The Red Bridge Project is exempt from licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) as Project No. 10676.  The Project is owned by Nautilus Hydro, LLC and is located in the Towns of Wilbraham, Ludlow, Palmer and Belchertown in Hampden and Hampshire Counties, Massachusetts, at approximate river mile 15.2 on the Chicopee River.  The Project dam crosses the town line between Wilbraham and Ludlow; the powerhouse is located in Wilbraham.  The impoundment extends in a northeasterly direction, bordering Belchertown and Palmer.  The Project was originally constructed in 1901 by the Ludlow Manufacturing Company and was purchased in 1957 by the Western Massachusetts Electric Company (“WMECO”).  In 1988, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the Chicopee River was a navigable waterway under its jurisdiction and ordered WMECO to prepare an application for Exemption from Licensing.

Project Name Red Bridge
LIHI Certificate Number 96
LIHI Effective and Expiration Dates March 27, 2012
March 27, 2017
(extended to October 31, 2018)
Owner Nautilus Hydro LLC
State Massachusetts
Location Located at approximate river mile 15.2 on the Chicopee River, in the Towns of Wilbraham, Ludlow, Palmer, and Belchertown in Hampden and Hampshire Counties, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 4.5 MW
Average Annual Generation 12,715 MWh
Facility Type Limited pond-and-release mode
FERC No. 10676

The existing major project works include a dam with a crest elevation of 272.3’ (NGVD), a canal headgate house, a power canal, two operating penstocks, a powerhouse with two generating units, a tailrace channel (normal tailrace elevations 222.7’) and appurtenant facilities.  Two flood control dikes are located on the northeast shore of the impoundment upstream of the dam.

The dam, built ca. 1901, crosses the Chicopee River in a roughly north to south direction, and is composed of three sections.  The northern section of the dam is composed of a 165-foot-long earthen embankment with a concrete core.  The top of the embankment is at El. 285.8’.  The middle section of the dam is a 300-foot-long overflow spillway, consisting of rubble stone with cut-granite facing with a crest elevation of 272.3’.  The southern section is a 362-foot-long earthen embankment with a concrete core.  The top of the embankment is at El. 285.8’.  The maximum height of the dam is approximately 51 ft.  Cut-stone abutments separate the two earthen sections from the middle spillway section.

At normal pond elevation, the impoundment extends approximately 1.8 miles upstream of the dam.  At normal pond condition, the maximum surface area is approximately 185 acres at El. 272.3’.  Although the permitted storage is approximately 530 acre-feet and the permitted daily drawdown is two feet except during annual energy audits and system emergencies when a drawdown of as much as three feet may be used, the Project uses only one foot of its drawdown and 185 acre-feet of its storage.  The canal headgate house is a wooden structure on a granite block foundation, housing the 10 intake gates that control the flow from the impoundment to the power canal.  The headgates are all steel construction, 5.5 feet wide by 8.5 feet high.  Each is equipped with single stem lead screw gate operator.  All of the headgates require manual operation.  The power canal extends from the headgates to the penstock intake structure.  The canal is approximately 340 feet long by 73 feet wide by 13 feet deep.  The inner sidewalls are constructed of cut-granite.  Sloped earthen embankments create the outer walls.  The floor of the canal is concrete.

The canal leads to the penstock intake structure for the two operating and two abandoned penstocks.  Adjacent to the trashracks on the upstream face of the intake is a cut-stone ice sluice that crosses beneath the Red Bridge Road and discharges back into the Chicopee River.  There is one cast iron drain gate, 3 feet wide by 2 feet high, operated by a lead screw mechanism.  Two operable and two inoperable 13-foot-diameter, 100-foot-long steel penstocks lead underground to the powerhouse.  The two inoperable penstocks were taken out of service in 1938.


The Red Bridge Project powerhouse is constructed of brick and cut stone, and was built in ca. 1901.  The original equipment included horizontal waterwheels and 40-cycle generators.  The original waterwheels for Units No. 1 and No. 2 were retired in 1938.  The powerhouse measures approximately 145 feet by 68 feet, with wells for the discontinued Units No 1 and No. 2 at the northerly end and the operating Units No.3 and No. 4 at the southerly end of the structure.  The flows from the two operating units discharge through two tailrace bays into the tailrace canal.  The normal tailrace elevation is 222.7’.  The tailrace canal runs 735 feet in a southerly direction to where the flow re-enters the Chicopee River.

The flood control dikes are situated adjacent to the northeast shore of the impoundment, approximately 1,500 feet upstream of the dam.  The first of these (known as the Railroad Dike) is of earth construction and is approximately 60 feet wide at its base, 50 feet long and rises 10 feet to an elevation of 285.0’.  The second dike (known as the Alden Street Dike) is located approximately 650 feet north of the Railroad Dike and extends northeasterly for approximately 550 feet.  This structure has a pile core with earthen embankments and a top elevation of 285.0’.

The powerhouse’s two 11.5 KV turbine generators are connected to 11.5 KV circuit breaker to a 4.5 MVA autotransformer located approximately 150 feet from the powerhouse.  The autotransformer steps the voltage up from 11.5 KV to 13.8 KV for interconnection to WMECO’s distribution system.

download (1)

The Red Bridge project is situated upstream of five other hydroelectric facilities located on the Chicopee River and downstream of other dams on the Ware, Swift and Quaboag Rivers. Three of the other five downstream hydroelectric facilities are owned and operated by Nautilus Hydro – Dwight Station Project (P-10675), Indian Orchard Project (P-10678) and Putts Bridge Project (P-10677).  The Project drains an area of 664 square miles.

Immediately downstream of the Red Bridge Project is the Collins Dam Project (P-6544) while immediately upstream of Dwight Station Project is Chicopee Falls Dam (P-6522).   The Project and the other  dams on the Chicopee River have little to no control over their inflows.  Collins Hydro and Chicopee Falls dams are owned and controlled by unrelated entities as are all of the hydroelectric projects on the upstream tributaries of the Chicopee River.

The Red Bridge project is operated in a limited pond-and-release mode, utilizing the storage capacity (185 acre-feet) afforded by a 1.0 foot drawdown during the second quarter and 2.0 foot drawdown during the balance of the year.  The station is operated semi-automatically by a PLC control system.  The operating mode of the Red Bridge project does not change during dry, mean or high water years.  As flows vary at the Project, the number of turbines operating and the duration of operation changes, increasing and decreasing the amount of generation realized.


download (2)

download (3)

Certification History

March 1, 2017: The Red Bridge Hydroelectric Project has been granted an extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is November 30, 2017.

July 17, 2013: At their June 25, 2013 meeting, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute’s Governing Board modified Condition D of the Red Bridge Project’s certifications.

September 16, 2012: The Red Bridge Project has been certified as low impact for a five-year term, effective March 27, 2012 and expiring March 27, 2017.

May 27, 2012: Public comment period on application has been closed.

May 19, 2012: LIHI received a comment letter from Bob Kubit, Mass. DEP.

May 1, 2012: LIHI received a comment letter from Caleb Slater, Mass. DFW Anadromous Fish Project Leader. The letter can found in the Files section below.

March 27, 2012: Essential Power LLC has submitted an application for the certification of the Red Bridge Project. Public comment period has been opened.


2012 Certification