Relicensing Harris Station
Harris Station was originally licensed on May 21, 1954. The license was dated to expire on December 31, 2001. The relicensing procedure began well before the end of the license's term. By December of 1999, FPL had already compiled their entire application to FERC for a new license. Earlier in the process, FPL began conversing with stakeholders and regulators to determine what studies needed to be done and what concerns existed about Harris.
The issuance of the original license in 1954 came well before the era of environmental regulation and concern, which began on a large scale in the 1970s. Thus, the relicensing procedure involved many biological studies in Indian Pond, the Kennebec Gorge, and surrounding tributary streams to collect scientific data. Water quality and wildlife habitat studies accounted for most of these studies. Harris and Indian Pond complied with the prescribed water quality standards, which is a testament to the unspoiled character of the area. Fish species in the area include landlocked salmon, brook trout, lake trout, and smallmouth bass. In the impoundment, wildlife concerns focused on loon habitat. Drawdowns of Indian Pond can affect the location of loon nests in relation to the water's edge and provide land animals with access to nests. The solution to this issue is the placement of loon platforms anchored in the water for nesting sites. Studies done in conjunction with the relicensing found that Indian Pond's loon population is healthy. One issue in the Indian Pond area is that its shallow bays are beginning to be dominated by invasive species such as bladderwort and milfoil. Scientific studies were only one piece of the relicensing application and procedure.
Along with assessing the biological state of the project, FPL needed to gather data on what users thought about programs and facilities associated with Harris. Commercial rafting and fishing are the two most important sources of income in the area surrounding Harris throughout the summer. Fishermen and rafters have different preferences for flows in the river. Whitewater paddlers love big water and large releases, while fishermen enjoy lower flows that allow access to fish and make fishing more pleasant. The relicensing process included many conversations with the different stakeholders. Eventually, settlements were agreed upon and different flow levels were identified. The new minimum flow requirements, also known as fish flow, dictated levels of 300cfs from May 1 to October 1 and 140cfs for the remainder of the year. Whitewater users were guaranteed 4,800cfs for three hours a day from June 1 to September 30 and two recreational 8,000cfs releases per season. The settlement agreement also addressed whitewater user fees for access to the river over FPL land and conservation easements on FPL property in the area.
Relicensing of a hydropower project is always a large undertaking, and can become highly controversial. In the case of Harris Station, involving all the stakeholders and making attempts to satisfy everyone as much as possible largely avoided controversy. Overall, the relicensing process for Harris Station was successful and had served to protect recreational and biological interests on the Kennebec River.
Indian Pond in the early winter.
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The history of Harris Station.
Upstream to Indian Pond and Moosehead Lake.
Downstream through the Kennebec Gorge to Wyman Lake.
What does the future hold for Harris?