Agreement in Principle Reached on the Susquehanna (PA)
Representatives from the paddling community today reached an Agreement in Principle (AIP) with the owner of the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project, Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL). PPL originally proposed modifications to their dam on the Susquehanna River that would increase power generation, improve currently poor fish passage, and cause additional impacts to whitewater boating. Local paddlers and regional clubs, with American Whitewater's assistance, have been working with PPL for over a year to explore ways of minimizing and mitigating impacts to paddlers, while meeting other interests.
PPL's proposed modifications include channel excavations that would directly impact rapids and valued freestyle features. The modifications would also reduce the annual paddling days at Holtwood from 84 to 51 days through generation and flow changes. The AIP contains the following mitigation for these impacts:
- Existing whitewater rapids and features like Storm Hole will be protected to the extent possible as channel excavation is carried out. If Storm Hole is damaged PPL will fund corrective modifications.
- River access will be provided.
- Flow forecasts will be provided online.
- Two new whitewater features will be created and maintained in Piney Channel, designed to provide paddling opportunities using generation flows.
- 264 hours (spread over 68 days) of releases will be provided (based on inflow triggers) that optimize the created whitewater features to mitigate the loss of 264 hours of spills (33 8-hour days) that currently exist but will be eliminated through the proposed project modifications.
- An additional 18 hours of releases will be scheduled for paddling that is not tied to inflow.
The result is that paddlers will maintain 51 of the 84 existing average days of spill-based boating at Holtwood. The 33 lost full days of spill-based boating will be made up by 68 half days of releases through two constructed whitewater features. These releases will track inflows and will thus typically occur in Spring.
It would require an extremely unusual set of circumstances for paddlers (and AW) to support the construction of whitewater features to mitigate the impacts of a hydropower dam, yet this is such a case. Every effort was made to first and foremost protect existing opportunities before mitigation options were considered. We view the construction of features as the only plausable scenario that would maintain boating opportunities while enhancing fish passage at this dam, due to the specific design of the dam and its fish elevator.
In the coming weeks we will provide additional information to paddlers regarding this agreement. It appears likely that a formal settlement agreement will follow the AIP by early May.