LIHI Certificate #72 - Automatic Project, Maine

The Automatic Project is located on the Messalonskee Stream in Waterville Maine. The project was originally constructed in 1924 and is located approximately 5 miles downstream of Rice Rips Project (LIHI # 59). There are two other hydroelectric facilities on the river licensed under the same FERC license (FERC No. 2556) as Rice Rips: The Oakland project (LIHI #60) is located upstream of Rice Rips and the Union Gas project (LIHI #58) is located downstream of Automatic. Operation of Automatic is dependent on inflow to Messalonskee Lake and discharge from the upstream Oakland and Rice Rips Hydroelectric projects.

The project includes: a concrete gravity dam, Tainter gate, spillway, flashboards, intake section, retaining wall, concrete and brick powerhouse, and a horizontal Francis turbine.

The concrete gravity dam is an 81-foot-long, 33-foot-high structure with a 33-foot-long non-overflow section. There is a 20-foot-long by 2-foot-wide gated section with one Tainter gate, 14 feet high by 16 feet wide. The spillway section is 30-foot-long topped with 2-foot-high flashboards. The intake section is beneath the spillway with an earthen section containing a 30-foot-long retaining wall. The concrete and brick powerhouse houses one horizontal Francis turbine and General Electric generator combination with an installed capacity of 0.8 MW, along with appurtenant facilities.

The project operates in a store-and-release mode and impounds a 68-acre reservoir. There is no bypassed reach. The project relies on discharge from the upstream Oakland and Rice Rips projects. The project operates in a run-of-river mode when inflow is greater than 570 cfs and cycles when inflow is less than 570 cfs. The project provides a 15 cfs minimum flow and any water not passed through the turbines passes over the spillway. This minimum flow is based on historical leakage flow from Messalonskee Lake Dam as well as consultation with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Waters within the project reach are designated Category 2 - Rivers and Streams Attaining Some Designated Uses, Insufficient Information for Other Uses. In 2019, the project owner completed water quality sampling with consultation and approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP). Sampling data was reviewed by MDEP and concluded that the project was not having an adverse effect on water quality in Messalonskee Stream.

Project Name Automatic
LIHI Certificate No. 72
LIHI Certificate Term February 11, 2021 - February 10, 2029
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: store/release Inflow < 570 cfs: cycled
FERC No. P-2555 issued 1999, expires 2036

Messalonskee Stream has historically been absent of anadromous fish due to limited rearing and spawning habitat, especially for those species currently subject to restoration efforts (alewife, American shad). Consultation with Maine Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) has also concluded that passage facilities are not warranted for species like Atlantic salmon and blueback herring which are present below the downstream Union Gas project. MDMR has prescribed passage facilities for American eel, for which the project installed an upstream ladder passage system. The passage system has been approved by both USFWS and MDMR.

Upstream fish passage is facilitated by an eel ladder in place along the left abutment. Operation of the ladder is coordinated with MDMR and USFWS. Downstream fish passage requirements have been deferred by agencies based on low numbers of out-migrating eels. Agencies reserve their right to prescribe passage should a sufficient number of eels warrant passage.

The project lands consist of less than 10 acres. There are no lands of significant ecological value in the project area due to its limited footprint.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include Northern long-eared bat, Atlantic salmon, and black term. The project area does not provide any suitable habitat for the bat species. Waterfowl surveys of the project area concluded that project operations do not impact habitat or nesting practices for the black tern. The species has been observed nesting in the Messalonskee Lake impoundment. According to USFWS, providing passage for Atlantic salmon in the Messalonskee watershed is not desirable.

The project powerhouse was constructed in 1924 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The project owner consults with the State Historic Preservation Officer before conducting any non-routine maintenance projects on the powerhouse.

Recreational resources at the project include a fishing access point, a carry-in boat ramp, and a floating dock. The project owner collaborated with the City of Waterville to install the dock at the carry-in access point. Public access is provided free of charge.


Certification History

June 23, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has issued a final decision on the recertification of the Automatic Hydroelectric Project. The 30-day appeal window closed on June 16, 2021 and no appeals were filed. Therefore, the decision to recertify the project is now final. The new term for the project is February 11, 2021 through February 10, 2026.

May 17, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved the Automatic Project (LIHI #72) for a new 5-year term of Low Impact Certification.

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 "Automatic Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Ave, Office 407, Arlington, MA 02476. 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 June 16, 2021. The full application and reviewer's report are available below.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be February 11, 2021 through February 10, 2026.

February 23, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has received a complete recertification application from Messalonskee Stream Hydro for the Automatic Project located on Messalonskee Stream in Maine.

This is the second time the project will be reviewed using LIHI's 2nd Edition Handbook. LIHI developed a streamlined application format for such projects to facilitate review in accordance with Section 6.1 of the 2nd Edition Handbook. This review process verifies the information submitted, considers any public comments received when the application is deemed complete, and assesses whether there have been any material changes at the facility or in the LIHI Handbook that affect compliance with the LIHI Criteria.

LIHI is seeking comment on this application. 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 LIHI by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with "Automatic Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Office 407, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on April 23, 2021 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.

The project description and complete application can be found below. The current application, the prior recertification application, and the prior review report under the 2nd Edition Handbook, as well as the other relevant documents, can be found in the Files section at the bottom of the project's webpage.

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. 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.
  • Satisfied in 2021 with continued operation 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.
  • Satisfied in 2021 with continued operation 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.

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.

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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org 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:
    1. the Union Gas facility,
    2. the Messalonskee Lake outlet dam (owned by Messalonskee Stream Hydro, LLC), and
    3. 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.