Date: Fri 18-Dec-1998
Electric Deregulation Won't Affect Eagle Observation Area
BY ANDREW GOROSKO
Northeast Utilities (NU), which will be auctioning off its hydroelectric
generating plants on the Housatonic River, has reached an agreement with the
state to preserve environmentally important properties it owns along the
river, including the bald eagle observation area on the east bank of the
Housatonic in Southbury near Shepaug Dam.
Robert Gates, production manager of NU's Connecticut hydroelectric plants,
said Thursday NU will make clear to the utility company which buys Shepaug Dam
the importance of the eagle observation area.
When it seeks power plant relicensing for the Shepaug hydroelectric station
from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) next summer, NU will
include a provision in its application requiring an eagle observation area, Mr
It is highly unlikely that a new owner of the hydroelectric plant would seek
to eliminate the eagle observation provision from its FERC power-generating
license, Mr Gates said.
Up until now, FERC has not required NU to provide eagle observation facilities
near Shepaug Dam as part of NU's license to operate the hydroelectric plant.
The company has informally allowed the use of its property for eagle
NU is planning to sell its hydroelectric facilities under the terms of Public
Act 98-28, which was approved by the state legislature earlier this year. The
law calls for the deregulation of the electrical generating industry in
Connecticut to create economic competition among electric companies and
decreased electric rates for consumers.
The state and NU recently reached an agreement for the preservation of
environmentally important NU land near hydroelectric facilities.
"Preserving open space and providing affordable power are twin goals advanced
today," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a prepared statement.
"This agreement shows that savings to consumers from utility deregulation need
not and should not come at the expense of the environment. Environmental
protection must be a key component of deregulation, and we must ensure that
valuable open space and other precious natural resources are not lost," he
During recent hearings of the state Department of Public Utility Control
(DPUC), state environmental officials argued that auctioning off the NU land
would be a "quick sale," but would do little to protect and preserve important
natural resources and habitats on the land.
The bald eagle is listed as a state-endangered and federally-threatened
species. The overwintering birds arrive at Shepaug Dam in December and leave
in March. The perching, feeding, and daytime resting areas of the eagles are
typically trees close to the river near the Shepaug Dam.
The eagles linger in the area just downriver of the dam, waiting to eat fish
that have passed through the dam to pop up to the water's surface.
The bald eagle observation post is open for free visits by the public, but
reservations are required.
Reservations may be made by calling NU toll-free at 800/368-8954 Tuesdays
through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm.
The observation post is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 am
to 1 pm. The post will be open starting December 30. Its last day of operation
is March 17. It is located near Shepaug Dam, at the northern end of River Road
People who visit the observation post in groups of nine or more are limited in
their viewing time. Groups of eight or less are not restricted and may stay
for a full four-hour viewing period.
NU restricts the number of visitors to the observation post to 300 per viewing
Visitors are advised to bring high-powered field glasses or small telescopes
to view the eagles which feed in the Housatonic River a considerable distance
from the observation post. Observers are kept at least 1,000 feet from the
Volunteers from The Nature Conservancy and professional biologists are on hand
to answer visitors' questions.
The conservancy is an international group working to preserve natural habitats
for all species, including endangered and protected species.