Greater Atlantic Region Hydropower Project Review
NOAA Fisheries reviews proposed and existing hydropower and hydrokinetic projects in cooperation with applicants/operators, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, other federal agencies, state resource agencies, tribes, NGOs, and interested parties.
NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's ocean resources and their habitat. Our mission supports productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems. The resilience of our marine ecosystems and coastal communities depend on healthy marine species, including diadromous fish such as salmon, shad, alewife blueback herring, and eels. Our hydropower licensing review efforts are an important action supporting our stewardship responsibilities.
Using the energy of our nation’s rivers, hydropower facilities produce approximately half the nation’s renewable-based electricity. Studies by the U.S. Department of Energy suggests this contribution could double by powering existing dams. Although hydropower facilities provide renewable energy, their presence in our rivers pose a threat to diadromous fish. Salmon, shad, alewife, blueback herring, eel, and other diadromous species spend part of their life cycle in marine and freshwater environments. Using our authority under the Federal Power Act, which guides the regulation of hydropower projects, NOAA Fisheries Habitat Conservation and Ecosystem Services Division works to protect fish from the impacts of hydropower facilities. Our hydropower review efforts support renewable energy while ensuing the long-term sustainability of all diadromous species for commercial, recreational, and cultural access for present and future generations.
NOAA Fisheries reviews existing and proposed hydropower and hydrokinetic projects in cooperation with applicants and operators, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), federal and state natural resource agencies, tribes, communities and interested citizens. We review proposed projects throughout the pre-licensing and licensing phases and work with stakeholders to develop recommended license terms and conditions necessary to protect, mitigate damage to, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat affected by hydropower project construction and operation. We also review existing hydropower projects to ensure project operations are meeting our goals for protecting trust species. We have five broad goals for the hydropower review program:
- Ensure the safe, timely, and effective passage of migrating adults and juveniles past hydropower facilities;
- Support the recovery of endangered and threatened species including Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, and shortnose sturgeon;
- Improve the prey base for multiple offshore species, including Gulf of Maine groundfish, to support recreational, commercial, and subsistence fishing;
- Promote habitat restoration that results in benefits to water quality, watershed based recreation, and resilient coastal communities; and
- Increase collaboration across NOAA line offices to maximize the benefit of public investment in natural resources.
To support these goals, we use the Federal Power Act to protect, mitigate damage to, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat, require the installation and operation of fishways, and ensure the project is best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway. In addition to our authorities under the Federal Power Act, NOAA Fisheries has responsibilities related to hydropower projects under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Importance of Habitat