LIHI Certificate #72 - Automatic Hydroelectric Project, Maine

The Automatic hydroelectric plant (Automatic) was originally constructed in 1924 and is located approximately 5 miles downstream of Rice Rips hydroelectric plant (FERC No. 2556, LIHI Project No. 59).  The project consists of: (1) an 81-foot-long, 33-foot-high concrete gravity dam with (a) a 33-foot-long nonoverflow section, (b) a 20-foot-long by 2-foot-wide gated section with one Taintor gate, 14 feet high by 16 feet wide, (c) a 30-foot-long spillway section topped with 2-foot-high flashboards, (d) an intake section beneath the spillway and (e) an earthen section containing a 30-foot-long retaining wall; (2) a concrete and brick powerhouse, 63 feet high by 19 feet wide by 31 feet long, housing one horizontal Francis turbine and General Electric generator combination with a rated capacity of 800 kW; (3) a 4.5-mile-long impoundment with a gross storage capacity of 900 AF; and (4) appurtenant facilities.
Operation of Automatic is dependent on inflow to Messalonskee Lake and discharge from the upstream Oakland and Rice Rips Hydroelectric projects. When inflow to Messalonskee Lake is greater than approximately 570 cfs, Automatic is operated as a run-of-river project. When inflow is less than approximately 570 cfs the project is cycled. Fifteen cfs is discharged at all times through the Automatic project as well as the upstream Oakland and Rice Rips hydroelectric projects and the downstream Union Gas hydroelectric project. All additional water that does not go through the turbines is discharged over the spillway.
Project Name Automatic
LIHI Certificate No. 72
LIHI Certificate Term February 11, 2016 - February 11, 2021
Owner Messalonskee Stream Hydro
State Maine
Location Located at river mile 2.6 on the Messalonskee Stream in Oakland and Waterville, Maine.
Installed Capacity 0.800 MW
Average Annual Generation 2,700 MWH
Facility Type Inflow > 570 cfs: run-of-river Inflow < 570 cfs: cycled
FERC No. P-2555 issued 1999, expires 2036

Certification History

May 22, 2017:  On April 18, 2017,  LIHI Executive Director Shannon Ames announced a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Automatic Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-2555) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria.

As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI Handbook, notice of the preliminary decision to certify was posted on the Institute’s website and sent to this stakeholder email distribution list on April 21, 2017.  A 30-day period was provided to anyone who commented on the original application to request an appeal, and no requests for appeal were received.

The Automatic Hydroelectric project is now deemed certified by LIHI for a 5-year term. The effective certification date for the Automatic Certificate is February 11, 2016, expiring on February 11, 2021.

April 21, 2017: On April 18, 2017, LIHI issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Automatic Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-2555) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria. The certification includes three facility-specific conditions, as follows:

  • Satisfied in 2019. Condition 1: The Owner shall complete water quality sampling during summer 2017 under a study plan approved in advance by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and consistent with the MDEP’s Lakes, Ponds, and Impoundments Trophic State Study and Rivers and Streams Temperature and Dissolved Oxygen Study protocols. A copy of the final study plan shall be filed with LIHI within 30 days of MDEP approval. The results of the study report shall be filed with MDEP and LIHI by December 31, 2017. If the Automatic Project is determined to be causing, or contributing to, a violation of water quality standards, then a remediation proposal, including an implementation schedule, shall be developed in consultation with MDEP and filed with LIHI by April 1, 2018. If the project is found not to be causing or contributing to violations of water quality standards, then the Owner shall file review comments/recommendations from MDEP by the same date.
  • Condition 2: The Owner shall continue to operate and maintain safe, timely, and effective upstream passage facilities for American eel at Automatic dam in coordination with the Maine Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Condition 3:  In the Owner’s Annual Compliance Statements, the Owner will update LIHI on the status of downstream eel passage at the site. The Owner will notify LIHI within 45 days if MDMR determines there is a sufficient number of eel present in the river to conduct the studies needed to determine the best location to install downstream passage. A summary of those study results, along with a MDMR-approved plan and schedule for downstream eel passage installation, shall be included in that year’s Annual Compliance Statement.

August 5, 2016: On July 6, 2016, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Automatic Hydroelectric project.  The application materials can be found in the Files section below.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Automatic project continues to meet the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2016 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 with “Automatic Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, PO Box 194, Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on October 5, 2016 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.

May 26, 2011: The Automatic Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective February 11, 2011 and expiring February 11, 2016, with the following condition:

  • Within 12 months of the date of issuance of the LIHI certification for the Automatic facility, the applicant shall present to LIHI a copy of an agreement with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (“Agencies”) in which the applicant and agencies have reached agreement on the final design, construction, operations, and maintenance of safe, timely, and effective upstream and downstream passage for American eel at the Automatic facility, along with a similar agreement executed between the owners of (a) the Union Gas facility and (b) the Messalonskee Lake outlet dam (owned by Messalonskee Stream Hydro, LLC, and the agencies for upstream and downstream passage for American eel at these two facilities as well. This 12 month deadline at the Automatic facility may be extended for an additional 6 months if the applicant can demonstrate to the agencies that field work necessary to determine the appropriate location and design of fish passage at the Automatic facility necessitates this extension. This agreement shall include a date to initiate construction of the required upstream and downstream passage at the Automatic facility that is the same date as installation required at the downstream Union Gas facility and the Messalonskee Lake outlet dam, unless the applicant can demonstrate to LIHI that such a deadline is infeasible, in which the deadline for construction at the Automatic facility shall be no later than 12 months after the date on which the agreement is reached.

April 15, 2011: LIHI received a comment package containing four separate from Douglas Watts, of the Friends of the Kennebec Salmon. In addition to the four documents, Doug Watts sent an email explanation for including the Connectivity Report, all of which can be found in the Files section below.

April 14, 2011: Public comment period on the application for certification has been closed.

February 19, 2011: LIHI received a comment letter from Doug Watts, of the Friends of the Kennebec Salmon. A PDF version of the letter can be found in the “Files” section below.

February 14, 2011: Kennebec Water District has submitted an application for the certification of the Automatic Project.


2016 Recertification

2011 Certification