Bill dictates treatment of non-federal hydroelectric power on USACE infrastructure

Corps of Engineers Seal

Text contained in the recently enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act clarifies the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' regulatory process for private hydroelectric power development on federally-owned infrastructure.

The bill -- available for viewing online here -- received bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress before being signed by President Barack Obama on June 10.

The National Hydropower Association said it worked to introduce hydropower-specific language into the legislation, much of which was ultimately adopted into the Senate version of the bill in Section 1008: Expediting Hydropower at Corps of Engineers Facilities.

"The hydropower industry is particularly pleased to see the inclusion of language that directs the Army Corps of Engineers to make hydropower development at its facilities a priority," NHA executive director Linda Church Ciocci said in a statement following the bill's passage through Congress in May.

Per Sec. 1008, Congress has declared that it is the policy of the United States that:

  • The development of non-Federal hydroelectric power at Corps of Engineers civil works projects, including locks and dams, shall be given priority;
  • Corps of Engineers approval of non-Federal hydroelectric power at Corps of Engineers civil works projects, including permitting required under section 14 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (33 U.S.C. 408), shall be completed by the Corps of Engineers in a timely and consistent manner; and
  • Approval of hydropower at Corps of Engineers civil works projects shall in no way diminish the other priorities and missions of the Corps of Engineers, including authorized project purposes and habitat and environmental protection.

Sec. 1008 also stipulates that the Corps must submit a report to the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrustructure beginning on a biennial basis two years from the bill's enactment. The report will contain:

  • A description of initiatives carried out by the Secretary to encourage the development of hydroelectric power by non-Federal entities at Corps of Engineers civil works projects;
  • A list of all new hydroelectric power activities by non-Federal entities approved at Corps of Engineers civil works projects in that fiscal year, including the length of time the Secretary needed to approve those activities;
  • A description of the status of each pending application from non-Federal entities for approval to develop hydroelectric power at Corps of Engineers civil works projects;
  • A description of any benefits or impacts to the environment, recreation, or other uses associated with Corps of Engineers civil works projects at which non-Federal entities have developed hydroelectric power in the previous fiscal year; and
  • The total annual amount of payments or other services provided to the Corps of Engineers, the Treasury, and any other Federal agency as a result of approved non-Federal hydropower projects at Corps of Engineers civil works projects.

The bill reflects Congress' increasing emphasis on developing policy conducive to the cultivation of America's hydropower potential.

According to a recently released Department of Energy report, as much as 65,000 MW of hydroelectric capacity exists in the United States. Developing this potential is also the subject of a new DOE initiative called "Hydropower Vision".

USACE Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick will participate as a keynote speaker at the upcoming HydroVision International 2014 Conference and Exhibition in Nashville, Tenn.

More information about the event can be found here.

For more policy and regulation news, visit here.

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