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Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project Relicensing



FirstLight Power Resources is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) to operate the Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1889) and the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project (FERC No. 2485).  Both Projects utilize water from the Connecticut River to generate hydroelectric power.  The current FERC licenses for both projects expire on April 30, 2018.  Every 30-50 years, Licensees are required to relicense their hydroelectric facilities with FERC.  By April 30, 2016, two years prior to license expiration, FirstLight is required to file their Final License Applications for both projects.

Learn more about FERC and hydro licensing at


Project Locations & Features

The Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project are located on the Connecticut River in the states of Massachusetts (MA), New Hampshire (NH) and Vermont (VT)

The greater portion of the Turner Falls Project and Northfield Mountain Project, including developed facilities and most of the lands in the Project Boundary are located in Franklin County, MA; specifically, in the towns of Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Montague and Northfield.  The impoundment created by the Turners Falls Dam extends northerly into the town of Hinsdale, in Cheshire County, NH, and the town of Vernon, in Windham County, VT. 

The Turners Falls Dam is located at approximately river mile 122 (above Long Island Sound) on the Connecticut River in the towns of Gill and Montague, MA.  The dam creates an impoundment extending upstream approximately 20 miles to the base of TransCanada’s Vernon Hydroelectric Project Dam in VT/NH.  At the Turners Falls Dam is a gatehouse controlling flow into a Power Canal.  Associated with this canal are the development’s two hydroelectric generating facilities: Station No. 1 and Cabot Station.  Station No. 1 is located approximately one-third of the way down the power canal, while the Cabot Station is located at the downstream terminus of the power canal.  Station No. 1 and Cabot Station discharge into the Connecticut River approximately 0.9 miles downstream of the Turners Falls Dam. 
The Northfield Mountain Project is a pumped-storage facility that utilizes the Turners Falls Impoundment as its lower reservoir.  The tailrace of the Northfield Mountain Project is located approximately 5.2 miles upstream of Turners Falls Dam, on the east side of the impoundment.  The Northfield Mountain Project includes a man-made upper reservoir situated atop Northfield Mountain, to the east of the tailrace.  Water is typically pumped from the Turner Falls Impoundment to the upper reservoir at night, while generation occurs during the day. When generating, water is passed via an underground pressure shaft to an underground powerhouse.  An underground tailrace tunnel then delivers water to the Turners Falls Impoundment.

Project Facilities

Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1889)

 Key features of the Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project are the Turners Falls Dam and associated impoundment, a gatehouse, a power canal, two generating stations (Station No. 1 and Cabot Station), and a bypassed reach.  Each feature is described below.


Turners Falls Dam

The Turners Falls Dam consists of two individual concrete gravity dams, referred to as the Gill Dam and Montague Dam, which are connected by a natural rock island known as Great Island.  The 630-foot-long Montague Dam is founded on bedrock and connects Great Island to the west bank of the Connecticut River.  It includes four bascule type gates and a fixed crest section which is normally not overflowed.   When fully upright, the top of the bascule gates are at elevation 185.5 feet mean sea level (msl).

The 493-foot-long Gill Dam connects Great Island to the east bank of the Connecticut River, and includes three tainter spillway gates.   When closed, the elevation atop the tainter gates is at elevation 185.5 feet msl.


Turners Falls Impoundment

Turners Falls Impoundment extends upstream approximately 20 miles to the base of TransCanada’s Vernon Dam in Vernon, VT.  To provide storage capacity for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, the Turners Falls Impoundment elevation may vary, per the current FERC license, from a minimum elevation of 176.0 feet msl to a maximum elevation of 185.0 feet msl; a 9 foot fluctuation as measured at the dam.  The Turners Falls Impoundment is not a level pool; rather, it is sloped between Turners Falls Dam and Vernon Dam.  The slope of the water surface profile steepens as the magnitude of flow increases.



The gatehouse is located on the west of the Connecticut River. It forms the abutment for connecting the Montague spillway with the shoreline and is equipped with headgates controlling flow from the Turners Falls Impoundment to the power canal. The gatehouse houses 14 gates controlling flow to the power canal. 


Power Canal

The power canal is approximately 2.1 miles long and ranges in width from approximately 920 feet in the Cabot forebay (downstream end of canal) to 120 feet in the canal proper. The power canal has a design capacity of approximately 18,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).


