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FOR Logo Friends of the River
 The voice of California's rivers

Hydropower Reform 

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Rivers are a public resource—they are owned by all of us. Today, the ability to generate electricity must be evaluated alongside all demands for water including the environment, recreation, and water supply. A hydropower license can essentially be viewed as a rental agreement for the next 30 to 50 years. Typical improvements to hydropower operations can achieve:
  • More water in the river
  • More natural timing and volume of water in the river
  • Improved habitat for fish and wildlife
  • Cooler water for native fish
  • Removal of outdated dams
  • More recreational opportunities for all Californians
In the next few years, California will relicense more than 1/3 of its hydropower projects. The licensing opportunity provides a unique opportunity to protect fish and wildlife, provide more clean water, and increase recreational opportunities for all.

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Rivers of Power
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HRC Dam Effects Website

Some of current projects FOR is working on include:

Klamath Dam Removal Negotiations -FOR has been a key voice for the removal of hydroelectric dams responsible for fish-kills and poor water quality on the Klamath River for seven years. A draft settlement agreement was released in late September that could lead to the removal of these four dams on the Klamath River and restoration of the river’s once fabled salmon runs. This is an important step towards restoration of the Klamath River, but the draft settlement provides little certainty that dams will be removed by the proposed target date of 2020. Friends of the River noted that not only does the draft agreement fail to guarantee removal of the dams, it provides broad liability protection for PacifiCorp against future lawsuits (even in circumstances where PacifiCorp could be negligent), and will rely on the multi-million dollar appropriations from the two states and the federal government to pay to remove the dams and restore the river. Much more work and effort will be required of all parties to ensure that the dams are actually removed, and the Klamath River salmon is restored in our lifetime. Learn more >
Merced River Relicensings - FOR is working hard on the relicensing of the two hydropower projects on the Merced River (McSwain-New Exchequer, Merced Falls), which are scheduled for renewal in 2014. FOR is opposing Merced Irrigation District’s proposal to raise New Exchequer Dam as part of the relicensing, which would drown aWild & Scenic portion of the Merced River. FOR is working to secure flow improvements to benefit salmon and steelhead in the lower Merced and provide passage for anadromous fish upstream of the existing barrier dams. Learn more >
In addition to our leadership in the relicensing process for hydroelectric projects on the Merced  and Klamath Rivers, Friends of the River will be active in similar proceedings on the McCloud and Tuolumne Rivers. Our goal in the relicensing process is to restore flows for fish, wildlife, and recreation, as we have for more than 450 miles of the Kern, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Mokelumne, American, Feather, and Pit Rivers. In addition, we expect to continue to push via the relicensing process for the removal of large and small dams to restore salmon habitat on Cow Creek and Butte Creek.

Iron Gate Dam

Most hydropower dams were constructed prior to the enactment of our nation’s environmental laws and have therefore been operating under antiquated terms for decades. These state- and utility-owned dams receive federal operating licenses that last 30 to 50 years. During this license term dam owners are not expected to modify projects in order to meet evolving environmental laws. No other energy sector receives such a free pass to avoid compliance. Not until the license expires is there an opportunity to evaluate how a project has impacted the natural environment and the public’s right to clean, accessible rivers. New licenses require dam owners to take common sense measures that improve habitat for fish and wildlife, reduce impacts to water quality, and increase opportunities for public recreation.

FOR staff dedicated to Hydropower Reform:




Senior Policy Advocate
Ronald Stork
(916) 442-3155 ext. 220


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