Connecticut River Defenders Rally to Stop Destruction by FirstLight Power

Connecticut River Defenders rally; Dodi Melnicoff at left, Northfield, May 27. MAPA photos/Merri Ansara.
Connecticut River Defenders rally; Dodi Melnicoff at left, Northfield, May 27. MAPA photos/Merri Ansara.

by Merri Ansara

On a beautiful warm and sunny day, May 27, some 90 people gathered at a rally called by the Connecticut River Defenders at the Riverview Picnic Area in Northfield, MA, adjacent to FirstLight Power Corporation’s Pumped Storage Station (NMPS) to learn about the destruction of the River and its resources by this facility, and about actions they can do to help to stop FirstLight and its destructive practices.

With speeches, chants and songs, the rally explained the issues and placed those issues in the context of the decades-long struggle to shut down the Vermont Nuclear Power Plant – a successful effort by grassroots organizations that speakers said could be repeated to shut down NMPS.  The call is to STOP the renewal of a 50 year license for FirstLight to continue its operations in Northfield.

The issue is that FirstLight has engineered a reverse river flow channel that suctions out not just water from the River but fish and other elements of the ecosystem and destroys them.  Speakers explained that not only was this destructive to the river and all that is in it, but that it is not even necessary:  FirstLight is a backup system on reserve in case of a future need.

Among the speakers was Liz “Coldwind” Santana Kiser, Nipmuc Councilor and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, who said:

The land we walk on today was once walked on many years ago by my ancestors.  They created many routes, trails, and pathways throughout this area and many of these trails can still be found today.  As we gather here today, we recognize our presence in the homeland of the Nipmuc people.  We honor this land and all the Indigenous peoples who were here at the time before and after the coming of the Europeans.  We recognize that we are temporarily on this land and must be mindful of our impact.  Like our ancestors before us we are stewards of this land.  We have a responsibility to prevent further harm to the land, the water, and its people.  We must take a moment to consider the history of violence, displacement, migration, enslavement, settlement, pollution and all the atrocity that this land has witnessed.  With this said I would ask that we together continue to work to make changes to heal this land from these histories…. To Nipmuc people the water does not only sustain life, it is sacred, and we recognize the important relationship we have with it.  Water is among the elements that make up and sustain human life.  We must preserve the river for future generations.  Native people say for the future of the seven generations.  Yes, we must preserve this river because it cannot be replaced.  One way to help in this effort is by supporting the Connecticut River Defenders in their work to protect the river.  We must all protect the river against the devastation that is practiced by the corporations, corporations that value profit over people.  AHO.

 The Connecticut River Defenders called on those present and others we can reach with this message to

  1. Send letters to FERC, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, at , to object to the re-licensing of the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage Station.  To make your comment to FERC, you first register, they send you an authorization, and then you can make your comment.  We suggest:   “I am writing to object to the re-licensing of  the Northfield Mountain Pump Storage Station Project # P-2485.  The NMPS and its reverse flow channel is destructive to the river and all that is in it, and it is not even necessary as NMPS is a back up system on reserve in case of future need.”  Be sure to include the project number.  (see also or call 866-208-3676).
  2. Write to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to denounce the destruction of the Connecticut river First Light Energy at Northfield in violation of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (section 401c).  Demand that the CWA 401c be upheld, with no disruption to fish and flows passage, no erosion of silt, no erosion of Native Nations’ lands and Sacred Sites, No death to aquatic life, which includes destruction of the protected short nose sturgeon, no oil spills and no disruption of the natural downstream flow of the river and its ecology.  Letters should go to:, and to (climate chief), and (undersecretary for the Environment, Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Another highlight of the day was the poem presented by Dodi Melnicoff, a member of the River Defenders:

I ask you who doesn’t love a river
Who hasn’t been stunned – awed by her beauty and majesty.
Who hasn’t been dazzled by her glimmer and refreshed by her solace
Who hasn’t marveled at her mysteries and paradoxes
Who isn’t enchanted by the stories of enlightenment at her banks
Who hasn’t gleaned hope by her healing waters
Who hasn’t gazed at the reflected world and found magic in her artistry
Who robs a river to death
Tries to capture her power
That greed that suffocates
That desire that subdues, that masters, exploits, and destroys
Today we will love this river to LIFE, to restore her dignity, her honor and to protect her from future harm
River never journeys alone.  She is filled with life, brimming, nourishing, cleansing
River connects lands, people and creatures carrying all life through her course, and holding
Sacred our common need to survive
She has her own destiny with ours indelibly tied
We see what is her nature, we perceive deeply - Living waters flow downstream
Today we are Standing up for Rivers with their full Rights of Nature.

As expressed in The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers:

“All rivers shall possess, at minimum, the following fundamental rights:

  • The right to flow,
  • The right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem,
  • The right to be free from pollution,
  • The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers,
  • The right to native biodiversity, and
  • The right to regeneration and restoration;”

For these we stand today

Connecticut River Defenders