LIHI Certificate #35B - Oswego River Project, New York

The Oswego River Project is located on the Oswego River near the confluence with Lake Erie in Oswego County, New York. The project is comprised of three developments: Fulton, Minetto, and Varick. 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 Oswego Falls East and Oswego Falls West developments (LIHI #35A) are located immediately below that impoundment. The Oswego River Project developments span a 10-mile length of river beginning 0.7 miles downstream of the Oswego Falls Project. The locks and dams are owned by the New York State Canal Corporation.

The project includes three developments:

  • Fulton: Located at the Lower Fulton Dam/Lock 3, originally built in 1884, the dam is a 509-foot long and 15-foot-high concrete buttress dam. It has a spillway topped with 6-inch flashboards. The Fulton development is located on the right bank (looking downstream) adjacent to Lock 3, and the Granby Development (owned by the project owner but not part of this Certificate) is located at the left end of the dam. The Fulton-Granby impoundment extends 0.5 miles upstream and has a surface area of 33 acres. The bypassed reach below is 1,850 feet long. Other project works include:
    • A 35-foot-high, 41-foot-long, 14-foot-wide concrete intake structure equipped with three steel gates;
    • A 10-foot-long, 40-foot-wide, 11-foot deep forebay;
    • 3/8 inch thick steel bar trashracks with 1-inch spacing; and
    • A concrete and brick powerhouse containing two vertical fixed-propeller turbine-generators with a combined capacity of 1.25 MW.
Project Name Oswego River
LIHI Certificate No. 35B
LIHI Certificate Term December 7, 2017 - December 6, 2022
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P.
State New York
Location Located on the Oswego River Fulton: RM 11.6 Minetto: RM 5.1 Varick: Rm 1.4
Installed Capacity Total: 14.8 MW Fulton: 1.2 MW Minetto: 7.6 MW Varick: 6.0 MW
Average Annual Generation Total: 78,300 MWh Fulton: 12,050 MWh Minetto: 40,330 MWh Varick: 25,920 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-2474 issued 2004, expires 2044
  • Minetto: The dam was originally built in 1915 and is a 500-foot-long, 22.5-foot-high concrete gravity dam. It has a spillway topped with 10-inch flashboards. The impoundment has a surface area of 350 acres. The headwaters of the downstream High Dam Project (FERC No. 10551) back up to the base of the Minetto dam completely inundating the bypass reach. Other project works include:
    • A 40 foot-high, 190 foot-long, 40-foot-wide concrete intake structure equipped with nine steel gates;
    • A 100-foot-long, 200-foot-wide, 25-foot-deep forebay;
    • ½ inch thick steel bar trashracks with 1-inch spacing; and
    • A concrete and brick powerhouse containing five vertical Francis turbine-generator units with a combined installed capacity of 8.0 MW.
  • Varick: The Varick dam is the last dam on the Oswego River before its confluence with Lake Ontario. The dam was originally built in 1926. It is located within the city of Oswego, so the lands around the project are relatively heavily developed. The 730-foot-long, 13-foot-high masonry gravity dam contains curved, straight, and gated sections and is topped with a series of stepped flashboards ranging in height from 10 inches to 36 inches. The impoundment has a surface area of 32 acres. The bypass reach is approximately 1,940 feet-long. Other project works include:
    • A 189 foot-long, 26-foot-high, 28-foot-wide intake structure with 24 steel gates;
    • A 950-foot-long, 150-footwide, 18-foot-deep forebay;
    • 3/8 inch thick steel bar trashracks with 1-inch spacing;
    • An ice sluice; and
    • A concrete and brick powerhouse containing four are fixed-blade propeller turbines with a combined installed capacity of 8.8 MW.

The project operates in a modified run-of-river mode that limits impoundment fluctuations. The developments provide bypass flows which vary seasonally, ranging from 200-800 cfs. These flows protect riffle habitat for reproduction of macroinvertebrates, minnows, and darters. This also supports walleye spawning and resident fish species as approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Waters within the project reach are designated as Class B, suited for fish propagation and survival as well as primary contact recreation. The river reach is also listed as impaired for PCB contamination due to previous industrial discharges. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has confirmed that the project is not contributing to this impairment. The waters are designated as Class C from the Varick impoundment to the confluence with Lake Ontario. This region is heavily urbanized with significant industrial activity.

This region of the Oswego River is home to a variety of warm-cool water and cold-water species, including largemouth bass, white perch, walleye, channel catfish, northern pike, yellow perch, bluegill, American eel, and black and white crappie. The project owner installs seasonal upstream eel passage from June 15 through September 15 at each developments. The eelways consist of an 18-inch-wide open channel with 1.5-inch diameter by 5-inch-long PVC tubes anchored to the channel floor in a diagonal pattern and attached directly to the spillway or powerhouse wall. One-inch trashrack overlays are installed at the developments from May 1st - November 30th and minimum flows in the bypass reaches provide downstream passage.

The project lands are located in heavily urbanized areas with impervious surfaces and residential/commercial development surrounding the Oswego River and each of the developments. The shorelines and lands within the project boundary do not have any significant ecological value.

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.

Though there are limited historical resources in the project area, a cultural resources management plan was implemented at the project. The plan primarily addresses the mitigation of impacts to historic or archaeological resources during any ground-disturbing activities. Annual reports are submitted regarding any such activities during the prior year.

Recreational resources at the project include fishing access, walkways/paths, a canoe portage trail, and boat launch. The project owner also donated land and provided funding to the nearby West Side Linear Park to develop more recreational opportunities in the area. 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 River Hydroelectric Project closed on May 31, 2018 with no appeals to the decision received. The decision is therefore final and the Oswego River 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 River Project for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification with the following condition:

  • Condition 1:The Owner shall provide an annual summary report along with its annual compliance letter to LIHI, describing operational experience with river flows and reservoir levels over the past year, any significant flow events that occurred leading to any FERC-reportable deviations from flow requirements at the Oswego River Project, any collaboration with other river users, and any agency consultation and corrective actions taken in the ongoing efforts to reduce flow excursions at the Project which may be due to factors beyond the Owner’s control.

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 River 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 River Hydroelectric Project. The Oswego River Project is located along the Oswego River in 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 River 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 River 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 River Hydroelectric Project has been granted an extension of the current term through June 30, 2018.

March 10, 2015:  The Oswego River 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.  Prior to 2012,  the Oswego River 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 Oswego River Project ended on December 7, 2012. Due to the large disparity in the FERC licensing time frames, LIHI has determined that the Oswego River Project needs to be separated into two individual LIHI projects. The Oswego Falls developments (Oswego Falls East, Oswego Falls West) in FERC license 5984 will now be defined as LIHI Project 35A going forward.  The remaining part of the original Certificate LIHI 35, for developments in FERC license 2474, will now be defined as the LORP or 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.