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MY TURN, Greenfield Recorder, December 29, 2022


On this winter solstice I am reminded of a time in June, during the longest days, when the Connecticut River Defenders formed to be a resounding voice for the river we all love. A small eager lifeline was tossed.

We cannot separate the demise of our rivers, forests and delicate ecosystems from the impact of European colonizers and the predominant economy which favors exploitation, extraction and huge profit over all else. Even life itself. The historic suffering and torture on this river is wide and deep and persists into today. Now it is our turn, our call to answer, and to join together.

The river defenders are an outgrowth of decades of work which many of you have led or taken part in over more than a decade on bridges and in the streets. We are grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, researchers, scientists, journalists and all those who love what is natural and free. We yearn for our river, our planet, and in turn ourselves to be healed to recover.

Since becoming a group we have gone to public events to educate and inform local folks about our troubled waters; the shady deal being hammered out that would relicense North Mountain Pumped Storage Facility, and the carnage it brings to the river for another 50 years. This is not green energy, it’s three dams from Montague to Bellow Falls, along with the daily operations of the pumped storage wreaking havoc on delicate ecosystems and ravaging biodiversity. It takes dirty energy from off the grid to run these deadly mechanisms. Ms. Alicia Barton, CEO of First-Light Power, Inc. is somehow allowed to call this clean green energy? And even earn brownie points for what? We have begun our work with other groups and individuals seeking to raise the alarm and to define what is truly green energy.

We speak boldly to an energy giant such as FirstLight and to ISO New England, which runs the power grid; It comes as no surprise that their CEO earns more than $2 million a year in salary and benefits working for a nonprofit, and voices support of coal and other fossil fuels, while our river dies. We cannot make a deal with these false arbiters of the river’s well being. We celebrate the integrity, decency and respect returned to Klamath River in Oregon, and hope the same for our very own National Heritage River.

Since forming in June we now have a website (CTriverdefenders. org) and a petition which garnered over 135 electronic signatures that were recently submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding no re-licensing. We are growing and learning about the rights of nature separate and whole from human activity or demand. The sense of our power as individuals to rise as a collective voice cannot be diminished or overlooked.

As we join our passion, our hearts and minds; the force of our collective efforts like the river can change the course of what seems impossible, impenetrable and overly funded. We have a chance of stopping the deadliest monster on the Connecticut River from re-licensing. We can right this wrong, and take one more step forward for the river, for ourselves and for the creatures who generously share this planet with us.

As a way to keep grounded and strong in this struggle I literally wear my grandson’s shoes. This reminds me for whom we have a mandate: to leave a better legacy; a viable livable future. On these darkest of nights a sense of hope is kindled, our rivers are being heard!

Dorothea (dodiMelnicoff lives in Greenfield.