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FERC issues 40-year license to Erie Boulevard Hydropower

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a 40-year license to Erie Boulevard Hydropower LP to operate six hydropower dams on the Oswegatchie River.

The license, which includes specific improvements to protect wildlife and increase recreational opportunities, covers dams at Browns Falls, Flat Rock, South Edwards, Oswegatchie, Heuvelton and Eel Weir. Erie Boulevard Hydropower is owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy.

The company is pleased by the issuance of the license, said Joanne S. Walsh, communications specialist with Brookfield.

“Issuance of the new operating license completes a five-year process that will provide enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 22,000 homes while balancing the recreational and environmental needs of state, county and local stakeholders,” she wrote in an email. “Brookfield is proud of its presence on the Oswegatchie River and remains committed to being a responsible and engaged business leader in St. Lawrence County.”

Brookfield has no other projects in the county pending re-licensure, she said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was among a number of environmental and government groups that were part of a settlement agreement reached with Brookfield last year as part of the relicensing.

Aquatic species will benefit from adjusted base flows at all six projects that will be closer to the natural flow of the river, DEC spokesman Stephen W. Litwhiler said.

“All projects will eventually be upgraded to one-inch trash racks which will prevent larger fish from going through the hydro plants,” he wrote in an email.

Upstream and downstream passages will be developed at Heuvelton and Eel Weir giving migratory fish, particularly lake sturgeon and American eel, access to more of the river.

The license requires loon nesting rafts on impoundments that are big enough for the birds to use.

A management plan is included to keep invasive species at bay so that the natural ecosystem remains for native fish and wildlife, he said. The license also calls for implementation of a plan to protect eagle and osprey nests.

Erie also proposes to construct or improve portage routes around each project dam, to improve two existing informal parking areas and provide a picnic table at Browns Falls, to install an accessible picnic table, parking space, seasonal floating dock, and an educational kiosk at Flat Rock, construct a day-use area with parking and two picnic tables, a foot trail and a car-top boat launch at South Edwards, and to build a boat launch and parking area at Heuvelton.

Erie applied for the license Dec. 30, 2010. The previous license, issued in 1983, expires Dec. 31.

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