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Deerfield River (MA)

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:stewardship:deerfield.jpg On October 5th, 1994 American Whitewater signed a settlement agreement with the New England Power Company, anglers, conservationists, and government agencies regarding the management of the Deerfield River (FERC P-2323). The Deerfield, located in Western Mass, was and is a classic whitewater run. The Deerfield River Settlement Agreement was valued at 27-30 million dollars, with the whitewater mitigation alone estimated to cost 3.2 million. Based on careful analyses and negotiations, the Settlement Agreement:

  • Assured whitewater releases in two sections of the river for paddlers: 106 days each year in the Class III Fife Brook Section, and 32 days of releases in the Class IV Monroe Bridge Section.
  • Provided free public access to the river and to project related lands.
  • Installed fish passage facilities at various location on the river.
  • Implemented a wildlife enhancement program on project related lands.
  • Provided new base flows for river reaches and reservoir levels upstream.
  • Created a $100,000 resource protection and enhancement fund for future conservation efforts.
  • Granted conservation easements on 18,000 acres of land to protect it from development.

This relicensing settlement agreement was the first in the region and the second in the entire country. It set a new standard and created a new process for local stakeholders to make decisions regarding river management that would otherwise be made in DC. Dozens of other settlements followed this groundbreaking effort.

To meet the challenges of this relicensing process, a new organization was formed with the help of AW: New England FLOW. FLOW worked to build the coalition in support of the settlement process and agreement, and were the first to reach settlement with the power company. One cannot recall this process without crediting of Tom Christopher. Tom served as the FLOW secretary and AW board member throughout this time period and was the primary representative of the paddling community throughout the process. His dogged efforts payed off, and Tom remains actively engaged in FLOW, AW, and the management of the Deerfield River. Tom would be quick to point out that it was a team effort. The following people played important roles in this effort:

  • Bruce Lessels
  • Rick Hudson
  • John Valera
  • Chuck Peabody
  • Jennifer and Frank Mooney
  • Tom Foster
  • Joan and Bill Hildreth
  • Jim Down
  • Norman Sims

In 1997 FERC accepted the Deerfield River Settlement Agreement and issued a new 40 year license that closely followed the recommendations made in the agreement. The Deerfield River has become a true New England classic. Each year we celebrate our success there with the Deerfield River Festival.

The full story is told superbly in the AW journal in the following articles by Tom Christopher:


Deerfield River (MA) Flow Studies to Explore New & Improved Boating Opportunity

12/06/2015 - by Robert Nasdor

In response to requests by American Whitewater, several affiliates, and other stakeholders, FERC directed Brookfield Renewable to study the impact of its hydropower operations on whitewater boating on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts. Boating groups and our supporters are seeking to determine optimal whitewater boating flows from the Fife Brook Dam and whether changes in hydropower operations would enhance boating opportunities, access and navigation.

Deerfield River (MA) Hydro Relicensing: Building on Past Success

03/24/2015 - by Robert Nasdor

Twenty years after reaching a historic settlement agreement on the Deerfield River hydropower relicensing that has transformed northeast paddling opportunities, we began another relicensing process this spring that will likely result in improvement in flows, access and facilities for boaters in the region.

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