Thursday, January 4, 2018

Wilder Dam Relicensing in the News

Let's just say this... The Great River Hydro rep is full of it. Read all about it in The Dartmouth article by Julian Nathan: "Dam management raises questions among locals."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Wilder Dam Relicensing Public Meetings and Surveys

I recently received the following important information from Alex Toth:

"CRC Recreational Access Survey and Public Meetings:
We are in the midst of a once in a lifetime opportunity to influence how the Wilder, Bellows Falls and Vernon dams affect the Connecticut River through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process. The dams only go through this process once every 30-50 years so this is our chance! The overall relicensing process takes about 5 years and there are many issues to consider.  Please help us improve river recreation and access points by
taking this survey
and sharing it with friends and neighbors who play in and along the river. It should take about 15 minutes. Information we collect now is important in helping to inform coming decisions!    

You can also share your input and learn more about the dam relicensing process at one of these upcoming public meetings:

Tues., Nov. 28, 6-8pm: Bellows Falls Waypoint Welcome Center, 17 Depot St, Bellows Falls, VT
Wednesday, November 29, 6pm to 8pm: Windsor Welcome Center, 3 Railroad Ave, Windsor, VT
Tuesday, December 5, 6pm to 8pm: Hinsdale Town Hall, 11 Main St, Hinsdale, NH
Thursday, December 7, 6pm to 8pm: Kilton Public Library, 80 Main St, West Lebanon, NH"

Please attend and comment if you are available!!!
Thank you,
Jolyon Pruszinski

Wilder Dam Relicensing Comments: Flow Management Effects on Recreational Use

In light of the current relicensing process, I wish to comment on the recent history of flow management at Wilder Dam on the Connecticut River and its associated impacts to recreational use of the River at Sumner Falls. I comment on these effects as both a recreational user of the area for twenty years and as the author of the most comprehensive guide to whitewater use of the area (  
The water release regime that has characterized TransCanada’s management of Wilder Dam has not been conducive to ideal recreational use for whitewater paddlers. Sumner Falls, a ledgy section of the Connecticut River approximately seven miles downstream of the dam, is a well-known kayak surfing location with a regionally stand-out surf wave. This wave has been described in various regional whitewater guidebooks as “perfect for learning front surfing” (Bird, 2007), “one of the most perfect surfing waves on this planet” (Hoffman, Davis, and Schwartz, 1996), and “a regional favorite for decades” (Pruszinski, 2009). The flows at which this wave forms best for kayak surfing are  between approximately 3000 and 6500 cubic feet per second (Rivoir-Pruszinski, 2004; Bird, 2007; Pruszinski, 2009). 
Since TransCanada began operating Wilder Dam, releases from the dam have typically not been a single turbine’s worth of water, which falls within the aforementioned range of ideal whitewater use, but rather, above that range. Because the flow from the dam takes approximately four hours to reach Sumner Falls the release is attenuated and rises through the ideal range for approximately an hour before reaching the full release flow, which is above the ideal range. When the release ends, similarly, the flow drops through the ideal range for approximately an hour. Timing trips to Sumner Falls for recreational surfing during the ideal flow range has, as such, been difficult since TransCanada’s flow management regime began. Releases have been short and not well forecast, making planning of recreational use even more difficult. It appears that the flow management regime in use during the summer has been designed to maximize revenue by generating power almost exclusively during the highest electricity use periods (afternoons on weekdays). However, this management regime has often precluded meaningful weekend releases, evening releases, and releases of a sustained period within the ideal flow range for whitewater paddling, preventing effective use of the wave by whitewater paddlers.
Before TransCanada took over management of Wilder Dam the release regime was significantly different. In the 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s releases regularly occurred for several hours at a time in the ideal flow range, on both weekdays and weekends. It was this reliable flow management regime (Lessels, 1998; Bird, 2007) that made the wave at Sumner Falls, also known as the “Hartland(s) Wave” or the “Summer Wave”, so popular. It was a destination surfing spot with paddlers travelling from all over the region to surf there (Hoffman, Davis, and Schwartz, 1996). Camps used the spot regularly. Kayak schools instructed there. Boat designers designed surf kayaks there. However, due to the management regime imposed by TransCanada that privileged maximization of electricity sales, recreational use and the attendant infusion of tourism and tourism dollars to the local economy have fallen off dramatically. It would not be an exaggeration to say that whitewater paddler use of the Sumner Falls recreation area has fallen off by as much as 80% since TransCanada adopted their preferred flow management regime.
            I and other concerned recreational users request that that the relicensing agreement for Wilder Dam require a return to a flow-management regime in the reach downstream of Wilder Dam that is as conducive to whitewater recreation at Sumner Falls as was prevalent during the period prior to TransCanada’s management. This will include (as available water allows) single turbine releases for several hours at a time, multiple days per week (including most summer weekends) with publicly available, reliable flow forecasts. A return to a reliable flow management regime like that which existed prior to TransCanada’s recent management regime will enable a resurgence in whitewater recreational use of the Sumner Falls area on the Connecticut River and an attendant infusion of tourist activity into the local economy.

Thank you,
Jolyon Pruszinski

Alden Bird, Let It Rain (Bethesda, MD: Malbaie Press, 2007).
Rich Hoffman, Jay Davis, and Bennet Schwartz, “Paddling,” in The Dartmouth Outing Guide, Third Edition (Lyme, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 1996).
Bruce Lessels, Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide, Third Edition (Boston: AMC, 1998).
Jolyon G. Rivoir-Pruszinski, “Paddling,” in The Dartmouth Outing Guide, Fifth Edition (Lyme, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2004).
Jolyon Pruszinski, “Hartlands Main Drag Wave,” from (10.9.2009).