The Fifteen Mile Falls project on the Connecticut River is one of the largest hydropower peaking projects in the Northeast which impacts aquatic systems through fluctuating demand flows. The Fifteen Mile Falls project is one of the first comprehensive re-licensing agreements that also takes into consideration two headwater storage reservoirs (Lake Francis and Connecticut Lakes) that are not included in the project, nor are they covered under any FERC license.
The settlement agreement addresses river flows, reservoir levels, protections and enhancement for fish and wildlife, and permanent land conservation of almost 12,000 acres that impacts the Connecticut River both upstream and downstream of the project. One of the more significant agreements is the establishment of a river enhancement fund (the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund) of up to $17 million and the agreement that the funds would be spent on mitigation to support aquatic and land conservancy instead of studies.
Some of the other key aspects of the settlement include:
- Improved downstream flows and reservoir levels for fisheries and wildlife protections, including increased downstream flows for First and Second Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis;
- Downstream fish passage facilities for Atlantic salmon;
- Protection of 8,000 acres of project riparian and watershed lands using conservation easements;
- Protection of 3,000 acres of non-project riparian and watershed lands in the Connecticut Lakes;
- Required riverine habitat restoration projects on project lands;
- Land conservation that provides protections of habitats for rare and endangered species (bald eagle and osprey); and
- Improved and expanded recreational facilities and access.