State Issues Water Quality Certification for Morrisville Hydroelectric Project

August 9, 2016 

Montpelier, Vt. – The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources today issued a final Water Quality Certification for local hydroelectric company Morrisville Water and Light. The certification includes conditions that the company must follow in order to meet current Vermont Water Quality Standards.

“The last time Morrisville Water and Light received licensure to operate was more than thirty years ago. The most basic criteria for what constitutes healthy aquatic habitat—such as minimum bypass flows to sustain vegetation, insects, and native fish—have evolved greatly in those thirty years,” states Agency Secretary Deb Markowitz. “Today’s certification reflects those major changes.”

Morrisville Water and Light is at the end of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process for their hydroelectric project, which includes generating stations in Cadys Falls, Morrisville, Green River, and Lake Elmore. The new FERC license will be issued for a term of thirty to fifty years.  To receive the license, Morrisville Water and Light must receive a certification from the State that the project will be operated in a manner that does not violate Vermont Water Quality Standards.

Vermont’s water quality standards ensure that the streams and rivers of the state support the many uses of waters by the public, which include maintaining and protecting the ecological health of waters, fisheries resources, aesthetics, and recreation. The federal Clean Water Act requires the State to review and update its standards every three years.

The Agency’s final water quality certification issued today is the result of a robust public process and environmental review intended to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Vermont Water Quality Standards.  The Clean Water Act and Vermont Water Quality Standards generally do not allow the Agency to consider economic impacts, though the FERC may consider economic and social impacts during the relicensing process.   

Several of the waters affected by the hydroelectric project currently do not support Vermont Water Quality Standards due to outdated water flow regimes. The most significant changes to operations at Morrisville Water and Light facilities contained in the new certification are:

  • Increased minimum flows for reaches of river below the dams at Cadys Falls and Morrisville. Outflow rates from these dams must be consistent with inflow rates to provide true “run of river” conditions.
  • Green River must mimic naturally occurring water flows more closely by increasing daily bypass flows and limiting high-volume releases.
  • Green River must limit the magnitude of water level management at the Reservoir from 120 inches to 18 inches.
  • A plan must be created to increase dissolved oxygen levels downstream of the Green River facility.

The company must also develop a plan to ensure that recreational use and access to the waters associated with all Morrisville Water and Light facilities is maintained over the federal license term.

For a full copy of the final water quality certification and the Agency’s full response to public comments, go to: http://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/permits/public-notices/401

For more information and to review Vermont’s Water Quality Standards, visit the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation website.

# # #

Media Contact:
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
(802) 828-1294