Take Action! Hydropower Legislation Weakens River Protections

posted May 31, 2017
by Megan Hooker

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Congress is currently considering several pieces of hydropower legislation that, in our analysis, would likely negatively impact rivers if passed in their current form. In early May, the House Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on legislation addressing hydropower infrastructure modernization that included Discussion Drafts of bills relating to modernizing hydropower policy.

In our reading of the Discussion Drafts, they would undermine the existing balance balance between hydropower and all other river values, including recreation. Many of these bills propose to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) more authority to make decisions about natural resource issues. Yet, FERC is an independent agency that is tasked with regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil, and reviewing proposals to build liquefied natural gas terminals, natural gas pipelines and hydropower projects. State, federal and tribal agencies have expertise in fish, wildlife, flows and recreation and are better suited to make natural resource decisions.  

While hydropower plays an important role in our energy system, hydropower dams have had a devastating impact on our nation’s rivers. Federal laws and the FERC hydropower licensing process ensure that river values like fish, wildlife and recreation are given equal consideration to hydropower operations. It is important that we maintain this balance. Since the 1990s, American Whitewater has restored flows to rivers across the country, working alongside federal and state agencies, through the FERC process. Our successes include the Cheoah (NC), West Fork Tuckasegee (NC), Tallulah (GA), New (WV), Hoosic (NY), Deerfield (MA), North Fork Feather (CA), South Fork American (CA), and Sultan (WA).


As your Representative and Senators consider hydropower legislation, it’s critical that they hear from you about why protecting rivers is important. We’ve made it easy for you to do that here.

Thanks for taking action, and stay tuned to American Whitewater for updates.

If you're interested in reading the bills in their current form, here they are:

Discussion Draft of the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act
Discussion Draft to Promote Hydropower at Existing Non-Powered Dams
Discussion Draft Promoting Closed Loop Pumped Storage
Discussion Draft Promoting Small Conduit Hydropower Facilities