Posted: 07/26/2001
by Nick Lipowski

JULY 25, 2001



On Tuesday July 24, 2001 Tom Christopher, Secretary / Director of New England FLOW and American Whitewater Board Member signed the Kennebec Settlement Agreement along with 26 other parties including state and federal agencies. After spending more than two years working together to develop a mitigation package which would protect the unique resources of the Kennebec River and balance the multiple uses of the river, stakeholders and FPL Energy Maine Hydro LLC came to a precedent-setting agreement which will provide outstanding recreational opportunities, increase land protection, and enhance fisheries from Harris Dam through the Kennebec Gorge and reaching into Wyman Lake.

For whitewater boaters the highlight of the settlement included the removal of all access fees charged for crossing FPL land to reach the put-in below the dam. This is the FIRST TIME in relicensing history a project owner has agreed to remove an existing fee for accessing project waters. The fee was put in place by the Central Maine Power Company, the project's previous owners, in 1992 in a highly contested case which boaters lost in a formal complaint to FERC. In a bitter dispute which made national headlines, kayakers were arrested and charged with "theft of services" for refusing to pay a head fee when crossing CMP land to reach the river. To their credit, FPL Energy recognized their responsibility to provide access to Kennebec River and Indian Pond, both public resources which generate important economic benefits to the entire region. The fee removal goes into effect immediately.

Highlights Of The Settlement Agreement:


(1) The licensee agrees to provide free public access with no charges or fees
to the waters of the Kennebec River and Indian Pond across lands under
their ownership or control including specifically facilities at Harris Station,
Carry Brook, the Ballfield, Crusher Hole and other lands protected under
the Settlement Agreement.

(2) Reduction in fees charged to commercial outfitters who take rafting passengers down the river.

(3) Separate put-in for private boaters that segregates them away from
commercial passengers.

(4) Separate take-out at the Ballfield for private boaters that segregates them
away from commercial passengers.

(5) Reconstruction and widening of the stairs and "chicken-ramp" at the Carry
Brook take-out to facilitate passage of up and down foot traffic.

(6) New sanitary facilities have been constructed at the put-in to service both
private boaters and commercial passengers.

(7) Permanent sanitary facilities at both Carry Brook and the Ballfield take-outs.

(8) Toll free "FLOW-PHONE operating from April 1st until October 31st.

(9) A $10,000 dollar grant for bridge construction and road improvements over
Salmon Stream to access Poplar Hill Falls on the Dead River to allow for the
establishment of future whitewater events and rodeos.

Recreational Flows:

Prior to the development of this settlement agreement there was no guarantee of
whitewater flows. What existed was a "gentlemen's agreement" that provided
water to the outfitters for commercial rafting for two hours between 10 AM and
12 PM. No consideration was provided to private boaters. Effective immediately
the Settlement Agreement provides the following guaranteed flows seven days a week between May 1st and Columbus Day.

(1) Flows equal to or greater than 4,800 cfs from 10 AM. until 1 PM. available
for all boaters

(2) Flows equal to or greater tha n 2,400 cfs from 1 PM until 3 PM. on every
Saturday and four Sundays from June 15th through September 15th.
Available for all boaters.

(3) Flows of 8,000 cfs four times each season to be determined by a schedule developed in consultation with interested parties at the annual fall meeting. Available for all boaters.

(4) Minimum flows of 300 cfs throughout the balance of each 24 hour day. This
has the practical effect of providing boating opportunities for Class II and III beginning boaters and Class IV boaters with boatable flows 24 hours a day, all season long. Available for all boaters.

Land Protection:

(1) Within three years of issuance of a new license, the licensee will donate
a conservation easement of 1,300 acres of licensee-owned land around
Indian Pond.

(2) Within three years of issuance of a new license, the licensee will initiate
good-faith negotiations with Central Maine Power Company to arrange
for the acquisition of a conservation easement in the Kennebec Gorge

(3) Development of a shoreline management plan to maintain the existing
character of the region and protection of fish & wildlife habitat.

Fisheries Resources:

(1) Fisheries Habitat Restoration Fund provided by the licensee for habitat
improvements valued in excess of $ 670,000 dollars over five years.
Included are fisheries assessments, study plans, and restoration projects
paid for by the fund.

(2) Licensee funded restoration projects valued in excess of $ 17,000 dollars
in addition to those functions described above.

(3) Guaranteed fishing flows not to exceed 300 cfs on Saturdays, Sundays, and
two weekdays throughout the season between the hours of 3 AM and
9 AM.

Under the terms of this settlement agreement FPL Energy will be granted a license to operate Harris Dam for a term of 34 years, thereby bringing it's term in conjuction with the East Outlet and Wyman Dams, other hydro facilities owned by FPL Energy in the upper-basin region.

"This is an outstanding victory for whitewater boaters" said Tom Christopher, "we have been fighting to acquire free access to this resource since 1992 and many people have committed thousands of man-hours to make this agreement happen. Now it is our challenge to replicate the principles of the Kennebec Settlement Agreement in other projects important to whitewater boaters across the country".

FPL Energy has submitted the Settlement Agreement to FERC as the "preferred-alternative" with its license application and all parties involved as signatories have pledged to support the agreement in its entirety to insure all elements of the agreement become actual license articles during the FERC review. Given the recent congressional attempts to streamline the licensing process, signatories are hopeful the Harris Dam license will be granted early next year.