LIHI Certificate #88 - Collins Project, Massachusetts

The Collins Project is located on the Chicopee River between Ludlow and Wilbraham, MA. The project is an example of constructive reuse of a low-head, breached mill dam. The dam was formerly used by the Collins Manufacturing Company, formed in 1872 to produce writing paper.

Although the Chicopee River is only 18 miles long, its watershed is 721 square miles, the largest in all of Massachusetts, and the largest tributary watershed to the Connecticut River. During the Industrial Revolution, the Chicopee River became a particularly sought-after destination for hydropower, largely because it drops 260 feet over its course.

The project is one of six dams on the Chicopee River used for hydroelectric power production. Upstream of the project is the Red Bridge Project (LIHI #96) and downstream are the Putts Bridge (LIHI #102), Indian Orchard (LIHI #112), Chicopee Falls (FERC No. 6522), and Dwight (LIHI #170) Projects.

The site was hard to permit because houses were built in the flood plain upstream after the original timber crib dam was breached in 1979. However, by using the existing forebay as an additional spillway on the right side of the river and also designing three 4-foot-high sections of hinged flashboards that are lowered during floods, the site was approved by the local conservation commission, the state dam safety agency and by federal fish environmental agencies.

The project includes a dam, power canal, spillway, power station, two turbine generator units, and tailrace.

The current dam is a 300-foot-long, 11-foot-high reinforced concrete structure fitted with 3-foot flashboards on the spillway and the main dam section containing hinged Bascule gates. The project uses a portion of the pre-existing power canal 1,100 feet long, varying in width from 40 to 90 feet, and flanked by a 270-foot-long spillway section. The rest of the former power canal has been filled starting at a point just upstream of the Miller Street/Cottage Street bridge. The two turbine/generator units are set in the breached section of the dam and have a combined capacity of 1.3 MW. The generating units are integral to the dam so there is no bypassed reach.

Project Name Collins
LIHI Certificate No. 88
LIHI Certificate Term March 3, 2017 - March 3, 2025
Owner Dichotomy Collins Hydro LLC
State Massachusetts
Location Located on river mile 12.8 from the confluence of the Chicopee River and the Connecticut River in Wilbraham and Ludlow, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 1.3 MW
Average Annual Generation 5,265 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-6544 exempt 1984

The facility uses two ESAC bulb turbines designed and built in France. The advantage of the bulb turbine is that it is submersed under water requiring no powerhouse. Controls and switchgear are located in a small building well above the river flood levels and therefore the full crest length of the dam is available to spill water in case of flood flows. This technology is ideal for this application because:

The ESAC equipment was delivered pre-assembled and aligned in the bulbs so no powerhouse is required, and installation time was 20% of the conventional powerhouse; the bulbs can be lifted in and out with a crane and anchored inexpensively into the dam structure without reducing the dam’s crest length required to pass floods; the ESAC full Kaplan turbine is very efficient over the full range of flows found in the Chicopee River, operating on a float control following the discharge rates of the Red Bridge powerplant located a mile upstream.

Turbine flow discharges into the plunge pool located directly downstream of the dam. The project does not bypass any portion of the Chicopee River and is required to release 332 cfs or inflow to the plunge pool.

The project operates in a run-of-river mode and impounds a 72-acre reservoir. The project provides a 332 cfs minimum flow as required by the US Fish and Wildlife Service New England Flow Policy. The project limits impoundment fluctuations to 4 inches to further ensure protection of aquatic resources and habitat.

Waters within the project reach are designated Category 2 (attaining some uses, other uses not assessed). Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) has further characterized the water quality as good: fully supportive of aquatic life, primary and secondary recreation, and aesthetic uses. This designation was based on sampling results from testing done by MDEP.

The Chicopee River watershed is not currently the subject of migratory fish management efforts. American eel is the only migratory species found throughout the Chicopee River system. Upstream fish passage at the project is prevented by downstream dams. However, despite the presence of these dams, American eel have been reported upstream of the project. While passage facilities have not been prescribed by resources agencies, the project owner has implemented nightly shutdowns on rainy nights from August 15 through November 15 to facilitate the passage of American eels.

The project lands consist of roughly one acre. The project has limited ownership over any watershed lands. No lands of significant ecological value exist in the project area due to the small footprint of the project. For the same reason, no threatened or endangered species are found in the project vicinity.

Upon consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office, it was determined that there are no cultural or historic resources in the project area.

Recreational resources at the project include a canoe portage, fishing access, and a boat ramp. Public access is provided free of charge where safe. Reservoir usage is discouraged due to the presence of a natural gas pipeline and storage facility.


Certification History

October 11, 2017: The 30-day appeal window closed for the preliminary decision of the Collins Hydroelectric project with no appeals to the decision received. The Certification decision is therefore final. The term of Low Impact Certification for the Collins Hydroelectric Project is from March 3, 2017 and it expires on March 3, 2025.

