Date: Fri 18-Dec-1998

Date: Fri 18-Dec-1998

Publication: Bee

Author: ANDYG

Quick Words:


Full Text:

Electric Deregulation Won't Affect Eagle Observation Area


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

Gates said.

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.

Eagle Site

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

in Southbury.

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.