LIHI Certificate #89 - Holyoke Project, Massachusetts

March 8, 2021 COVID-19 Update: HG&E will continue to restrict public access to the fishlift along with any other activities that will involve exposing our employees to the general public. That would also include cancelling the Shad Derby and any canoe portages around the Holyoke Dam. I know that this may be disappointing to many, but in order to ensure the health and safety of our visitors and employees we feel we must take these measures again in 2021.

March 19, 2020 - COVID-19 Update: Holyoke Gas and Electric has notified FERC and resource agencies of the decision to restrict public access to the fishlift in 2020 and has canceled the annual Shad Derby. The company is taking steps to continue to safely operate the fishlift facilities this spring.

Holyoke Dam, the first dam on the main stem of the Connecticut River upstream of Long Island Sound (River Mile 87). The dam and its associated hydroelectric facilities at the dam and in the canal system are located in Holyoke and South Hadley, Massachusetts 12.6 miles north of the Connecticut state line.

HG&E owns and operates hydroelectric facilities at Holyoke Dam (the Hadley Falls Station) and in the Holyoke Canal System.
The dam and canal system were conceived and constructed as one system by the South Hadley Falls Company starting in 1847-1848. The purpose of the system was to harness the power of the falls by diverting water from the Connecticut River to mills for mechanical power for manufacturing. The first hydroelectric turbine was installed within the canal system in 1888. Holyoke Dam continued to be used solely for diversion of flow until 1950 when the first hydroelectric turbine was installed; a second unit followed in 1983.

Holyoke Dam, of rubble masonry construction finished with ashlar granite, extends 1,020 feet from bank to bank. Founded on bedrock, it is 30 feet high. In 2001, HG&E installed five 3.5- foot-high, inflatable flashboard sections to replace the wooden flashboards. The inflatable flashboard system extends across the entire crest, except at the south end adjacent to the powerhouse intake, where a 25-foot-wide bascule gate with a permanent crest elevation of 94.60 feet is located. The air pressure in the flashboard system is regulated as necessary to prevent the 18-mile-long impoundment from rising above a maximum elevation 100.6 feet msl.  Condition 10 of the water quality certification issued in 2001 for licensing of the Holyoke Project required the installation of the inflatable flashboard system in order reduce impoundment fluctuations and help attain run-of-river conditions.

Hadley Falls Station 

Hadley Falls Station is integral with the dam’s south abutment. Four gated openings admit water to two 28-foot-diameter reinforced concrete penstocks that serve the two generating units. Hadley Unit 1, the older 1950 unit, consists of a full Kaplan (double regulated) turbine and a 15.8 MW generator; its hydraulic capacity is 4,500 cfs. Hadley Unit 2 consists of a turbine with a fixed blade propeller and a 15 MW generator; its hydraulic capacity is 3,750 cfs. Flows passed through the Hadley Falls Station are discharged into a 2,750-foot-long tailrace, a walled channel between the shore and the riverbed.

Holyoke Canal System 

The canal system begins at a gatehouse structure located directly upstream of Hadley Falls Station. The canal system consists of three levels. Within the canal system, HG&E owns eighteen stations, several of which are no longer operating and have been decommissioned. Most of the HG&E canal system hydroelectric units are located within buildings that are used for unrelated light commercial or industrial purposes.

The First Level Canal is a subsystem about 6,500 ft long. Stations located between the First Level Canal and the Second Level Canal utilize the 20 feet of available gross head between elevation 97.5 feet msl and elevation 77.5 feet msl. Six HG&E stations are so located, as are two privately owned stations, Open Square (a.k.a. Aubin Station) and Parsons. Open Square was certified by LIHI at the Governing Board’s May 3, 2012, meeting. Parsons no longer operates as it has been partially demolished due to a fire.

The Second Level Canal includes nine in-service generating stations; the No. 2 Overflow structure that discharges into the Hadley Falls Station tailrace; the No. 3 Overflow; and a pipe that discharges to the Third Level Canal. Stations on the Second Level Canal are either located between the Second Level Canal and the Connecticut River (discharging about 3,500 ft north of the Boston & Maine Railroad bridge).

The Third Level Canal is supplied with water from the Holyoke 3 station and the No. 3 Overflow. It is about 4,000 ft in length and is located largely at the low-lying southern end of the Canal system in the City of Holyoke, mostly parallel to the bank of the Connecticut River. The Third Level Canal includes the No. 4 Overflow structure located between the Canal and the Connecticut River. The Chemical (FERC No. 2004) and Sonoco (unlicensed and not owned by HG&E) stations are located between the Third Level Canal and the Connecticut River, discharging about 3,400 ft south of the railroad bridge.

