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Support proposed Vermont hydro legislation 2012!

Please contact your Senators and Representatives (contact info below) and ask them to support S-148! This bill is designed to urge Vermont to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) -similar to the one signed by  Colorado-to ease permitting of hydro:  See this website for an example MOU:

Please contact Governor Shumlin at and urge him to sign an MOU-like Colorado to ease hydro permitting. This would benefit for both the regulators-and the regulated.

This is an economic development issue.
“Spurred by new energy concerns, in 2007, the Vermont General Assembly requested a study of the available hydroelectric potential and associated permitting requirements. 70 ANR’s conclusions and recommendations have been updated and incorporated into the sections below.

Current state policy supports the development of environmentally sound in-state hydroelectric projects. This policy achieves the objectives of helping Vermonters meet their long-term energy needs, shifting Vermont’s energy supply to increased renewable resources while also protecting the health of Vermont’s waters. In-state hydro is the least expensive power currently being generated by the utilities. CVPS’s costs are less than 3 cents per kWh and GMP’s are less than 4 cents. Nevertheless, very few new hydro projects have moved forward in the state. “ [emphasis added]

Contact information for your Representative at:
Contact information for your Senator at:

Keep scrolling down if you want information on some of the many attempts over the last six years to promote small hydro in Vermont : (Putney, Manchester, Greensboro, Lincoln, Londonderry, Marshfield, Plainfield, Bethel, Calais, Bennington, Holland, Montpelier, Middlebury, Richford or Windsor……….)

Help our legislators and Governor to take an active step to support in-state hydro,

From Lori Barg, Community Hydro


The recommendation in the energy plan to sign an MOU similar to  Colorado can be found on page 17 of But the suggestion (even though submitted by many) was not incorporated in the final Energy plan

At the request of the legislature, dozens of us spent months -and agreed on some things -that have never been implemented -and should be. –.
Here is the link to the whole docket:

See Appendix F for hydro projects proposed from 2006-2008: Only one of the projects (in Bennington) is up and running. None of the other projects: Greensboro, Lincoln, Londonderry, Marshfield, Plainfield, Bethel, Calais, Bennington, Holland, Manchester, Montpelier, Middlebury, Richford or Windsor projects have been built or permitted.

FERC  just issued a license within two months!!-see the announcement at the end of this e-mail. This happened because Colorado signed an MOU with FERC-to streamline the process. FERC is encouraging other states to sign a similar MOU. Ask Governor Shumlin to sign a similar  MOU with FERC This suggestion not been incorporated in the VT energy plan-yet!

More on Colorado’s program:

The Department of Energy  through their Virtual Hydropower Prospector has identified over 400 MW of environmentally sound hydro to be developed in Vermont -without building a single new dam.

The Vermont Renewable Energy Atlas; identifies hydro sites at existing dams, but does not use the Department of Energy’s Virtual Hydropower Prospector for damless hydro. (About 70 MW at existing dams)

FERC Approves First Hydroelectric Project in Colorado under Small Hydro Agreement

Sep 15, 2011 — Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Documents and Publications/ContentWorks

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved the construction of a hydroelectric project in Colorado, the first issued since FERC and the state of Colorado signed an agreement last year to simplify procedures for the development of small-scale hydropower projects. As a result of the streamlined procedures, the approval of today’s project was completed in two months.

The Meeker Wenschhof hydroelectric project, to be located on an existing irrigation pipeline near the town of Meeker in Rio Blanco County, would consist of a powerhouse containing one generating unit with an installed capacity of 23 kW and an average annual generation of 100,000 kWh. FERC approved the project in a two-month time span.

In signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Colorado in August 2010, FERC said it had seen rising interest among entities seeking to develop small, low-impact hydropower projects. Federal surveys have identified several hundred potential small hydropower projects of smaller than 5 megawatts (MW) in Colorado with a combined capacity of more than 1,400 MW. These projects have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting Colorado’s energy needs while helping to satisfy Colorado’s new Renewable Energy Standard and create related business opportunities.

“Small hydro is a renewable resource that has tremendous potential,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “FERC and Colorado have shown their commitment to moving these projects forward knowing that, ultimately, it will benefit consumers and help create jobs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The MOU signed by FERC and Colorado agreed to the following: Colorado will develop a pilot program to test options for simplifying and streamlining procedures for authorizing conduit exemptions and small 5MW or less exemption projects while ensuring environmental safeguards;

Published on RenewablesBiz (

And from years ago-some places that should have had action-and have not:
In this case-FERC took 5.5 months, and ANR took more than double !
and towns want this

Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2008

Study lauds small hydro dams  By HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN, Reformer Staff

Wednesday, January 16
PUTNEY — The state wants to make it easier to build and upgrade small-scale hydroelectric projects.

