Senate Infrastructure Bill Makes Hydropower and Dam Safety a Priority

Senate Infrastructure Bill Makes Hydropower and Dam Safety a Priority

Bill includes key piece of the infrastructure proposal to accelerate the rehabilitation, retrofit, or removal of America’s 90,000 dams

Washington, D.C. (July 14, 2021) – The following is a statement from Malcolm Woolf, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s markup of the Energy Infrastructure Act.

The bill creates a new grant program (Section 247 of Energy Policy Act of 2005) that provides $553 million to support grid resilience, dam safety upgrades, and environmental enhancements at existing hydropower facilities. This program is similar to a provision in S.2306, the bipartisan Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration Actintroduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and H.R. 4375, the bipartisan Twenty-First Century Dams Act, introduced by Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The provisions offer a historic opportunity to support upgrades at existing hydropower facilities, dam safety and the removal of obsolete dams. The Senate version of the Twenty-First Century Dam Act is expected to be introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) later this week.

The Energy Infrastructure Act also bolsters existing hydropower incentive programs including: $125 million to incentivize adding hydropower generation to existing non-powered dams and conduits (Section 242), and $75 million for hydropower efficiency improvements, such as new low-head turbines. Additionally, the bill creates a demonstration project to assist the development of new pumped storage hydropower facilities by providing funding for project design, transmission studies, and power market assessments.

“We applaud Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin for his leadership in recognizing the critical need to encourage investment in the existing hydropower fleet, which currently provides emission-free, reliable, and affordable electricity to an estimated 30 million American homes and businesses. In addition, hydropower and pumped storage are essential elements of a climate solution and will play in reaching the goal of a zero-carbon electricity grid.

“While this bill takes a significant leap forward to advancing the clean energy benefits of hydropower and the importance of dam safety, we believe the infrastructure bill that reaches the President’s desk should be part of a broader package to accelerate the rehabilitation, retrofit, or removal (the “3Rs”) of America’s 90,000 dams. Such a package would optimize hydropower generation, bolster dam safety, and remove dams determined by their owners to have outlived their usefulness.

“To achieve this goal, additional funding for the 3Rs will be needed. We look forward to working on a bipartisan basis with Congress and all stakeholders to ensure that the final package fully leverages hydropower’s role on a clean energy grid, while simultaneously enhancing dam safety and healthy rivers.”