LIHI Certificate #80 - Gardners Falls Project, Massachusetts

Project Name Gardners Falls
LIHI Certificate No. 80
LIHI Certificate Term February 18, 2021 – February 17, 2031
Owner Central Rivers Power MA, LLC
State Massachusetts
Location Located at approximate river mile 15.8 on the Deerfield River, in the towns of Buckland and Shelburne in Franklin County, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 3.58 MW
Average Annual Generation 9,361 MWH (2-yr ave)
Facility Type Limited pond-and-release mode
FERC No. P-2334 issued 1997, expires 2037

The Gardners Falls Project is located in the towns of Buckland and Shelburne Falls in Franklin County, Massachusetts on the Deerfield River. The project was originally constructed in 1904 and included two hydroelectric turbines. The powerhouse was expanded in 1914 with the installation of two more turbines, followed by a final expansion in 1924 with the addition of a fifth turbine. One of the original turbines (“Unit 1”) was retired in 1971. The Unit 1 penstock was plugged and filled in when the unit was removed from service. Currently, the Project is semi-automated and contains four active units.

The project is situated among nine other hydroelectric facilities located on the Deerfield River (Deerfield River Project, FERC No. 2323 and Bear Swamp Project, FERC No. 2669).

The project includes a dam, ogee spillway, power canal, intake structure, powerhouse, and transmission equipment.

The dam is a concrete gravity style with an ogee spillway, 337 feet long with a maximum height of 30 feet and two-foot flashboards. The power canal is 1,300 feet long. The powerhouse is made of brick and concrete and is equipped with four turbine-generator units with an installed capacity of 3.58 MW. A double circuit 13.8 kV transmission line connects the project to the Montague substation. Three separate trashracks with spacing ranging from 1.5 to 3 inches feed the four units.

The project operates in a limited store-and-release mode and impounds a 21-acre reservoir. Flows into the project, which is located between Deerfield #3 and Deerfield #2, are dependent upon flow releases from the upstream projects. The Project provides a 150-cfs minimum flow and limits fluctuations to no more than 1.8 feet below the crest of the dam. This flow regime was developed in consultation with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW) to protect and enhance fish resources in the river.

The state impaired waters list notes that the waters above and below the dam are considered Category 5 waters, impaired with E. coli bacteria. Potential causes include municipal discharges, sewer overflows, waterfowl, and introduction of non-native organisms. The impairment appears to begin at the Buckland wastewater treatment plant. There is no indication that the project adversely affects water quality.

Historically, the Deerfield River has supported migratory fish populations of Atlantic salmon, American eel, American shad, sea lamprey, and blueback herring. However, due to downstream development on the mainstem Connecticut River, these migratory species are no longer present in the project area. The downstream Deerfield #2 precludes access to the project river reach. After ice conditions damaged the fish louver platform in January 2018, the platform was eliminated altogether. Given that downstream passage requirements are currently suspended after MDFW terminated their upstream restocking of Atlantic salmon in 2016, the resource agencies and FERC concluded that the platform need not be replaced.

The project lands consist of roughly 39 acres. In consultation with resource agencies, it was concluded that no lands of significant ecological value exist in the project area. Representatives from the National Parks Service, USFWS, Natural Resource Conservation Service, MDFW, and MDEP convened and concluded that the project area should remain an undeveloped rustic setting. Additional consultation with MDFW via a Massachusetts Endangered Species Act Information Request noted that no threatened or endangered species are found in the project area. Review from two experts at MDFW concluded that the project would not have any detrimental effect on any listed species in the Deerfield River watershed.

Cultural resources in the project area include the project’s stone foundation which is potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gardners Falls Cave no longer exists due to dramatic riverbank changes caused by Hurricane Irene. The project submits annual reports of cultural resource activities to the State Historic Preservation Office that also provided guidance and recommendations when the project underwent several repairs to the powerhouse floor and a tailrace pipe which the project incorporated into their restoration activities.

Recreational resources at the project include a picnic area, hiking trails, and kayak put-in. Public access for fishing and sightseeing is provided free of charge and signage has been posted guiding users to the access trail and recreational features.