The Agency of Natural Resources last week released a report that encourages the Legislature to fund an updated study of potential hydropower sites in Vermont and asks lawmakers to develop an updated guide to help hydro developers through the complicated permitting project.

Putney, at last year’s Town Meeting, passed a resolution asking for state and federal authorities to encourage small hydro projects.

“Sacketts Brook has ample flow most of the time, but some state and federal regulations prevent us from using the water and, at this point, we are trying to clarify what to do,” said Putney Energy Committee chairman Daniel Hoviss. “There are a lot of regulatory hurdles to overcome.”

The report does not recommend any changes to the regulatory process, the report’s principal author, Brian Fitzgerald, said.

But it does recognize that small hydro generators can contribute to Vermont’s energy future.

An updated inspection of all of the potential sites along the state’s waterways should be completed to identify the most viable sites for Advertisement small hydroelectric development, said Fitzgerald, who is an ecologist with the ANR Dam Safety and Hydrology section.

And while state and federal permitting is needed to protect the rivers and streams, ANR staff did recognize that expanding the hydro capacity is being slowed by the complex, and costly, requirements.

“One thing we are hoping to do in the coming months and years is to work through the existing process and see if there are opportunities to scale the process down to the project themselves,” Fitzgerald said. “The process is not rigid.”

Last year, Vermont became the first state in New England to conduct pre-feasibility assessments on small hydro projects.

There are currently 15 new small hydro projects under review.

The pre-feasibility assessments give potential developers an idea of what it might take to bring a a site online and Fitzgerald said the report released last week looks to increase the state’s role in encouraging that process.

“We want to give people better information as they look at potential projects so they can determine if the project is feasible,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a matter of pulling all the information together so they have
one place to look.”

The report is asking the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Board to work with ANR to develop an updated guide to help towns and individuals as they investigate drawing power from small hydroelectric projects.

There has been a renewed interest in small scale hydro, according to Fitzgerald.

The rising cost of energy, the state’s looming challenge to replace the power of Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee, a focus on slowing global warming, and advancements in hydro technology are all driving more Vermonters to ask if it is possible to tap the waterways for energy.

Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, who is chairman of the Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources, applauded the report and said that while small hydro will never be a very large contributor to Vermont’s power output, there is potential to tap into some of the state’s waterways.

“The agency respects the potential in small scale hydro development and there could be an increase in production through modernization and replacement of equipment,” Deen said. “Upgrading equipment offers the largest potential increase in production and dam owners and agencies and power companies should focus on that to improve efficiency and capacity.”

Deen is also river steward of the Connecticut River and is co-chairman of the Vermont Dams Task Force, which followed the publication of the ANR report.

The report recognizes that smaller projects should not have to face the same level of permitting that larger projects do, but it said that the current flow policies are scientifically based and should be followed.

Deen agreed that as small-scale hydro projects move forward, it will be important to protect habitat and ecosystems down stream.

“If dams can be redeveloped without negatively impacting life downstream, then more power to them,” Deen said. “But you have to look at how the project impacts life down river, and you have to give real thought to strike that balance between environmental health and power production.”

The natural resources agency told the Legislature last week that Vermont could build out up to an additional 25 megawatts of power at about 44 sites where there are existing dams.

Improving efficiency at the state’s 78 existing facilities could also generate several megawatts.

The renewed focus on small-scale hydro could eventually power 25,000 homes, according to the report.

“We should be doing everything we can to re-use appropriate dam sites to generate renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint,” ANR secretary George Crombie said in a press release.

Below is an article on small hydro from the Manchester Journal quoting Vermont Governor James Douglas.

Mini hydro project seeks to unlock potential of old dam
Article Launched: 04/27/2007

Water from the west branch of the Batten Kill gushes over a 19th century dam next to Malfunction Junction. A local businessman is hoping to get it back in service as a source of clean, renewable energy.

Friday, April 27 Andrew McKeever, Managing Editor

MANCHESTER – It’s the energy source that’s hiding in plain sight.

Right in the center of town, but tucked somewhat out of view, a water dam constructed more than 110 years ago to power a grist mill that used to occupy a site a stone’s throw from Malfunction Junction may serve to show the potential of so-called “mini-hydro” to help supply the state’s energy needs, said Jim Hand, a Dorset resident who is exploring the possibility of getting the dam back in the energy business.

