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American Whitewater Appeals FERC Dam Removal Refusal

Posted: 10/25/2023
By: Robert Nasdor

American Whitewater filed a legal appeal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) decision to allow the owner of a failed hydropower project on the Salmon Falls RIver, which forms the Maine and New Hampshire border, to abandon its deadbeat dams. The appeal, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, argues that dam removal is in the public interest because leaving the dams in the river blocks fish passage and recreation, and also violates the Clean Water Act. 

American Whitewater, along with United States Fish & Wildlife Service, other state and federal agencies, and several conservation groups supported dam removal during the hydropower dam license surrender for the Somersworth Hydroelectric Project. FERC unfortunately refused to mandate the dams removal, ignoring strong evidence that forcing the removal of non-functioning hydropower infrastructure is in the public interest. American Whitewater has long advocated for the removal of hydropower dams when they are no longer viable. Leaving these dams in rivers with no one responsible causes serious dam safety issues and harm to river ecosystems.

The dam owner, Aclara Meters, initially sought a new license to continue operating the project after a penstock failure in 2011, but later decided to decommission the project and surrender its FERC license. The surrender plan proposed by Aclara involved leaving two dams in the river, causing concern over fish passage and recreation. American Whitewater, along with various resource agencies and stakeholder groups, advocated for an alternative plan involving the removal of both dams. Despite these concerns, FERC approved Aclara's surrender plan in May 2023.

American Whitewater, in our appeal, argues that FERC's decision is arbitrary and capricious and does not serve the public interest, as FERC license surrenders are required by law to do. We also contend that FERC violated the Clean Water Act by not requiring a state level water quality certification as part of the surrender agreement. Our appeal seeks a court order vacating FERC's surrender approval and one that will require FERC to consider dam removal and comply with the Clean Water Act.

Bob Nasdor

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