Lowell Hydroelectric Project
Lowell Hydroelectric Project
Supporting One of the United States’ Most Historically Significant Hydropower Projects
For those looking for living artifacts of the United States’ renewable energy industry, the Lowell Hydroelectric Project in Lowell, Massachusetts, should be one of the first stops. Not only does the project house the first Francis Turbine – now the most widely-used hydroelectric turbine – built in the 1840s, but it also includes the Pawtucket Dam, Lowell’s historic canal system, and various water management features designed and constructed by James Francis himself. These innovations powered this historic mill town, as well as the country’s industrial revolution.
Our team is the lead consultant for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower relicensing of the Lowell Hydroelectric Project, which is nestled among historic districts — the Locks and Canals Historic District and the Lowell National Historical Park — with dozens of buildings over centuries old. Due to the historical significance of the project, our team has worked closely with various local and federal stakeholders to help preserve the area’s historical resources and provide a long-term source of clean and renewable electricity to the greater New England area.
Fly Over the History and Beauty of American Hydropower
The 15-megawatt project, operated by Boott Hydropower, includes the 1,093-foot-long Pawtucket Dam, the E.L. Field powerhouse, the historic canal system, and upstream and downstream fish passage structures. In support of obtaining a new license to continue operation of the project, our team has conducted various studies, including a focus on instream river flows, aquatic resources, fluid dynamics modeling, fish passage and protection, recreation and cultural resources.
Evaluating Fish Passage Routes
The Merrimack River, which passes by 200 communities and 2.6 million people, is one of the most important river basins in New England for diadromous fish, which migrate between the ocean and freshwater habitats to spawn and complete their life cycles. Over the past two centuries, native aquatic species have decreased due to pollution and overfishing.
In recent years, the river’s water quality has improved, and our team has worked with Boott Hydropower, our teaming partners, and resource agencies to leverage the relicensing process in support of an effort to restore fish populations.
The Lowell Hydroelectric Project has several existing upstream and downstream fish passages structures that allow various fish species to reach their native upstream habitats and return to the downstream Atlantic Ocean. Our team worked extensively with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and federal fishery resource agencies to study the effectiveness of these passage structures and develop an approach to enhance the ability of fish to migrate upstream and downstream of the project.
Facilitating Effective Collaboration
Given the complexity of the resources associated with the Lowell Hydroelectric Project and the comprehensive nature of FERC’s relicensing process, Boott Hydropower took the proactive approach of initiating resource-specific settlement discussions with project stakeholders to address the interests of the various stakeholders. More than 30 participants engaged in these settlement discussions, including community members, local and federal agencies, and advocacy groups.
Our team served as the facilitator, driving long-term agreements focusing on upstream and downstream fish passage, natural resource protection measures, and historical preservation and management of the canal system. These proactive settlement discussions will define how the Lowell Hydroelectric Project will be managed over the term of the new license.