The School Street Project includes a 1,280-foot-long, 16-foot-high masonry gravity overflow-type dam that impounds a 100-acre reservoir with a normal maximum water surface elevation of 156.1 feet U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) datum, and an adjacent 375-foot-long, 18-foot-high ice fender. The 206-foot-long upper gatehouse, with nine timber slide gates and three steel Taintor gates, controls flows to a 4,400-foot- long, 150-foot-wide power canal located along the west bank of the river, conveying water to a 152-foot-long lower gatehouse with five steel headgates equipped with 3.1- inch clear bar spaced trashracks, leading to five 190-foot-long penstocks, four 11-foot- diameter, and one 13-foot-diameter, which in turn lead to a powerhouse containing five generating units with a total installed capacity of 38,800 kilowatts (kW). Project power is transmitted to the regional grid by six 350-foot-long transmission lines. The power canal, penstocks, and powerhouse bypass a reach of the Mohawk River that is over 4,500 feet long and includes Cohoes Falls, a 65-foot natural waterfall.
|Project Name||School Street|
|LIHI Certificate No.||63|
|LIHI Certificate Term||November 20, 2014 – November 20, 2019Extended to January 31, 2020|
|Owner||Brookfield Renewable Energy Group|
|Location||Located at river mile 2.5 on the Mohawk river in Albany and Saratoga Counties, New York.|
|Installed Capacity||38.8 MW|
|Average Annual Generation||188,500 MWh|
|FERC No.||P-2539 issued 2007, expires 2047|
The School Street Project dam was constructed in 1831. Electric power generation commenced in 1916, and additional generating units were added in 1922 and 1925. The 16-foot-high dam, located about 4,000 feet above Cohoes Falls, impounds a 100 acre reservoir. Water is diverted at the dam to a power canal, through which it is conveyed to a powerhouse just below Cohoes Falls, and then is returned to the Mohawk River. The FERC issued an original license for the project to Niagara Mohawk on June 11, 1969, with a term expiring on December 31, 1993. The licensing process for the School Street plant has spanned many years. Niagara Mohawk, one of the previous owners of the plant, originally applied for a new license back in 1991. Green Island Power Authority (“GIPA”) did not seek to intervene in the process until 2004, which FERC later ruled was too late.
GIPA, which operates a seven-megawatt hydro plant in the Village of Green Island, has been trying for years to build a 100-megawatt hydro plant on the Mohawk River, just above the historic falls. Those plans were dealt a serious blow two years ago when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) granted, Brookfield Renewable Energy, a 40-year license on the School Street Project which is located at the bottom of the falls. During the relicensing process, GIPA had been trying to get FERC to consider its own plan, which has an estimated price tag of $75 million, as an alternative to the Brookfield plant. The August 2009 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned FERC’s 2007 order granting Brookfield a new license. The court sent the case back to the Commission to reconsider, arguing that the FERC “abused its discretion” by shutting GIPA out of the process.
Since the 2009 court decision, the Applicant who has already spent millions of dollars building new park areas with views and historical interpretations of the Cohoes Falls said it is moving forward with plans to expand the School Street Project as part of the requirements of its FERC license. Brookfield has also dredged a power canal that diverts water around the falls to the powerhouse.
January 6, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the School Street Hydroelectric Project, LIHI #63. The Certification includes one condition:
Condition 1: The Owner shall continue to seek resolution to challenges in downstream passage of juvenile blueback herring by:
a) Contacting USFWS and NYSDEC within three months of recertification to schedule a meeting/conference call to occur within six months of recertification, pending agency availability. The meeting purpose will be to discuss the alternatives previously identified by Brookfield and agencies, including cost estimates and pros and cons of each alternative; to discuss other potential alternatives; and if possible, to agree upon mutually preferred alternative(s) to be implemented or studied further. Questions or deficiencies in past studies identified by the agencies shall also be discussed and agreement reached on how they will be addressed in any new studies, if applicable. The Owner shall document the meeting in notes agreed to by all participants and submit a copy of all meeting materials and the notes to LIHI within one month of the meeting/call. If additional meetings are needed, the Owner shall schedule them to occur as soon as feasible to continue toward resolution of the issue.
