On March 31, 2023, FirstLight Power (FirstLight) filed a Flows and Fish Passage Settlement Agreement (the Agreement) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to settle relicensing issues associated with migratory fish passage, and project operations relative to flows and water level management, for the Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project (Turners Falls Project) and the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project (NFM PSP).  Parties to the Agreement include FirstLight, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC),  Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), American Whitewater (AW), Zoar Outdoor, and Crab Apple Whitewater, and New England FLOW.

The 67.7 megawatt (MW) Turners Falls Project and the 1,166.8 MW NFM PSP are located on the Connecticut River in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA). The Turners Falls Project is composed of the 62 MW Cabot Station and the 5.7 MW Station No. 1.

Cabot Station is the fourth largest conventional hydroelectric station in New England and the largest in MA. The NFM PSP is New England’s largest energy storage project. The NFM PSP is an important complement to the continuing transformation of New England’s electric supply towards intermittent renewables such as solar and wind to meet regional carbon and greenhouse gas emission targets.

Gomez and Sullivan Engineers are proud to have played an integral role in this licensing and settlement process, serving as FirstLight’s lead licensing consultant and facilitator of the settlement.  Gomez and Sullivan provided state-of-the-science technical studies, modeling, and analyses as well as negotiation and facilitation services for the Agreement. The Agreement calls for new 50-year licenses for the Turners Falls Project and the NFM PSP, enhances generation at Station No. 1, increases storage use at NFM PSP, and allows FirstLight to continuing meeting its ISO-NE obligations for capacity and energy.

The Agreement incorporates several significant Protection Mitigation and Enhancement (PM&E) measures, including flow stabilization downstream of Cabot Station, seasonally varying bypass flows between the Turners Falls Dam and Cabot Station, summer and fall variable bypass flows for recreational and ecological purposes, consolidation of upstream passage facilities for American Shad in a new state of the art fish lift at Turners Falls Dam, construction of new eel ramps at Turners Falls Dam, construction of intake protection facilities at NFM PSP, Station No. 1, and Cabot Station to protect migratory fish, and construction of downstream passage facilities at Turners Falls Dam and Cabot Station.

The Agreement also has several unique regulatory features, including provisions for the construction of the initial fish passage facilities out in time, an itemized adaptive management plan that provides certainty on potential additional fish passage enhancements for the first 25 years of the license, preclusion of certain capital or operational changes over the life of the license, and independent review of agency fish passage goals if warranted.

Gomez and Sullivan would like to congratulate our colleagues at FirstLight as well as our Project partners including Van Ness Feldman LLP, Foley-Hoag LLP, and Kleinschmidt Associates on this momentous achievement. For more information on this landmark settlement please contact Mark Wamser at mwamser@gomezandsullivan.com.