September 17, 2015
Raquette River Advisory Council Expained
Vice-Chair, Conservation: John Omohundro, 315-265-8365
If you enjoy the Raquette River and care about its future, you probably should know more about the RRAC (pronounced “rack.”) I was present at its birth 13 years ago and I’m still ADK’s representative at meetings.
The Raquette River Advisory Council was formed in 2002 when the federal government issued a new hydroelectric license to Niagara Mohawk to operate most of the generating facilities between Piercefield and the St. Lawrence River. All told, there are more than a dozen dams covered by the license, linked to almost as many generating plants. Brookfield Renewable Energy (Erie Hydropower, Inc. is the holding company) now has that license.
Because the license is for 35 years, the RRAC was created to adapt to changing conditions in the human or natural scene that may affect the terms of the license, such as river flows and land use management. We focus on the environmental and recreational aspects of the license-holder’s operations. We meet twice a year in Potsdam to perform that review. We have a small fund of money, added to annually by the license-holder, to spend on environmental research or protection and current or new recreational facilities.
The council is composed of the 14 stakeholders who signed the settlement agreement in 1998, one of which is ADK. The late, great Betty Lou Bailey and I sat at table with Ni Mo representatives and other stakeholders for two years, hammering out the terms of the license.
Other representatives on the RRAC are from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Trout Unlimited, NY Conservation Council, and St. Lawrence County, among others. Collectively we representatives are well versed in the geography, history, ecology, biology, and human activities on the Raquette River.
The 2002 license created the Red Sandstone Trail and confirmed interest in Stone Valley Cooperative Recreation Area. Steps were taken to improve the fish habitat, such as keeping water in the “bypass reaches” (engineer lingo for the original river beds). Several car-top boat launches were built, and carries were laid out between each reservoir. In recent years we’ve asked for changes in the company’s land use regulations, such as including mountain biking, and discussed legal and illegal ATV access.
Other issues before the RRAC include the Town of Colton’s plans at the Stone Valley trail to upgrade visitor’s facilities for whitewater release days, and a plan to protect the river against aquatic invasive species (see my Conservation column). Brookfield strives to make RRAC happy because watching over us both is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which issues - and enforces - its license.
Other councils in this region are the St. Regis Advisory Council (SRAC), which Blair Madore attends as ADK’s representative, and the Oswegatchie River Advisory Council (ORAC), which is just starting up and (I think) still needs an ADK representative.
Sep 17, 2015: RRAC Explained