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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


Let Rivers Run Free, Not the Hydro Industry

Tania Lown-Hecht

Congress is expected to vote this week on a comprehensive energy bill (H.R. 8) that threatens rivers affected by hydropower operations across the country. Hydropower provisions within the “North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act” are bad news for outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy spending time on, in, or near treasured rivers. 

For decades, hydropower dam operators have been required to obtain a license to operate their hydropower projects. This license essentially spells out how the river downstream will look 30 to 50 years into the future. Today, state and federal agencies have a strong influence over what the license says, and they use their authority to protect clean water, fish and wildlife, public lands, and recreation. These licenses ensure that local advocates have a voice in how rivers are managed, and that paddlers can work with hydropower companies to put water back into the river each year to ensure there are boatable flows.

Our friends at American Whitewater have worked closely with these agencies for over two decades to restore recreation flows at hydropower projects on rivers like the Chelan in Washington, the Bear in Idaho, the Feather in California, the Tuckaseegee in North Carolina, and the Deerfield in Massachusetts.  We have also worked to create and improve hiking and biking trails and to conserve public open space near these rivers. You can read our full testimony on H.R. 8 here, or by clicking on the letter above.

The hydropower provisions in H.R. 8 threaten to weaken the authority of state and federal agencies to protect recreation at hydropower projects, which undermines the ability of the public to protect our rivers. In addition, it will make it easier for hydropower developers to build new dams on rivers that are currently free-flowing. It would tip the balance in favor of hydropower operations at the expense of the local communities who rely on rivers for their livelihoods and outdoor adventures. 

If you love spending time on or near rivers, your voice is important as your Congressional Representatives consider how to vote. You can take action here.