A downstream fish passage louver facility, further described in the Fish Passage section, is located in the canal starting about 554 feet downstream of the canal gatehouse. The No. 1 Overflow structure, which is located immediately downstream of the gatehouse, discharges water directly back to the Hadley Falls Station tailrace, or to the fish lift attraction water.
Project Name Holyoke
LIHI Certificate No. 89
LIHI Certificate Term January 1, 2017 - January 1, 2025 (option to extend to January 1, 2027)
Owner City of Holyoke Gas & Electric Department
State Massachusetts
Location Located at river mile 87 in Holyoke and South Hadley, Massachusetts, 12.6 miles north of the Connecticut State Line.
Installed Capacity See table below
Average Annual Generation See table below
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. See table below
Project Name FERC No. FERC License Term Installed Capacity (MW) Average Annual Generation (MWH)
Hadley Falls 2004 1999 - 2029 30.61 186,112
Boatlock Station 2004 1999 - 2029 3.34 12,745
Beebe-Holbrook Station 2004 1999 - 2029 0.266 757
Skinner Station 2004 1999 - 2029 0.3 1,389
Chemical 2004 1999 - 2029 1.6 4,107
Riverside 4-7 2004 1999 - 2029 3.04 13,515
Riverside 8 2004 1999 - 2029 4.0 22,177
Holyoke 1 2386 1989-2019 1.0 4,730
Holyoke 2 2387 1988-2018 0.8 3,569
Holyoke 3 2388 1988-2019 0.45 3,206
Holyoke 4 7758 2006-2039 0.75 3,470
Valley Hydro (Station No. 5) 10806 1990-2030 0.79 3,697

Certification History

September 28, 2017:  The 30 day appeal window for the Holyoke Hydroelectric Project has now ended and no appeals were filed. Therefore, the preliminary decision is now final and the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department Hydroelectric System has been approved for an 8-year term, effective January 1, 2017 and expiring January 1, 2025 with an opportunity to extend the term to January 1, 2027.

August 24, 2017:  LIHI has issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department Hydroelectric System (FERC Nos 2004, 2768, 2766, 2771, 2386, 2387, 2388, 7758, 10806) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. The Certification includes three facility-specific conditions, as follows:

  • Condition 1: As related to the goals set forth in License Article 405, the Owner shall evaluate the need to revise its modified run-of-river operation and update the Comprehensive Operations and Flow Plan (COFP) if there is a material change to the operation of the Turner Falls and Northfield Pump Storage projects because of the FERC relicensing of those upstream facilities. The Owner shall notify LIHI within 30 days of the licensing of those facilities and indicate its planned response.
  • Condition 2: The Owner shall: (a) notify LIHI within 30 days of any communication from a resource agency or FERC that its fish passage facilities are not providing safe and effective upstream or downstream passage and include with the notification a copy of the communication and a statement as to the Owner’s planned response and schedule for remedying deficiencies; and (b) provide a summary report on the status of fish passage activities over the prior year when filing the LIHI annual compliance statement (see Section 5.2.3 of the Handbook), which shall include any information on related studies/evaluations, FERC actions, agency communications/recommendations, and any plans for design and/or construction of new or modified facilities. LIHI reserves the right to modify this certification as necessary to assure that its upstream and downstream fish passage standards are being met.  This condition pertains to fish passage issues at all the Holyoke units, including the canal units.  Optional: If fish passage effectiveness is proven successful before the end of the eighth year of certification, then LIHI will award two additional years to the term of the certificate, related to satisfaction of a second PLUS standard.
  • Condition 3: The Owner shall notify LIHI within 30 days of any communication from a resource agency of a need to modify its management or operation of the hydroelectric system to assure protection of Atlantic sturgeon and its habitat. The notification shall include a copy of the communication and a statement as to the Owner’s intended response.

As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI 2nd Edition Handbook, the Preliminary Certification Decision, 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 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.  Only individuals or organizations that commented on the initial Application Package may file an appeal.  In addition, applicants may appeal conditions or decisions in a similar manner. Further information about the LIHI appeal process is available in the LIHI Handbook, available at

If no appeal is requested within the 30-day period, 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 Holyoke Gas & Electric Department Hydro System is August 31, 2017 for an eight (8) year term (with the possibility of an additional two (2) years after satisfaction of Condition 2) which will expire on January 1, 2025.

April 21, 2017: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Holyoke 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 Holyoke 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 with “Holyoke 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 21, 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 Holyoke Hydropower System has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective January 1, 2012 and expiring January 1, 2017, with the following conditions:

  • If HG&E does not meet any of the downstream fish passage design and implementation deadlines that fall within the 5-year term of certification, LIHI will suspend certification unless HG&E demonstrates to LIHI that the resource agencies believe good cause exists for the schedule delay. Any subsequent re-certifications of the Facility will be dependent on HG&E’s passage facilities meeting effectiveness targets set by the agencies.
  • HG&E shall either 1) restore the Shad Derby to two May weekends per year starting with May 2013 and at a minimum through the term of this certification, or 2) shall sponsor the Shad Derby for only one May weekend per year but only if the change from two weekends to one is approved by FERC based on an application to amend the Project 2004 recreation plan, with full consultation of Resource Agencies and interested NGOs. Should HG&E seek to amend the recreation plan, the Shad Derby shall be sponsored for two weekends per year until such time as FERC acts. HG&E shall inform LIHI of its decision by October 1, 2012. If it chooses to seek to amend the recreation plan, it shall notify LIHI of FERC’s final decision within 30 days of issuance. Continued non-compliance with this element of the recreation plan shall result in immediate revocation of this certification. Should HG&E obtain a written determination from FERC that the change from two weekends to one is not subject to FERC approval, HG&E shall provide LIHI with a copy of the determination and this condition shall become nullified.

May 14, 2010: The Holyoke Gas and Electric Department has submitted an application for certification of the HG&E Hydroelectric System.