US-based Reliant Energy has announced it has recently received a 40-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for its Upper and Lower Newton Falls hydropower projects in New York.

The two power plants,which generate a total of 2.2MWm were built in 1927 in the town of Clifton, New York, on the Oswegatchie river, in St. Lawrence County.

The new license provides for the continued operation of these power plants and has, among other things, long-term environmental and recreational requirements. ‘These help maintain a balance between non-power and power uses of the Oswegatchie river,’ said David Youlen, Reliant’s managing director-Hydro Generation.

As part of the FERC licensing agreement, Reliant has agreed to make enhancements at the two power plants.

‘These enhancements benefit fish and wildlife, create more recreational opportunities, and will permanently preserve 315.7ha of wetland through the transfer of land to the state of New York,’ commented Youlen.

As specified in the license agreement, Reliant agreed to the following:

• Impoundment Fluctuation Limitations: By January 2006, Reliant will implement a 0.3m daily water fluctuation on the Upper Newton Falls project from 16 July through 30 April. A seasonal reduction to 0.15m fluctuation is allowed from 1 May through 15 July. Fluctuations from the Lower Newton Falls follow the releases from the upper site. However, minimal fluctuations not to exceed 0.09m feet are permitted. This will reduce adverse effects on walleye, northern pike, and other fish spawning in the impoundment, as well as birds nesting along the shoreline.

• Minimum Base Flow: The lower plant will allow for a 2.83m3/sec minimum base flow. The minimum base flow is the in-stream flow intentionally and continuously released below the project. This will result in a steady flow of water that will protect fish and enhance aquatic habitat.

• Fish Movement/Bypass Flow: Reliant has agreed to release a minimum bypass flow of 0.57m3/sec on the Upper and Lower developments, beginning in January 2006 and January 2008, respectively. The bypass flow is the in-stream flow that is intentionally and continuously released to bypass the plant’s generating turbines. Together with the release structures in the dam, fish will be provided with a safe, friendly passage to keep them clear of the hydro turbines.

• Fish Protection Measures: By January 2008, Reliant has agreed to replace the 3-inch trashracks at both the Upper and Lower projects and install 1-inch spaced, fish-friendly trashracks. The new trashracks resemble fences and help deter most adult game fish and some smaller fish from entering the intake. This will help minimise the movement of fish through the plant’s hydro turbines.

By January 2006, Reliant will undertake a variety of enhancements to the recreation areas that surround the two power plants. Enhancements include new car-top boat launches, a canoe portage, and public access to lands within the boundary of the two power plants.

‘The FERC license process is quite lengthy, often taking several years to complete’ said David Youlen, ‘Without the assistance of a variety of parties, the license settlement for the Upper and Lower Newton Falls projects would not have been possible. We are grateful to the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Park Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others for their support.’

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