BOSTON (WWLP) –  A settlement agreement has been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, and FirstLight Power for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage and Turners Falls Projects.

The agreement comes after discussions began in 2012 in an effort to conserve habitat and address the needs of fish and wildlife in the Connecticut River, making the concessions part of the relicensing process for the power company.

“This agreement represents a major step forward in restoring sustainable migratory fish populations and recreational fishing in the Connecticut River,” said Rick Jacobson, Assistant Regional Director for the Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program. “Thanks to the work of many partners, we were able to come together on an agreement that will help conserve some of our most iconic and imperiled species.”

“FirstLight is proud to support this foundational settlement Agreement, the product of nearly a decade of collaboration and study to establish science-based measures to improve fish passage, aquatic habitat, and overall river health while enhancing whitewater recreation access and maintaining our ability to provide clean power to the region,” said Justin Trudell, Chief Operating Officer of FirstLight Power. “We are grateful for the advocacy, expertise, and true dedication shown by our partners in this process and look forward to implementing these commitments and delivering on our collective vision of a thriving Connecticut River.”

Expected benefits include:

  • Vastly improved fish passage and fish protection measures
  • New fish passage standards, with evaluations and responsive management approaches to ensure all new/improved fish-passage facilities are effective
  • Restoring more naturalized flow to over 20 miles of the Connecticut River, which will enhance the quantity and persistence of habitat for fish and a suite of rare species — including the cobblestone tiger beetle, Puritan tiger beetle, yellow lampmussel, eastern pondmussel, and tidewater mucket — as well as 17 species of state-listed dragonflies and plants
  • Improved spawning and rearing habitat for shortnose sturgeon, American shad, and sea lamprey
  • Creating two mitigation funds to compensate for unavoidable impacts to cobblestone tiger beetle habitat at Turners Falls and loss of eggs and juvenile American Shad at the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage facility