“The idea is to get the thing operating and producing power,” he said. “The real reason is to demonstrate the use of a renewable energy source that had been sitting dormant to show that this could be done.”

Water power is abundant and unlike coal or oil-fired power generating plants contributes nothing in the way of carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere, believed to be a major factor in global warming. But getting an already-existing dam, even one that used to supply the town’s first electrical needs in the 1890s, back online is no simple task, Hand said.

Permits for hydro projects – even small scale ones estimated to yield 10 to 20  kilowatt hours such as the dam next to the junction is reckoned to be capable of producing – have to obtain both state and federal permits before going operational. In addition to a water quality certificate from the state Agency of Natural Resources, a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a certificate of public good from the state Public Service Board are also required. The process can be lengthy and expensive, enough to call the economic viability of similar projects into question, Hand said.

“They (the state and federal permitting agencies) feel they may need years of analysis,” he said. “We could expect to spend up to $200,000 over 2-10 years just to go through the process and still not be guaranteed a permit.”

That’s because the state needs to be mindful of protecting its waterways, not only for the sake of the fish habitat but also for reasons of water quality and ensuring riverbanks are not negatively affected, said Brian T. Fitzgerald, an ecologist with the Agency of Natural Resources in the environmental conservation department. It’s complicated by the fact that no one person owns the entire length of a river, he said.

“The thing to keep in mind about hydro projects is that you’re dealing with public trust resources – riverways are the wardens of the state,” he said. “It’s a bit different from siting a windmill on a mountaintop,” he said.

However, the eventual price tag and amount of time needed for a state permit depends heavily on the particular circumstances of each individual project, and goes a long way towards determining what studies are needed to evaluate the impact on state waters, he said.

The dam provided the source of power for the first electricity ever used in Manchester, enough to power the lights in about 12 homes, according to Hand. The dam is owned by Walker Kimball, whose real estate agency occupied the building alongside the dam and above the old mill until he retired and closed down the business two months ago.

About 20 years ago, Kimball had a similar idea to re-start the dam as an energy supplier to handle their heating needs. Along with one of his sons, he brought in some newer generating equipment, but they never got around to finishing off the project, as the project expense of completing it mounted, Kimball said.

But Hand’s interest has his blessing, he said.

“If you can get it going, fine,” he said. “I’d be happy to have someone do something with it.”

At one time Vermont satisfied the bulk of its energy needs through hydro power, and still produces about 700 megawatts through it, almost enough to satisfy the minimum base electrical needs of the state. But the majority of that is exported out of the state, said Lori Barg, a geologist and founder of Community Hydro, a private company that helps towns and individuals advance hydro power projects.

But no new hydro-based capacity has been added to Vermont’s energy mix in more than 20 years, in large part due to the permitting hurdles such projects have to get over, she said.

Concerns about protecting fish in the streams where dams might be built or brought back into service shouldn’t be insurmountable problems and could be funded by user fees, she said.

“We have a lot of experience with hydro,” she said. “You’re not talking about starting with some weird new technology no one has ever heard of. We have a lot of water and a lot of hills – hydro could be one of our best sources for power.”

But that non-polluting power source will only remain a nice idea until the regulatory thicket is cleared out. Hydro is the only renewable power source that required a federal as well as state permits, although the feds will waive a lot of their concerns once a state permit is secured, she said.

The state General Assembly has passed legislation that includes language that calls on the governor’s administration to produce a recommendation for a simple, predictable procedure for completing a water quality certification review of mini-hydro projects such as the Manchester dam. The bill is currently under consideration by the Senate.

On a stopover in Manchester last Friday, Gov. Jim Douglas said he supported looking at small hydro projects.

“I would like to see them go forward where they make sense and I hope if there are obstacles they’ll contact the folks at the Public Service Board (the state board that issues the required certificates of public good) and see if they can get some help,” he said.

If it ever does get operational, the dam wouldn’t even generate enough power to light up Hand Motors, the auto sales and service business across the street of which Hand is a co-owner. But the point is to find ways of continuing to diversify the ways the state could increase its renewable energy capacity, Hand said. And projects involving existing dams don’t call for massive alterations to the existing landscape – they are already there, Hand said.

“We’re not changing anything,” Hand said. “What’s involved is a small pond in the middle of Manchester. It’s original purpose was to power a grist mill. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.”

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