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Hydroelectric Program

The Hydroelectric Program has lead responsibility for Oregon’s hydroelectric licensing and reauthorization programs. This includes the review and processing of applications for major and minor hydroelectric projects and coordinating the reviews with other state agencies that have consulting and permitting responsibilities in the licensing program of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The economic and natural resources issues surrounding the licensing or relicensing of a hydroelectric project are often highly complex and may be significantly important to local interest groups. Considerable time is spent crafting agreements for mitigation measures to minimize impacts of major hydroelectric projects on fish and wildlife; plants and wetlands; recreation; historic, cultural and archeological resources; and land and soils resources. 

The program is responsible for inspecting existing projects to ensure they are complying with the terms and conditions of state water rights or licenses.  The program is responsible for billing and collecting annual project fees, which are used to support hydroelectric programs at the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  The program is also responsible for representing the state’s position on hydroelectric projects before the FERC.

More Information

Private developers, municipal entities, irrigation districts and electric utility companies are typical applicants for major projects of more than 100 Theoretical Horsepower (THP).  Individual homeowners, farmers, ranchers or small businesses are the usual applicants for minor projects of less than 100 THP.

Applicants should consult with the Hydroelectric Program staff to determine which process is most appropriate for their project.   The programs staff will determine:

  • Whether the project is in a stream reach that is protected under the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program for anadromous fish and their habitats.  If so, the project cannot go forward.
  • Whether the project is an allowed use in the applicable Water Resources Commission’s basin program.  If not, a basin program exception may be requested under ORS 536.295.
  • Whether the project is a minor hydroelectric project – less than 100 theoretical horsepower in capacity, or a major hydroelectric project – 100 THP or greater. 
  • Whether the project can be added on to an existing water right certificate as part of an existing conduit project, which would limit the water use to the season of the original irrigation or municipal water right, or whether a new water right and priority date are needed for the project. 
  • Whether an existing hydroelectric water right should be amended to accommodate the new project.
  • Whether the project developer is an eligible municipal entity (or district) who should apply for a regular water right permit that would not expire, or is a private developer who should apply for a hydroelectric license that may extend for up to 50 years.

See summary sheets once the proper application process has been determined.

For more information contact:

Mary Grainey 503-986-0833
Craig Kohanek 503-986-0823

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