Wisconsin Field Office
2661 Scott Tower Drive
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Reducing impacts to fish and wildlife and their habitats
In Wisconsin, hydropower accounts for 4.1% of the electric generating capacity and 4.4% of the total electricity generated, which is equal to about 2.1 billion kilowatt hours per year. This is enough electricity to supply the residential needs of approximately 650,000 people. Nearly all of the hydropower produced in Wisconsin is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorizes the initial construction of hydropower facilities, issues licenses for operation of hydropower projects, and reconsiders mandatory license renewals every 30 to 50 years.
Though hydropower is free of greenhouse gas emissions it not free of environmental impacts. And while it is an important source of energy in the state, hydropower projects need to include environmentally sound measures that provide for the protection and enhancement of Wisconsin’s natural resources.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife resources through environmental review of hydropower projects prior to the issuance of a license by FERC, to incorporate appropriate environmental protection and enhancement measures.
For more information on hydropower licensing please visit:
One of our major priorities is promoting fish passage around existing hydropower dams where prudent, especially relative to lake sturgeon migration. The Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) is identified as a threatened species in Michigan, a species of special concern in Wisconsin, and a federal species of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The current population of adult sturgeon in Lake Michigan is less than 1% of the historical abundance. It’s widely accepted that much of this decline in numbers is because of loss of spawning and rearing habitat due in large part to the presence of hydropower dams. Through the FERC relicensing process, the Wisconsin ES Field Office works closely with dam owners and other stakeholders to try and develop lake sturgeon passage and protection provisions as part of the operating license for several dams where lake sturgeon passage and protection is critical.
Another major environmental concern relative to hydropower dams is their impact on freshwater mussels. Freshwater mussels are among the least understood and yet most imperiled aquatic species worldwide. In Wisconsin alone, more than one third of the native mussels are considered threatened or endangered with an even higher proportion considered species of concern. The USFWS listed 21 of the 78 known species of freshwater mussels in the Midwest as federally endangered, threatened or candidate species. On a larger scale, the Nature Conservancy reported that nearly 70 percent of mussels in North America are extinct or imperiled.
Mussel surveys and assessments by our biologists near hydropower dams help guide the development of more environmentally friendly hydropower operations that hopefully reduce impacts to these sensitive species.