FRGG Annual Lecture Series - Free and Open to the Public. October 12th, 2018, 7PM. Green Mountain Technology and Career Center at Lamoille Union High School, Hyde Park. 

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“Wildlife of Green River Reservoir in a Time of Changing Climate”

Tom Rogers is a biologist who has worked on a variety of conservation projects, researching zebras in Kenya, golden-winged warblers in New York, sage grouse and bald eagles in Wyoming, and grizzly bears in Montana.  Tom currently works in outreach for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, connecting the public with fish and wildlife through writing, speaking, and photography. 

Through colorful photos and captivating stories, the audience will come away with a new understanding of how climate change is affecting wildlife in Vermont, specifically in the Green River Reservoir area.  Rogers will talk about what people can do to help conserve biodiversity in Vermont in the face of these new threats.

“From warmer, wetter winters to increasingly severe storms, wildlife faces a variety of challenges from a changing climate,” said Rogers.  “We’ll discuss how different species might continue to respond to many of these challenges and what conservationists are doing to address them.”



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Overview: Green River Reservoir Dam re-licensing process

The Friends of Green River Reservoir is an organization committed to preserving the Green River Reservoir and to protecting and enhancing its ecological habitat.  These goals are fundamental to our mission.  

As our members are aware, the FGRR Board is monitoring Morrisville’s Water and Light's (MWL) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Green River Reservoir Dam re-licensing process, a complex legal process involving multiple parties that began in 2010 and is now before the Vermont Environmental Court (EC), Absent a settlement among all parties and subsequent approval by the Environmental Court, a trial focusing on unresolved issues is scheduled to begin in early 2018.  The Board has committed significant human and financial resources to review and respond to EC filings and court processes  

 In November 2016 in order to be an intervenor and stay abreast of developments, the Board hired Anthony Iarrapino, Esq. of Montpelier to represent us before the EC and our intervention request was approved. Thus, the Friends can now participate in all legal EC appeal processes, including receiving all court correspondence, participating in Discovery, filing motions, presenting witnesses and expert testimony, cross examination of witness, and participation in potential settlement negotiations.

The Board has not predetermined its position on specific contentious issues raised by appealing parties, but will be actively participating in the review of required supporting evidence. Consistent with our mission, our goal will be to support reasonable and sustainable practices that support the continued existence of the dam and advance reservoir preservation and ecological habitat protection and enhancement. We will keep updating information on our FGRR website   

Update July 2018, Morrisville Water and Light Water Quality Certificate Appeal

The trial phase of Morrisville Water and Light's  ( MWL) appeal from a Water Quality Certificate (WQC)  issued by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources ( ANR) ended April  14, 2019.  The heart of the Green River Reservoir appeal remains the degree to which MWL can release water from the reservoir during winter months.  The WQC limits the releases to 18 inches. ANR experts assert that this level of release achieves the standards as articulated in current State  statutes regarding the dam water release effects on the aquatic ecology of the reservoir and the downstream Green River. MWL claims that the proposed release level is overly restrictive and seeks a certificate modification to allow releases to a depth of 6 feet during the winter months.

The FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) -  the ultimate authority  on hydro-dam regulation -  ruled that MWL can continue to operate under its existing license until the Environmental Court makes its ruling. MWL current licensed practice is to limit winter releases to 6 feet, or, under special conditions, to 10 feet.  The depth of the release increases the amount of hydro power produced at the Green River Reservoir hydro-facility as well as MWL's other two downstream Lamoille River hydro-power units.  Given the proposed reduction in hydro-power, MWL claims that the Green River Reservoir hydro-project will not be financially viable and that Morrisville Village Trustees ( Green River Reservoir dam owners and operators) would look to alternatives to their continued operation of the dam. The judge has ruled that, under current state statutes, economic considerations are not relevant in a WQC appeal.  Thus, the water release level issue remains centered upon differing experts conclusions regarding aquatic habitat effects.

Superior Court, Environmental Division Judge Thomas Walsh ordered trial participants to make several  additional filings before he will issue an order addressing the appeal.  The parties initial filings are to summarize what each party feels are the relevant facts presented to the court to date  ( the “Findings of Fact”) and conclusions of law ( proposed resolution), based upon those facts.  Subsequent filings allow for parties to take issue with other parties filings.  

The Judge contemplates issuing his final order before the end of this year.   At that time, parties will have the option of a further appeal of Judge Walsh's order to the State's Supreme Court, or adhering to the Judge's decision.  A State Supreme Court appeal would likely take a minimum of an additional year or two to reach its conclusion.    

The Friends of Green River Reservoir Board of Directors continues to monitor Court communications and to encourage all parties to search for creative solutions that support the continued existence of the dam and advance reservoir preservation and ecological habitat protection and enhancement. 


March 24th, 2018. Update on the Green River Dam Relicensing Appeal. By board member Michael Wickenden

The Friends of Green River Reservoir Board (“the Board”) continues to closely monitor Morrisville Water and Light’s(MWL) appeal to the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division (“the Court”) of a water quality certification issued by Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The water quality certificate is required by the Federal Energy Regulations Commission (FERC) and is used by FERC to establish the conditions for the renewal of a 30-year Green River Reservoir Dam license. FERC is the ultimate authority that regulates both the construction and operational phases of hydro-projects.  

