Wednesday, December 14, 2022

A dam dispute: Talks stall at Conklingville


conklingville dam

A dispute between the state agency that controls the Conklingville Dam and the private hydropower company that operates there is likely headed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While federal licenses assigned to both the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District and Brookfield Renewables don’t expire for another two decades, an operating agreement between the two expires Dec. 31. Talks to extend or amend the agreement, which outlines payments Brookfield makes to the district, fell apart in recent weeks.

If you want to dive deep into dam wonkery, you can read along with communications posted on the district website. For the quick summary, the district wants to increase what it charges for 56 feet of water created by the dam and used to generate power. Brookfield Renewables, a large company based in Canada that operates a litany of dams in the Adirondacks as Erie Boulevard Hydropower, argues it already pays for that right under a FERC-mandated headwater benefit and should only pay a small cost to time water releases.

The district is planning to pass certain water flows through its dam structure starting Jan. 1, limiting the flows that will go through the separate powerhouse building. That will launch a FERC dispute resolution process to sort out the issue.

A topic that may gain salience if the dispute continues beyond next year or FERC sides with Brookfield: the financial fallout could threaten planned cuts to payments downstream counties (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington and Warren) make to the district. The district will be developing its next three-year budget to go into effect June 2024, and how the Conklingville dispute plays out will impact the assessments charged to the counties.

It’s been a busy time at Paul Smith’s College, where a merger with Fedcap is underway. Dan Kelting, who led the Adirondack Watershed Institute for 20 years, was appointed interim president at Paul Smith’s.

Last week, the institute named Zoë Smith as the water quality organization’s new leader. Smith, who worked as Kelting’s deputy for four years and is a member of the Adirondack Park Agency board, has spent the past 20 years in a variety of Adirondack conservation roles.

AWI plays a critical role as a trusted organization focused on water science and stewardship throughout the park. It runs the region’s largest boat steward program, operates one of the only state-certified labs in the park and communicates important scientific findings to the public.

Also, check out this quick story on the people of New York’s latest addition to the Adirondack Forest Preserve on beautiful Thirteenth Lake.

The Conklingville Dam. Photo by Zachary Matson

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

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