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N.H. relicensing pact promotes fish passage on Merrimack

Public Service Co. of New Hampshire has reached a relicensing settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that promotes fish and eel passage planning at the utility's 29.9-MW Merrimack River hydroelectric project.

PSNH and FWS announced Aug. 31 that the agreement sets a timetable for constructing fish passage on New Hampshire's Merrimack River, based on the number of fish returning to the river. The accord also calls for future design and construction of passage for American eels at the project's three hydropower developments, 16-MW Amoskeag, 1.6-MW Hooksett, and 12.3-MW Garvins Falls.

FWS is expected to modify its preliminary fishway prescription for the project's new hydropower license to conform to the agreement, PSNH spokesman Martin Murray said. PSNH and FWS did not disclose the cost of operating the project under the agreement.

PSNH has operated the Merrimack River project (No. 1893) under an annual license since its original license expired in December 2005. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering the company's relicense application.

PSNH said the agreement will give flexibility to a timetable for fishway design, based on the number of fish migrating upstream, but ensures fish passage will be in place when needed.

The Amoskeag development is farthest downstream on the Merrimack, in Manchester and Hooksett. The Hooksett development is eight miles upstream of Amoskeag, in Hookset and Bow. Garvins Falls is in Concord and Bow, nearly six miles upstream of Hooksett Dam.

The settlement calls for upstream fish passage to be designed, built, and placed into operation at the Hooksett development within three years after a significant increase in the number of shad or river herring passing the Amoskeag development in any given year. A similar scenario exists for future upstream passage at Garvins Falls.

The 170-year-old Amoskeag Dam already has a fish ladder, built in 1989 by PSNH in cooperation with FWS and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to help restore anadromous fish.

The agreement also calls for an evaluation, and possible modification, of downstream fish passage at all three facilities, as well as a schedule for interim and permanent upstream eel passage.

PSNH, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, owns nine small hydropower plants in New Hampshire and Vermont totaling 68 MW. (HNN 7/26/06)

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