The New York Power Authority formally marked the start of operation Aug. 9 of a $2 million eel passage facility at the 912-MW St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power project.
The new facility, built as part of NYPA’s 50-year relicense for St. Lawrence-FDR (No. 2000), permits the passage of American eels over the project’s Robert Moses Power Dam to the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Once there, young eels will grow and mature before returning to the ocean.
More than 6,200 eels already have passed through the facility since it went into service July 1. It will operate each year during the eels’ annual migration period, from July 1 to the end of October.
Officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation were on hand for the event. C&S Engineers of Syracuse, N.Y., designed the facility, which was built by B-S Industrial Contracting Inc. of Gouverneur, N.Y.
The structure provides a gentle stream of water and capitalizes on the migrating eels’ instinct to swim upstream against flows on their journey of some 2,500 miles from the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, in the Atlantic Ocean.
As part of relicensing, NYPA is investing more than $66 million in fish and wildlife habitat improvements and related activities, including the eel passage facility. Other investments include a Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund to be administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service and a research and environmental education fund focused on the project area.
Fish agencies consider endangered listing for eels
The Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries are in the process of determining whether American eels should be listed as a threatened or endangered species for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Once the review is complete, the agencies will determine whether to propose listing.
The National Hydropower Association has said many of its member companies operate hydro projects on rivers where the eel is present. It said listing a species is significant and would impose significant additional burdens on the owners and operators of hydroelectric facilities.
Petitioners seeking the review have claimed that 1,100 hydro dams on the eastern seaboard might represent a major source of mortality.