must be received by February 7, 2008.