MWL's appeal raised over a dozen issues in regards to the certificate. Principally, MWL claims that ANR has not accurately applied Vermont's water quality standards.  A consequence of ANR's alleged inaccuracy is their recommendation for a significant decrease in the amount and timing of water released that would be available to produce winter hydro-power.  MWL states that if they have to abide by the conditions of ANR's water quality certification for Green River Reservoir, the profitability and utility of the dam will be compromised.  If that is the case, MWL has publicly stated that they may consider asking FERC for permission to remove the dam and return the reservoir to its pre-reservoir natural condition.   A FERC dam removal legal proceeding is typically an expensive, multiyear exercise that also requires Vermont ANR approval. Because the outcome of a proceeding of this nature is uncertain and would require sizable MWL legal, dam removal, and habitat restoration costs, MWL would exhaust all other alternatives before committing their ratepayers to fund that option.

The appeal trial date has been set for April 2 – 13, 2018.On April 2nd, the case will begin with a short discussion to set a date for a site visit.  Hearings will begin on April 3rd and will be held in the Costello Courthouse on Main St. in Burlington. The parties will present their evidence in the following order: Morrisville Water and Light; American Whitewater/Vermont Paddlers Club; Vermont Natural Resources Council/Trout Unlimited; Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Many issues raised in MWL original appeal have been the subject of recent court orders. For example, on June 13, 2017, the Court ruled that “state and federal water quality laws do not authorize consideration of economic or social factors.” Consequently, lost hydro-power production and the resultant decrease in MWL revenue as a result of decreased winter water level draw-downs is not a factor that the Court will consider when it evaluates MWL's appeal. What remains to be decided by the Court is whether ANR's water flow recommendations accurately result in achieving Vermont's water quality standards, or, as MWL and American Whitewater's and Vermont Paddlers Club's expert witnesses will testify, ANR's requirements limiting winter water draw-downs are overly restrictive. The Court's decision is expected by the fall of 2018.

The Friend's fundamental mission remains the preservation of Green River Reservoir's highest environmental standards consistent with the long-term preservation of the dam.  To advance thatmission, the Board hired Anthony Iarrapino, Esq. to be the Friend's legal counsel and enable our participation in the Green River Dam Relicensing and Appeal.  The Board periodically meets with counsel to review legal filings and plan strategy.  In February 2017, members of the Board met with MWL Trustees and participated in a MWL sponsored public hearing at People's Academy.  In addition, the Board reached out and met with Julie Moore, the Secretary of ANR; with VNRC’s Jon Groveman, Esq., Public Policy and Water Program Director,and B.T. Fitzgerald, Dam Project & Vermont Dam Task Force Coordinator; and with Christine Hallquist, former CEO of Vermont Electric Coop.  Our discussions have centered around how we can collectively come together to reach a beneficial and reasonable solution.  What we can confirm is that all parties share the long-term vision of a safe, functioning dam and reservoir that meets or exceeds state and federal water quality standards.  What is still unclear is the appropriate application of those standards to the Green River Reservoir and how their application will affect the dam's future operations.  Rest assured that the Board will remain active in keeping its membership informed and working with any and all interested parties to achieve a solution that preserves an environmentally sound reservoir.

Update October 2017

In terms of schedule, the principal parties are required to disclose the identity of their expert witnesses by November 1, 2017. Thereafter will follow another round of discovery specifically focusing on the opinions the experts will offer in Court. The trial is tentatively scheduled for March/April 2018.

Meanwhile, the parties continue to exchange discovery requests and responses of a highly technical nature The Agency of Natural Resources and Morrisville Water and Light are busy in the discovery process--an exchange of information whose purpose is to allow each party to test the strengths and weaknesses of the other's case. In September, Morrisville Water and Light was scheduled to conduct its own flow and aquatic biota studies downstream of the Green River Dam. The objective of these studies is ostensibly to challenge the scientific basis for ANR's position that healthy aquatic communities of fish and other biota require more protective in-stream flow regimes than those currently achieved by Morrisville Water and Light. The results of the study and other expert opinions on all sides will be explored in further discovery through the fall with trial in the case expected in spring 2018.

July 14th, 2018, Article in Times Argus "Water vs. Recreation: Green River Reservoir at center of high profile debate." Read

April 25th, 2018. Article in Seven Days "Water Quality Rules Could Generate Trouble at Green River Reservoir." Read here.

June 18th 2017, article in Vt. Digger, Judge:Recreation. profit not part of Green River dam equation. Read here

June 15th 2017, VPR article on Environmental Court Decision

April 6th, 2017 Legal update here

2/9/2017 Hearing scheduled before the Public Service Board on Morrisville Water and Light's Integrated Resource Plan. Here

December 22nd, 2016, News and Citizen article

Local news, "Friend's Mobilizing to Save the Reservoir". Read the article here.

December 14th, 2016, VPR News 

Friends of Green River Reservoir Memberships Up in Advance of Environmental Court Appeal. Read the full story here

December 14th, 2016, UPDATE From FGRR Board of Directors, read here

November 2016 Green River Reservoir Relicensing Situation. Read here

September 20th, 2016 The Future of the Green River Reservoir. Read here