Trout Unlimited Supports House Bill to Generate Sustainable Hydropower
2/7/2002 — Washington, DC — Fish and anglers sometimes have a problem with hydropower dams block fish migration and turbines can kill the fish. Yet proven and affordable measures can often dramatically reduce hydropower dams impacts on fish and fishing, while still providing for the economical generation of non-fossil fuel power.
Dams and turbines are tough on fish, but for anglers, the hard work is convincing a cumbersome federal bureaucracy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the owners of hydropower plants to adopt effective and affordable modern mitigation measures, stated Charles Gauvin, president of the fish conservation organization Trout Unlimited. The regulatory system is designed to encourage delay. That stacks the deck against the fish and anglers, he continued.
FERC grants non-federal hydropower owners licenses to operate their projects on public rivers. About half the nations hydropower is licensed by FERC, amounting to 5% of the national electricity generation. FERCs licenses to operate are good for a period of 30 to 50 years, after which the project is subject to a review and relicense. Relicensing is the time when projects that have been operating under decades-old conditions are brought up to modern standards. If a project has not completed relicensing by the time the existing license expires, the project continues to operate, sometimes for additional decades, under the old license terms.
The Federal Investment in Sustainable Hydropower Act (FISH Act), introduced today by Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would greatly improve conditions for fish and wildlife by speeding up the process of relicensing, and discouraging delay in obtaining a new license, Gauvin said. Dropping the relicense term to 15 years brings this process more in line with other environmental permits and licenses. Allowing modern conditions to be required when a license ends, even if the relicensing process is not yet finished removes some of the incentive for delay.
The FISH Act would also encourage FERC to create and keep to reasonable timelines in the often lengthy licensing process by requiring it to publish schedules and report on its own performance in meeting those schedules. It encourages FERC to work with other federal and state resources agencies to streamline and improve workflow, and to review groups of related hydropower projects at the same time.
There is an enormous opportunity to create better systems and procedures within FERC that will streamline the process and improve decisions, as well as conditions for fish, Gauvin stated. Congress needs to direct FERC to take that project on fish, angler, hydropower owner, we will all be better off if they do.
Trout Unlimited is North Americas leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 125,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.
For more information: Steve Malloch, Counsel, Trout Unlimited (703) 284-9415