The Collins Hydroelectric Project certification includes the following four conditions, one of which is optional:

  • Condition satisfied 2018. Condition 1:The Owner of the Collins Project shall participate in the annual workshop organized by the Owner of the Red Bridge Project on Chicopee River Hydropower Operations designed to promote better understanding of regulated flows and impoundment fluctuations on the river, and to identify operational flow enhancements that can benefit the dual goals of clean, renewable energy and environmental protection. This workshop will be a forum for sharing annual operational data from all the projects on the river. The workshop shall be scheduled at a time when all the Chicopee hydropower owners and the applicable resource agencies can attend (i.e., USFWS, MADFW and MADEP). The workshops will be repeated annually. If the owners jointly agree that these meetings are considered less than successful, or that they are no longer needed, Owners of hydropower facilities on the Chicopee River may petition LIHI to discontinue them. The Owner of Collins shall confirm their attendance at the workshop in each annual compliance statement submitted to LIHI. The date of the workshop and Owner’s attendees shall be noted.
  • Condition satisfied 2019. Condition 2:Within 90 days of issuance of re-certification, the Owner shall convene a meeting(s) with interested recreational boating stakeholders to design an approach that would result in formalization of a portage route around the Collins Dam.  This meeting shall also address measures to help minimize over-use of the area adjacent to the Columbia Gas property by members of the boating public. Minutes of the meeting(s) shall be issued to meeting participants and to LIHI.  If a formal agreement for the improvement to and maintenance of such a portage, including an implementation schedule of not later than the summer of 2018, cannot be reached by January 31, 2018, LIHI shall be provided an explanation why an agreement is not possible. This notification from LIHI shall be provided within 30 days of when that decision is reached. LIHI at that time may find that the certification can nonetheless continue, or alternatively, provide notice to Owner to take appropriate actions within a reasonable timeframe to avoid the certification to be rescinded due to not meeting the requirements of the Recreational Resources Criterion. Should an agreement be reached, the Owner shall notify LIHI within 30 days of when the portage and signage identifying the portage is complete. Any new agreement on a portage route must be consistent with reasonable safety of employees, the public, and other affected property owners, and with critical energy infrastructure protection dictated by state or federal authorities.
  • Condition 3. Should the Owner receive notification during the term of this LIHI certification from either the USFWS or MADFW that upstream and/or downstream passage for anadromous or catadromous fish is required at the Collins dam, the Owner shall forward a copy of that notification and its response to LIHI within 45 days of receipt of the notification.
  • Condition 4 (optional):  The Owner may, at their discretion, choose to implement a new fish monitoring study to determine the presence and abundance of American eel in the waters immediately upstream of the Collins Project. The study should be developed in coordination with MADFW to ensure that the methods and data are useful in fisheries management of the river. The Owner shall notify LIHI when the study is initiated, then provide a copy of the final report to MADFW, USFWS and LIHI by December 31 of 2019.  If such study is committed to and completed, LIHI agrees to extend the term of the Collins certification for an additional three years, to a total of eight years, as this would qualify as a PLUS standard for Downstream Fish Passage and Protection.

August 10, 2017:  On August 9th, LIHI issued a Preliminary Decision that the Collins Hydroelectric Project continues to meet LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria.

The certification term will be 5-years unless optional Condition 4 is carried out and accepted by LIHI in which case an additional three years will be added. The term will therefore be March 3, 2017 through March 3, 2022.

As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI 2nd Edition, the Preliminary Certification Decision to certify, along with the Application Reviewer’s report and (if prepared) report of the Executive Director, will be posted on the Institute’s Web page for 30 days.  Notice of the posting will be provided to all individuals or organizations that commented on the initial Application Package.

Any Commenter or the owner may submit a letter to the Executive Director requesting an appeal within the 30-day period.  The appeal request must state specific reasons why the hydropower facility should have failed one or more criteria.  If an individual or organization did not comment on the initial Application Package, they may not file an appeal.  If the Owner feels the decision is unwarranted or the conditions contained in the decision cannot be complied with, the Owner can submit a letter requesting an appeal. Further information about the LIHI appeal process is available in the LIHI Handbook, available at https://lowimpacthydro.org/certification-program-html/.  Any request for an appeal must be received by close of business on September 10, 2017.

If no appeal is requested within the 30-day period, the Executive Director will issue LIHI Certification for the facility and post a notification of certification on the Institute’s website.  Once final, the effective certification date for the Collins Hydroelectric Project is March 3, 2017 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on March 3, 2022.

April 25, 2017:  LIHI has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Collins Hydroelectric project.  LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Collins 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 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 “Collins 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 June 24, 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.

July 26, 2012: The Collins Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective March 3, 2012 and expiring March 3, 2017.

March 27, 2012: The Swift River Company has submitted an application for certification of the Collins Hydroelectric Project. Public comment period on the application has been opened for 60 days.