The New England Field Office reviews non-federal hydroelectric projects that are licensed and exempted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power Act and has a long tradition of fostering collaboration with the regulated community and our state, federal and non-government partners to accomplish common ecosystem conservation and restoration goals.
We provide technical evaluations on the impacts of hydroelectric power projects to fish and wildlife resources. FERC regulations, as authorized by the Federal Power Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, require license applicants and licensees to consult with the Service prior to and after project licensing so the Service may provide FERC with:
- recommendations for the protection
- mitigation of damages to, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources for licensed projects;
- mandatory prescriptions for fish passages;
- mandatory conditions for the protection, mitigation of damages to, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources for exempted projects;
- mandatory terms and conditions to provide for the protection and utilization of Service lands upon which proposed hydropower projects may be located.
Our involvement in the FERC-Hydropower program provides opportunities to:
- ensure upstream and downstream fish passage;
- restore more natural river flows downstream from projects;
- restore flows to dewatered river reaches;
- protect and enhance aquatic and riparian fish and wildlife habitat ;
- reduce reservoir fluctuations;
- protect listed species;
- improve water quality.
This effort integrates many of the Service's programs as we coordinate our hydropower activities with our Endangered Species program , review of Clean Water Act 404 permits, and projects we work on through our Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Environmental Contaminants programs. We also work closely with our Fisheries Division on anadromous fish restoration on the Connecticut River and Merrimack River and our Regional Engineering Office on fish passage designs.
Success in the hydropower program requires a long-term project planning commitment (the FERC licensing process averages 7 years to complete) and many years of post-license implementation, follow-up and compliance verification. However, these activities reap tremendous long-term (30-50 years) fish and wildlife benefits.