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Small/Low-Impact Hydropower Projects

Potential small hydropower site at existing mill damOff-Limits Sites
Existing law prohibits the Commission from issuing a license or exemption for projects within certain federal lands. You should not consider sites located on or within the boundaries of:

National Wild and Scenic Rivers
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, (16 U.S.C. §§ 1271-1287 External Link) , seeks to protect rivers that display "outstanding remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, and other similar values." This act also seeks to preserve rivers "in free-flowing conditions, and protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations." A river may become part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System only upon an act of Congress or by the request of the state governor acting pursuant to an act of the state legislature.

A "wild river area" is one free of impoundments and generally inaccessible, with essentially primitive watersheds or shorelines and unpolluted waters. "Scenic river areas" are free of impoundments, with largely primitive watersheds and undeveloped shorelines, accessible in some places by roads.

The Act states that the Commission cannot approve a hydropower project that:

  • Is "on or affecting" a designated wild and scenic river,
  • Has a direct or adverse effect on the values for which the river was designated, or
  • Contains developments below or above a designated river area, "or on any stream tributary thereto," which will "invade the area or unreasonably diminish the scenic, recreation, and fish and wildlife values present in the area [as of] October 2, 1968" (the date of enactment).

To help determine if your project would be affected by the provisions in the Wild and Scenic River Act, you may contact the Wild and Scenic Rivers Council at http://www.rivers.gov External Link.

Wilderness Areas
The National Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136 External Link) prohibits any commercial enterprise, structure, or installation within any wilderness area. A "wilderness area" is one "where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Wilderness areas are designated by an act of Congress. The Commission cannot issue a license or exemption for a project located within a designated wilderness area.

To help determine if your project would be affected by the provisions in the Wilderness Act you may visit Wilderness.net at http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm External Link.

National Parks
The National Park System includes all properties managed by the National Park Service, including national parks, monuments, trails, recreation areas, and heritage areas. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 prohibits the Commission from issuing an original license or exemption for any hydroelectric project located within the boundaries of any unit in the National Park System that would have a direct impact on the lands within that unit.

To help determine if your project is located within the boundaries of any unit in the National Park System, you may contact the National Park Service at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm External Link.

Conduit Exemptions
Robert Bell
Telephone: 202-502-6062
Email: robert.bell@ferc.gov

Northwest Area
(WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, AK, HI)
Ryan Hansen
Telephone: 202-502-8074
Email: ryan.hansen@ferc.gov

West Area
(CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT)
Jim Fargo
Telephone: 202-502-6095
Email: james.fargo@ferc.gov

Midwest Area
(ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, MN, WI, IA, IL, MI, IN, OH)
Tyrone Williams
Telephone: 202-502-6331
Email: tyrone.williams@ferc.gov

Mid-Atlantic Area
(VA, WV, MD, PA, NY, NJ, DE)
Monir Chowdhury
Telephone: 202-502-6736
Email: monir.chowdhury@ferc.gov

South Area
(TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, TN, AL, GA, KY, FL, NC, SC)
Michael Spencer
Telephone: 202-502-6093
Email: michael.spencer@ferc.gov

New England Area
(CT, MA, NH, VT, RI, ME)
Tom Dean
Telephone: 202-502-6041
Email: thomas.dean@ferc.gov
Small/Low-Impact Hydropower Projects

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Updated: August 20, 2015