Station No. 1 and Cabot Station

FirstLight has two hydroelectric facilities located on the power canal, including Station No. 1 and Cabot Station.  Station No. 1 operates under a gross head of approximately 43.7 feet, and has an approximate total electrical capacity and hydraulic capacity of 5,693 kilowatts (kW) and 2,210 cfs, respectively.  Cabot Station is located at the downstream terminus of the power canal. The powerhouse houses six vertical, Francis type, single runner turbines.  Cabot Station has a total station electrical capacity of 62.016 megawatts (MW) or roughly 10.336 MW/unit. The station has a total hydraulic capacity of approximately 13,728 cfs or roughly 2,288 cfs/unit.


Bypass Reach

The canal bypasses approximately 2.7 miles of the Connecticut River. Fall River, located near the head of the bypass channel, discharges into the bypass reach.  Station No. 1 discharges into the bypass reach approximately 0.9 miles downstream of the Turners Falls Dam.

Fish Passage Facilities

The Turner Falls Project is equipped with three upstream fish passage facilities, including (in order from downstream to upstream): the Cabot fishway, the Spillway fishway, and the Gatehouse fishway
. Each of these facilities is associated with the Turners Falls Hydroelectric Project.

Fish passing through the Cabot fishway enter the power canal; from there, they swim 2.1 miles upstream to the Gatehouse fishway. Fish bypassing the Cabot fishway move upstream via the bypassed reach where they will ultimately encounter the Turners Falls Dam. Fish arriving there are passed upstream via the Spillway fishway into the upper terminus of the power canal, below the gatehouse. Here, they rejoin fish that have passed to this point via the Cabot Ladder.  From the upstream end of the power canal, all fish are passed above the gatehouse via the Gatehouse fishway. The Gatehouse fishway delivers fish into the Turners Falls Impoundment to continue their journey up the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission (CRASC) establishes an annual schedule for the operation of upstream fish passage facilities at the Connecticut River dams. The schedules are based on the projected movement of migratory fish and may be adjusted in season to address actual observations.
Downstream Fish Passage Facilities
The downstream fish passage facilities are located at Cabot Station, at the downstream terminus of the power canal. Assuming no spill is occurring at Turners Falls Dam, fish moving downstream pass through the gatehouse (which has no racks) and into the power canal. Downstream fish passage facilities at Cabot Station consist of: reduced bar-spacing in the upper section of the intake racks; a broad-crested weir developed specifically to enhance fish passage at the log sluice; the log sluice itself, which has been resurfaced to provide a safe passage route; above-water lighting; and a sampling facility in the sluices.

In addition to downstream passage facilities at Cabot Station, a guide net is installed below the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project tailrace to reduce entrainment of emigrating salmon smolt into the Northfield intakes during pumping operation. The CRASC also establishes an annual schedule for the operation of downstream fish passage facilities at the Connecticut River dams.


Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project (FERC No. 2485)

Key features of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project
are the upper reservoir dam, intake channel, powerhouse, and tailrace tunnel.

Upper Reservoir Dam

The crest of the upper reservoir’s Main Dam is at elevation 1010 feet msl. There are three dikes known as the North, Northwest, and West Dikes, and are constructed in a similar manner and to the same crest elevation as the Main Dam.   


Upper Reservoir Storage Capacity
Per the current FERC license for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, the upper reservoir may operate between 1000.5 feet msl and 938 feet msl, which equates to a useable storage capacity of approximately 12,318 acre-feet. The upper reservoir was constructed to accommodate an elevation of 1004.5 feet msl as approved by FERC in 1976. In addition, the reservoir retains useable storage capacity down to elevation 920 feet msl.  Located southwest of the upper reservoir is the intake channel that conveys water to the powerhouse. 
The underground powerhouse contains four reversible pump/turbines operating at gross heads ranging from 753 to 824.5 feet. The electrical capacities of the units are as follows: Unit 1: 267.9 MW, Unit 2: 291.7 MW, Unit 3: 291.7 MW and Unit 4: 267.9 MW, for a total station nameplate capacity of 1,119.2 MW. Historically, the total station capacity was 1,080 MW (270 MW/unit); however, Units 2 and 3 recently underwent efficiency improvements with the replacement of the turbine runner, and rewind of the motor-generator.
When operating in a pumping mode, the approximate hydraulic capacity is 15,200 cfs (3,800 cfs/pump). Alternatively, when operating in a generation mode, the approximate hydraulic capacity is 20,000 cfs (5,000 cfs/turbine).
Water flows between the Powerhouse and the Turners Falls Impoundment via the Tailrace Tunnel. 

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