New Hydropower Laws for Irrigators: New Challenges and Opportunities

Irrigation Leader, Vol. 4 Issue 9 pp.26

October 01, 2013

By Chuck Sensiba and Michael Pincus

On August 9, 2013, President Obama signed the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (Hydropower Efficiency Act) and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (Reclamation Conduit Act) into law. These related laws are designed to reduce regulatory barriers to low-head hydropower development at existing infrastructure, particularly existing irrigation canals and other water conveyance conduits. If implemented properly, these new statutes could spur growth in low-head hydropower resources.

Many provisions in these new statutes, which are summarized below, are self-executing and require little additional input from the regulated industry and public. However, two aspects of the new laws will require active engagement of irrigation and water districts in their implementation:

  1. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)  is required by the Hydropower Efficiency Act to investigate the feasibility of establishing a two-year process for licensing hydroelectric projects at nonpowered dams and closed-loop pumped storage, and FERC has solicited participation from the industry in meeting this
  2. The Reclamation Conduit Act creates jurisdictional uncertainty between FERC and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for small conduit hydropower development at
    Reclamation facilities, requiring FERC and Reclamation to clarify this uncertainty.

This article provides a detailed description of the new opportunities for low-head hydropower development created by these two new statutes and the provisions of the new law that will require irrigation and water district engagement.


This is the introduction to an article originally published in the October 2013 issue of Irrigation Leader. To read the full article, click here.

Publication Authors

Michael R. Pincus
Washington, DC
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