LIHI Certificate #63 - School Street Project, New York

The School Street Project is located in Cohoes, New York on the Mohawk River. The project dam was constructed in 1831. Electric power generation commenced in 1916, and additional generating units were added in 1922 and 1925. The Mohawk River has five permanent dams, nine seasonal (movable) dams, and five active hydropower facilities. Upstream are the Vischer-Ferry and Crescent projects and downstream are the NY State Dam and Mohawk Paper Mills Inc. projects. The School Street project is located between the Crescent and NY State Dam projects.

The project includes: a masonry gravity overflow dam, upper gatehouse, power canal, lower gatehouse, five penstocks, and a powerhouse with five generating units.

The masonry gravity overflow dam is a 1,280-foot-long, 16-foot-high structure with an adjacent 375-foot-long, 18-foot-high ice fender. The upper gatehouse is 206 feet long, with nine timber slide gates and three steel Tainter gates, and controls flows to a 4,400-foot long, 150-foot-wide power canal located along the west bank of the river. This conveys 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. Water is conveyed via the penstocks to a powerhouse containing five generating units with a combined capacity of 38.8 MW. The power canal, penstocks, and bypassed reach of the Mohawk River that is over 4,500 feet long and includes Cohoes Falls, a 65-foot-tall natural waterfall.

The project operates in a run-of-river mode and impounds a 100-acre reservoir. The project provides seasonal minimum flows as follows:

  • December 1 through March 31 - 120 cfs;
  • April 1 to April 14 -135 cfs;
  • April 15 through November 30 - 245 cfs.

The project also provides aesthetic flows of at least 500 cfs into the bypass reach over Cohoes Falls during daylight hours on weekends and federal holidays from May 15 to October 31. This flow regime was developed in consultation with US Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and several non-governmental participants.

Project Name School Street
LIHI Certificate No. 63
LIHI Certificate Term November 20, 2019 – November 19, 2024
Owner Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LP (a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy Group)
State New York
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
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-2539 issued 2007, expires 2047

Waters within the project reach are designated as Class C which are managed to fully support fishing, aquatic biota, wildlife, and primary/secondary contact recreation. The project’s river reach is not listed on the State of New York 303(d) List of Impaired Waters, however NYSDEC lists many portions of the upper Mohawk River on its 2016 List of Priority Surface Waters.

Historically, migrating fish were able to ascend all the way up to Cohoes Falls which forms a natural barrier to upstream fish passage. The Mohawk River thus was an important spawning ground for fish species like alewife, blueback herring, shad, and sturgeon. Presently, these species are able to establish themselves upstream of the project via the Waterford Flight Canal boat locks system. Downstream fish passage is provided via a screened bypass flow release mechanism. An angled bar rack with 4-inch spacing is installed and from April 15 through November 30 a 1-inch overlay is installed.

The project lands consist of roughly 147 acres. The west shoreline of the project contains rural housing and industrial uses while the east shoreline is undeveloped, comprised of mixed forest, wooded and herbaceous wetland, and some pastures. No lands of significant ecological value exist in the project area as lands are mostly developed.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include the Northern long-eared bat, bald eagle, short-eared owl, and upland sandpiper. The lands do not contain any priority habitat for the listed species as confirmed by the NYSDEC. No project upgrades are currently planned but coordination with the proper state and federal agencies must occur should any significant clearing activities be planned.

The project operates under a historic properties management plan which was developed in consultation with the National Park Service, New York Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and American Indian Nations. The Plan addresses continued tribal access, enhancing fish habitat, preservation of the historic sites including the National Register listed Harmony Mills National Historic Landmark District (Cohoes Company Dam, Upper Gatehouses, Canal, Conboy Avenue iron bridge), and protocols for discovery of new sites. The plan also accounts for preservation of the National Register listed School Street powerhouse.

Recreational resources at the project include fishing access, hiking trails, picnic area, footbridge and a viewing area of Cohoes Falls. Access for the disabled is provided and public access is provided free of charge.


Certification History

February 7, 2020: The decision to recertify the School Street Project became final after the close of the appeals period on February 5, 2020 with no appeals filed.  The Certification term is from November 20, 2019 – November 19, 2024. The Certification includes one condition:

  • Satisfied 2020. Condition 1: The Owner shall continue to seek resolution to challenges in downstream passage of juvenile blueback herring by:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

January 6, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has preliminarily approved Low Impact Recertification for the School Street Hydroelectric Project, LIHI #63.

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 “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 comments@lowimpacthydro.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:

  • Satisfied. 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:
    1. That appropriate passage is being provided at the Project,
    2. That effective fish passage effectiveness has not been demonstrated, or
    3. 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.