BRATTLEBORO -- Those opposed to the continued operation of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon are planning a party on the Connecticut River for Saturday.
The SAGE Alliance will be launching a flotilla of paddlecraft and pontoons from Hinsdale, N.H., where they will drift on the current to the plant, which draws water from the river to cool the reactor and then dumps the heated water back into the river.
"Vermont Yankee, like a lot of other nuclear reactors, is heating up the river," said Leslie Sullivan Sachs, who is helping to organize the event.
This is especially important, she said, considering the fact that global climate change has caused changes to the river since the plant began operation in 1972.
"Now we have record-breaking temperatures and droughts," said Sullivan Sachs.
To eliminate the impact the plant has on the river, she said, Yankee should be forced to use its cooling towers instead of discharging the heated water back into the river.
"Our state, our river, our citizens' health in the tri-state region and beyond are all subservient to the needs for Entergy of Louisiana to reap massive profits from VY's operation -- profits that go straight to Entergy stockholders and executives while leaving us with the radioactive waste and a heated river," stated a press release announcing the flotilla.
"This river is the lifeblood of New England," stated SAGE's Leo Schiff in the press release.
"We have a couple of pontoon boats and we expect to launch around 12:15," said Sullivan Sachs. "We will head over to Vermont Yankee and perform a symbolic ice drop to cool down the river."
Following the protest, the flotilla will cross the river for a rally with musicians and speakers.
"We have no civil disobedience planned at all," said Sullivan Sachs.
Once all the boats have returned to the Prospect Street boat ramp, many of the participants will head over to the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery at 36 Bridge Street for an after party.
Participants include Christian Parenti, who writes for The Nation, David Deen, D-Westminster and Connecticut River Steward, and Deb Katz, executive director of Citizen Awareness Network.
The organizers of the flotilla have been in contact with law enforcement on both sides of the river.
Captain Tim Dunleavy, of the Marine Patrol Bureau of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, said the state will have a presence on the river during the protest.
"We don't anticipate any issues," he said.
Dunleavy said he wasn't sure how many officers will be on the river Saturday, but he did say there are several Marine Patrol Officers assigned to the Cheshire County District.
The SAGE Alliance received a permit for the protest, said Dunleavy, which indicated most of the boats will be canoes and kayaks, which he said are "Not always the most stable craft, by nature."
"Where we have a large gathering of paddlecraft for any kind of event, we provide protection in case anything happens," said Dunleavy.
"Our goal is to make sure everyone is safe," said Vermont State Police Captain Ray Keefe, the commander of Troop D, which encompasses the Royalton, Rockingham and Brattleboro Barracks.
Keefe said none of his troopers will be on the river.
"We will have a very small presence at the power plant," he said.
While he expects all the participants to stay in their boats, anyone who might step on the shore where Yankee is located would be stepping on private property and could be arrested for trespassing.
Rob Williams, spokesman for Vermont Yankee, said as with every day at the plant, employees will not be distracted by what goes on outside the gates and will continue to focus on safety.
"Anything that occurs outside the property will be coordinated by local and state law enforcement," he said, adding "We greatly appreciate the backing of our supporters and respect the right of opponents to peacefully protest."
Dunleavy reminded the boaters that in New Hampshire waters, those 12 and under are required to wear life jackets, though for each person on board a boat, there must be a life jacket available.
The launch point for the "Our River Runs Through It" flotilla is the Prospect Street boat ramp off of Route 119 in Hinsdale, and participants are asked to arrive between 11 a.m. and noon. The rain date is Sept. 15.
For more information visit SAGEalliance.net.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.