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Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program (7-VT-a)

In Vermont, small-low-impact hydroelectric projects may qualify for the Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program. The Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program is an optional program that provides enhanced assistance from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), the Vermont Public Service Department (Department) and the Vermont State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, for low impact projects. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Overview. Although the Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program is not required, developers should consider this optional pathway in order to better understand the cultural and natural concerns regarding the project before proceeding with the time- and resource-intensive Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process.


The Program is designed to provide an expedited review process for small-low-impact hydroelectric projects in accordance with the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013. The ANR, the Department, and SHPO will conduct a multi-agency site visit in order to determine whether the project qualifies for enhanced assistance. Enhanced assistance includes waiving pre-filing consultation, supporting shorter comment periods, and/or issuing a letter to FERC indicating that state agency requirements are satisfied. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.


Small Hydropower Assistance Program Process

7-VT-a.1 to 7-VT-a.2 — Is the Project a New Project that Meets the Small-Low-Impact Screening Criteria?

Proposals for new hydroelectric projects, in Vermont, that meet the Small Hydropower Screening Criteria for limited resource impacts may be eligible for the Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program. A developer must demonstrate that the project meets all of the following criteria to qualify for a multi-agency site visit:

  1. The project will not be located on Class A waters, Outstanding Resource Waters, or federal or state protected river reaches. A list of Class A and Outstanding Resource Waters is available on the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Natural Resources Atlas;
  2. The project will be located at an existing dam, or the project will not require a dam or other impoundment;
  3. The project will be located on lands controlled by the applicant (developer) or will otherwise demonstrate support from adjoining landowners;
  4. The project will not increase the impoundment elevation;
  5. The project will be operated as a true run-of river project. “A true run-of-river project is one which does not operate out of storage and, therefore, does not artificially regulate streamflows below the project’s trailrace. Outflow from the project is equal to inflow to the project’s impoundment on an instantaneous basis.” Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Screening Criteria Summary and Application Instructions;
  6. The project will have proposed bypass flows that will meet hydrologic standards as defined by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Procedure for Determining Acceptable Minimum Stream Flows and Questions and Answers on the New England Flow Policy.

OR

  1. Where the project creates virtually no bypass (tailrace discharges at the dam or into plunge pool close to the dam such that adequate circulation is maintained) and will have a spillage proposal of at least 7Q10 drought flow. “7Q10 refers to the lowest average streamflow expected to occur for seven consecutive days with an average frequency of once in ten years. If the stream is a gaged stream, ANR can supply this statistic. If not, use 0.1 csm, the statewide value.” Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Summary and Application Instructions, at p. 2

Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Screening Criteria Summary and Application Instructions.

7-VT-a.3 — Small Hydropower Assistance Program Application

If the developer meets the Small Hydropower Screening Criteria they should submit a complete Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Application form to the Vermont Public Service Department.

7-VT-a.4 to 7-VT-a.5 — Review Application Materials for Completeness

The Department will review the application for technical and administrative completeness. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Screening Criteria Summary and Application Instructions, at p. 2.

7-VT-a.6 — Conduct Site Visit

After the Department determines that the application is administratively complete and complies with the required screening criteria (technically complete), the Department, ANR and SHPO will contact the applicant (developer) to schedule a multi-agency site visit within in thirty (30) days of receiving a complete application. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Screening Criteria Summary and Application Instructions, at p. 2.

During the site visit the Department, ANR and SHPO representatives will assess potential cultural and natural resources issues raised by the project. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.

7-VT-a.7 — Site-Specific Determination

The Department, ANR and SHPO will make a site-specific determination based on the site visit and application materials. The site-specific determination will dictate whether the project qualifies for enhanced assistance (e.g., waiving pre-filing consultation, supporting shorter comment periods, and/or issuing a letter to FERC indicating that agency requirements are satisfied, as appropriate in each circumstance) provided by the Small Hydropower Assistance Program. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.

The project must meet the following resource agency determinations (made based on the site-visit) in order to qualify for enhanced assistance:

  • ANR must determine that:
  1. Fish passage facilities are not needed;
  2. The project will not threaten or endanger species;
  3. The project does not significantly alter site aesthetics;
  4. The project is not located where there is a bypass of high habitat value;
  5. The project’s proposed spillage is adequate to address aesthetics; and
  6. The project will comply with Stream Alteration Standards, 10 V.S.A. § 1023(a).

Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.

The Department, ANR and SHPO will notify the applicant (developer) within thirty (30) days of the site visit of the site-specific determination. The determination will advise the applicant (developer) of potential cultural and natural resource issues that the developer will need to address in the 401 Water Quality Certification and FERC processes. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.

7-VT-a.8 to 7-VT-a.9 — Has the Developer Addressed the Cultural and Natural Resource Issues Raised?; Joint Letter to FERC (if applicable)

The developer must address the potential cultural and natural issues raised by the Department, ANR and SHPO in order to qualify for enhanced assistance by the state agencies. Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary. The Department, ANR and SHPO will issue a joint letter to FERC, if the applicant (developer) has satisfactorily addressed any cultural and natural resource issues raised by the agencies. The joint letter would “indicate that state agency concerns have been satisfactorily resolved, agreeing to waive scoping and/or pre-filing consultation, and potentially supporting shorter comment periods in the FERC process.” Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.

“The timing and scope of the joint letter is determined on a case-by-case basis and is dependent upon the natural and cultural resource issues raised by the project and the steps that have been taken by the applicant (developer) to address those concerns.” Vermont Small Hydropower Assistance Program Site-Specific Determinations Summary.




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Edit Vermont Department of Public Service
Renewable Energy Development Director
802-828-3058
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Edit Vermont Division for Historic Preservation
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802-272-7358
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Edit Vermont Division for Historic Preservation
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802-828-3222
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