Thursday January 3, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS - The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee has planned a series project-specific scoping meetings for later this month in regards to hydroelectric projects.

FERC published a legal notice in the weekend edition of the Reformer after TransCanada began the relicensing process by filing notice of intent and its preliminary application documents for re-licensure of its three hydroelectric facilities along the Connecticut River. FERC is an independent agency that regulates and monitors the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. It also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects.

TransCanada is a North American energy corporation based in Calgary, Alberta. It operates three projects along the Connecticut River -- in Wilder (an unincorporated village within Hartford), Bellows Falls and Vernon.

According to Grady Semmens, an external communications and media relations specialist for TransCanada, the daytime meetings will focus on resource agency, Native American tribes, and non-governmental organization concerns, while the evening meetings are primarily for receiving input from the public. All interested individuals, organizations, and agencies are invited to attend one or both of the meeting types and to assist staff in identifying particular study.

He said the process for re-licensure will likely take five to six years.


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"It is a very long, very comprehensive process," Semmens said.

He said the corporation's existing FERC licenses for the three facilities is for 40 years and FERC typically issues licenses for 30 to 50 years. He said the scoping meetings help ensure each facility is operating to the best possible standard.

There will be five scoping meetings to gain public input and answer any questions citizens have about the dams, including their environmental impact.

The first meeting, regarding the Wilder project, is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, at the Kilton Public Library at 80 Main Street in West Lebanon, N.H.

A joint daytime scoping meeting about the Wilder and Bellows Falls projects is also scheduled to take place at the library at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29. A meeting regarding the facility in Bellows Falls is set for Bellows Falls Union High School at 7 p.m. the same day. A meeting in regards to the projects at Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain (two Massachusetts facilities TransCanada does not own) is slated for the Great Falls Discovery Center at 2 Avenue A in Turners Falls, Mass., at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The Vernon project will have its own designated scoping meeting in the first-floor common room at the Marlboro College Graduate School that same day. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Celeste Miller, a spokeswoman with FERC, said the committee issues public notices to be published in area newspapers as part of the re-licensing process. She said the meetings help the purposes of transparency.

A joint scoping evening meeting for the Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls projects is set for 6 p.m. at the Great Falls Discovery Center on Thursday, Jan. 31.

In addition to the six project-specific scoping meetings identified above, FERC plans a public scoping meeting specifically to identify cumulatively effected resources and to help identify the incremental effect of licensing these five Connecticut River projects with other past, present and "reasonably foreseeable future" actions within the Connecticut River Basin. It is set for the discovery center at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.