b) If agreement can be reached within one year of certification, the Owner shall prepare and submit to agencies, and to FERC upon agency approval, a detailed plan and schedule to complete the agreed upon study(ies) or implementation of alternative(s) as soon as feasible, which may be dependent upon the seasonal movement of juvenile herring. The Owner shall submit study report(s) for review by the resource agencies, and then promptly file them with FERC and LIHI, incorporating agency comments. If agreement on selected alternative(s) cannot be reached within one year of certification, The Owner shall document the reasons for lack of agreement and submit a plan to continue to seek resolution of the issue to LIHI.
c) The Owner shall report quarterly to LIHI on the progress of this condition during the first two years of certification, and annually thereafter until either: 1) the Owner, USFWS, and NYSDEC agree that there is no feasible alternative to improve downstream passage for juvenile herring; or 2) a method of safe and effective downstream passage has been implemented and approved by resource agencies. LIHI reserves the right to reassess or revoke certification based on the information provided.
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 email@example.com with “School Street 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 HERE.
If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be from November 20, 2019 to November 19, 2024.
August 15, 2019: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Recertification of the School Street 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with “School Street 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 14, 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.
June 6, 2016: LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has certified that the School Street Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-2539) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria. A Preliminary Certification Decision was announced on May 3, 2016, and a 30-day appeal period was open through June 3, 2016. No requests for appeal were received. This Certification Decision includes two facility-specific conditions, as follows:
- Condition 1: The facility owner shall provide LIHI with the results of the 2015 downstream bypass efficiency testing for juvenile blueback herring and continue consultation the USFWS and NYDEC for the purpose of obtaining an updated assessment of the current fish passage effectiveness for that species at the facility. The result of Agency assessments may be: (a) that appropriate passage is being provided at the Project, (b) that effective fish passage effectiveness has not been demonstrated, or (c) that a recent decision has been made that passage at the site for juvenile herring is not needed, thus modifying the original commitments established in the Settlement Agreement and associated agency recommendations. If the 2015 testing is not found to be sufficiently effective and that downstream passage at the site is still required, then the owner shall inform LIHI of their plans to improve operations and continue testing. LIHI strongly recommends that all future testing be coordinated with the agencies to ensure they can participate in the testing. The results of the agency assessment of the 2015 studies shall be provided to LIHI within 60 days of their receipt by the Owner. Additional letters of correspondence from consultation with the USFWS and NYDEC on these passage issues shall also be provided to LIHI within 60 days of receipt by the licensee. LIHI reserves the right to suspend its certification if the agencies do not determine that safe passage is being provided and that such passage needs have not been waived.
- Satisfied 2018 (no plan to install unit). Condition 2. If a decision is made to pursue installation of the sixth, fish-friendly generating unit at the Project within the next five years, the facility owner shall notify LIHI within 60 days of when FERC approves such an installation. Such installation may lead to a re-evaluation of potentially affected criteria, such as fish passage requirements.
The effective certification date for the School Street Project is November 20, 2014 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on November 20, 2019.
November 19, 2014: On October 21, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) received an application for a second term of Low Impact Certification of the School Street Hydroelectric Project, FERC #2539, located on the Mohawk River in New York. The current Certificate term was scheduled to expire on November 20, 2014, but LIHI has granted a short term extension on the current certificate term to allow for administrative review of the application. The certificate term has been extended through January 31, 2014.
November 29, 2010: The School Street Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective November 20, 2009 and expiring November 20, 2014.
November 20, 2009: Erie Boulevard Hydro, L.P. has submitted an application for the certification of the School Street Hydroelectric Project. The public comment period will remain open for 60 days.
- School Street Certificate 2014-2019
- School Street 2014 Recertification Report_05022016
- US Fish and Wildlife Comment Letter
- 2014 Recertification Questionnaire
- Reviewer Report 11.8.10
- LIHI Application – School Street FINAL
- Public Notice to Stakeholders 11.23.09
- Stakeholder Mailing List
- City of Cohoes Support Letter
- 2009 Court Decision
- Walter Lipka – Email Comments
- Francis Frances Letter 3.4.10
- Letter to Francis Frances 1.23.10
- Press Release 11/2010
- LIHI Letter 1.14.10