Great River Hydro, the owner of the Wilder, Bellows Falls and Vernon dams in Vermont and New Hampshire, is seeking new operating licenses under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that will allow them to continue to profit on the Connecticut River for the next 40-50 years. How much of that profit will come back to the local communities to support your river?
Based on their filings to FERC, Great River Hydro indicated that Wilder, Bellows Falls and Vernon collectively made $27.9 million in revenue in 2016 and $33.5 million in 2019. They net somewhere between $1.8 million and $18.3 million a year, yet they only intend to invest about $877,825 a year over the course of the 40-year license in protection and mitigation measures — like providing improved fish passage, improving access to the river, and educational programming for our communities.
These hydro companies invest in the short term, and as the people forget what the companies promised because of the relicensing process, they reap the profits from the facilities for decades to come.
Simultaneously, Great River Hydro has worked hard to reduce its taxes by using its lawyers to strong-arm the towns that host these facilities. Vernon had to engage in a settlement agreement in 2014 to satisfy TransCanada’s (Great River’s precursor) appeal of its 2012, 2013 and 2014 taxes, which locked the assessed value of the Vernon facility until 2019. Similarly, Rockingham had to spend four years in court with Great River to resolve an appeal of its 2012 tax assessment.
Great River Hydro has proposed a change in how the facilities will operate over the coming license which will help the river and will not impact their revenues. A real win-win! We’re not against Great River Hydro making a reasonable return on their investment, but they should get that only after making a better deal with the public and our local communities.
That means being transparent and telling the whole story about their revenue and expenses and guaranteeing a return of that profit annually to support our communities and the health of your river over the next 40 years.
Local communities, the states and individuals should be ready to comment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when we get the chance to ensure that these new licenses give back to support the river and your local communities. You can learn how to speak up at www.ctriver.org/hydropower or PowerOfWater.fish.