Maine Hydro Project Certified Low Impact

Hydroelectric projects have fought a reputation as environmental wrecking systems. But the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) of Maine is working to find out just how many projects are trying to work with the land instead of against it.

Portland, Maine – June 30, 2004 [] Last month LIHI certified the 19.4 MW Worumbo Hydroelectric Project on the Androscoggin River in Lisbon, Maine as the 10th low impact project in the nation, and the first low impact project in Maine. Worumbo is owned by the Miller Hydro Group and licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). LIHI certified its first plant in March of 2001. Their voluntary certification program is designed to help consumers identify environmentally sound, low impact hydropower facilities for emerging green energy markets. The institute is a nonprofit organization that supports market incentives for reducing the effects of hydropower dams on the nation’s rivers and streams. “We hope this certification will lead to an expansion of the market for green electricity in New England. Miller Hydro Group expects to supply Renewable Energy Certificates from the Worumbo Project to Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance for resale to residential customers in Massachusetts,” Mark Isaacson, who is the vice president of the group, said. There are eight environmentally rigorous, low-impact criteria that a hydro project applying for certification has to meet; they are: river flows, water quality, fish passage and protection, watershed health, endangered species protection, cultural resources, recreation use and access, and whether or not the dam itself has been recommended for removal. Feed back from a public comment period, review by an independent technical consultant, consultations with state and federal natural resource agencies, and evaluation by the LIHI Governing Board also help to determine the true effect a project has on the surrounding community and land. Worumbo received a unanimous vote from the LIHI board. Fred Ayer, who is the executive director of LIHI, said he hopes that other hydro projects in Maine will seek their low-impact certification. “It is clear to me that there is a growing interest and demand for green electricity products in Maine,” Ayer said. “If you couple that with the fact that Maine has a large number of recently re-licensed hydro projects, it seems to me it then only becomes a question of certifying the supply to meet the growing demand.” The Worumbo Project consists of a dam and spillway with a crest elevation of 97 feet above mean sea level (msl). An intake section and integral powerhouse with two turbine generators units has a rated capacity of 19.4 MW at an operating head of 30.5 feet, and the crest gate and flashboard system is designed to fail when overtopped by two feet of water. An impoundment with a surface area of 190 acres at a normal full pond elevation of 98.5 feet above msl is created because of the dam. Worumbo is currently operated as a run-of-river project with outflow approximately equal to inflow on an instantaneous basis. The project is also operated to provide seasonally varied, minimum flow releases into the 850 foot-long bypassed river reach between the Durham side dam and the end of the tailrace training wall. Current operation permits the impoundment to be drawn down by a maximum of 1.5 feet, and minimum flow release from the project is maintained at 1,700 cfs or inflow, whichever is less, during impoundment refilling. Other projects certified by LIHI are: Strawberry Hydroelectric Project, Wyoming; Skagit River Hydro Project, Washington; Stagecoach Dam and Reservoir, Colorado; Island Park Facility, Idaho; Putnam Hydropower, Connecticut; and Fall Creek Project, Oregon.
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