Compliance Status

The Certificate includes the following facility-specific conditions:

  • Condition 1: Until complete, the facility Owner shall provide LIHI with a report on the status of the Memorandum of Agreement with the SHPO and implementation of the approved mitigation measures to address adverse impacts to the historical features affected by the planned powerhouse upgrades.
  • Condition 2: The following must be addressed to ensure compliance with the Recreational Resource Criterion. The facility Owner shall:

    a) Provide LIHI with a detailed tabular listing of all licensed recreation facilities and the related deficiencies identified by CRC in 2019 and 2021 along with the corrective actions taken or that are planned. Should current conditions prohibit continuation of any FERC required features due to ongoing vandalism, they shall be documented, and a filing be made to FERC for any requested modifications to the Recreational Plan. This status report shall be submitted to LIHI by May 31, 2022 and every six months thereafter until all items have been completed.

    b) Inspect all recreation areas every six months to ensure they remain in satisfactory condition. Any new repair needs shall be added to the status report, along with repair completion or planned dates.

    c) Develop a strategy to ensure that all portions of the access road to the Wilcox Hollow are maintained in a condition allowing easy access by the public. A status report on efforts made shall be submitted to LIHI by May 31, 2022 (as part of the first status report) and each subsequent report until there is resolution of the issue.

2022: No material changes or compliance issues were identified. The project remains in compliance based on the annual review. For Condition 1, the project reported a draft MOA has been developed for review by the SHPO and photo-documentation was completed in 2021. For Condition 2, the project reported activities in progress and to be reported by May 31, 2022.

2021: Annual reporting for the current Certificate has not yet taken effect.


Certification History

January 1, 2022: The LIHI Certificate term has been extended in accordance with Revision 2.05 of the LIHI 2nd Edition Certification Handbook issued January 1, 2022. Refer to the facility table above for the new term.

December 14, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has issued a final decision on the recertification of the Gardners Falls Project. The 30-day appeal window closed on December 5, 2021 and no appeals were filed. Therefore, the decision to recertify the project is now final. The new term is February 18, 2021 through February 17, 2026.

November 5, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved the Gardners Falls Project for a 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 “Gardners Falls 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 December 5, 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 18, 2021 through February 17, 2026.

June 7, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete recertification application from Central Rivers Power for the Gardners Falls Project located on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts.

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 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 “Gardners Falls 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 August 6, 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 application can be found below along with the prior recertification application, and the prior review report under the 2nd Edition Handbook, as well as the other relevant documents.

December 13, 2017:  The 30-day appeal window closed for the preliminary decision of the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric project on December 5th, 2017 with no appeals to the decision received. The Recertification decision is therefore final.

The new term of Low Impact Certification for the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project is February 18, 2016 extending for a five (5) year term which will expire on February 18, 2021.

November 7, 2017:  LIHI has issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. The Certification includes three facility-specific conditions, as follows:

  • Condition satisfied in 2019. Condition 1. The Owner shall complete a review of historic resources that may be affected by the proposed repair to the facility’s powerhouse, pursuant to section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Owner shall notify LIHI of any recommendations or agreements within 30 days of the completion of the SHPO’s review or signed agreements.
  • Condition satisfied in 2021 based on compliance history. Condition 2. For the term of this new LIHI certification, the Owner shall continue the current operations that provide a 150-cfs minimum flow to the bypassed reach via a combination of releases from the fish passage gate and from spillage over the dam. If any changes are proposed in these releases during the term of this certification, the Owner shall coordinate with appropriate fisheries management agencies in designing these changes and then notify LIHI no less than 60 days before a change is implemented. A detailed operational plan for the new flow regime shall be provided to LIHI at the time of notification, if changes are to occur.
  • Condition satisfied in 2020. Condition 3. The Owner shall make all currently needed repairs to recreation facilities and amenities prior to the summer 2018 recreation season or within 60 days of completion of the current construction project, and provide LIHI with an update on the status of those repairs in the 2018 annual compliance statement and in the 2019 compliance statement if construction remains in progress in February 2018.

The LIHI Handbook states that all decisions are subject to a 30-day appeal window. Only parties that submitted comments during the 60-day public review period for the project application have standing to appeal. Any appeal request must include specific reasons why the appellant believes the hydropower facility does not meet one or more criteria.

Appeal requests may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project Appeal Request” 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 December 5, 2017 to be considered. More details on the appeal process can be found in our Handbook available HERE.

If no appeal is requested within the 30-day period, on December 7th, 2017 at 5:00pm EST, the Executive Director will issue the final certification for the facility and post a notification of certification on the LIHI website. Once final, the effective certification date for the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project is retroactive to the prior certificate’s expiration date of February 18, 2016 extending for a five (5) year term which will expire on February 18, 2021.

June 13, 2017 – The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project. The Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project is located in the towns of Buckland and Shelburne, Franklin County, Massachusetts, on the Deerfield River. 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 Gardners Falls 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 with “Gardners Falls 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 August 13, 2017 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 31, 2011: The Gardners Falls Hydroelectric project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective February 18, 2011 and expiring February 18, 2016.

February 18, 2011: The North American Energy Alliance (NAEA) has submitted an application for the certification of the Gardners Falls Hydroelectric Project. Public comment period for the application will stay open for 60 days.


Files:

2021 Recertification

2016-2017 Recertification

2011 Certification