Portage parades highlight need for improved recreation at dams

Portage Parade in Walpole, N.H.
Portage Parade in Walpole, N.H. Photo provided

WALPOLE, N.H. – The Connecticut River Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, American Whitewater, and other recreation partners thank everyone who participated in two Portage Parades in past weeks. The parades were held Saturday, July 10 at the Turners Falls Dam in Turners Falls, Mass., and Saturday, July 17 at the Bellows Falls Dam in Walpole, N.H.

In Massachusetts, parade marchers proved a 20-minute walkable portage around the Turners Falls Dam is possible. In New Hampshire, parade marchers proved how extreme the current portage route is along the busy Route 12 roadway. “The events sent a message to dam owners FirstLight Power and Great River Hydro,” said CRC Executive Director Andrew Fisk, “that better recreation plans, including improvements to these portage routes, are needed as part of their current applications for renewed operating licenses.”

Hydroelectric facilities like the Turners Falls and Bellows Falls Dams create obstacles to river recreation. Hydro companies are required to accommodate for recreation as part of their operating licenses. “Excessively long portages around these dams and poorly maintained put-ins are examples of the lack of investment the companies are making in publicly accessible recreation,” said Kristen Sykes, AMC director of Southern New England Conservation Projects and Partnerships.

“This is your opportunity to speak up for the river and call for investments that match the recreation needs of the 21st century,” said CRC River Steward Kathy Urffer. “These hydro companies are using the public’s river and we need to highlight recreation investments they should be making as part of new operating licenses that will be finalized soon and will remain in place for the next 30 to 50 years. It’s critical that we all speak up now in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence these licenses.”

“People need to advocate for access to and protection of recreational resources. It doesn’t happen without you,” said Faith Salter, AMC Director of Volunteer Relations. “Do not be intimidated about participating in the process. What you bring to the table is what you know about the river and what it needs to thrive and to support a thriving community.”

Since late 2012, five hydroelectric facilities in the heart of the Connecticut River have been in the process of renewing their operating licenses in a process known as relicensing. Great River Hydro owns the Wilder, Bellows Falls, and Vernon Dams in Vermont and New Hampshire. FirstLight Power owns Turners Falls Dam and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage in Massachusetts. Together, these five hydro facilities impact more than 175 miles of the Connecticut River. Once issued, their licenses will be in place and dictate the terms of how these hydro facilities will operate for the next 30 to 50 years.

To learn more about CRC, or to make a contribution to help protect rivers, visit www.ctriver.org.

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