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Securing Fishery Benefits Via Hydroelectric Facility Relicensing

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Paul Kibel (California, USA)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,
Article:
Abstract(Abstract) Upstream Passage and Downstream Flows: Securing Fishery Benefits Via Hydroelectric Relicensing by Paul Stanton Kibel (Professor of Water Law, Golden Gate University School of Law) This proposed paper would be for the track being organized by AIDA on 'Water law at the national and international levels (subtheme 15). The proposed paper would work particularly well for the subtrack on 'mechanims for allocating water among competing uses and users' (subtheme 9). It is well documented that the presence and operation of onstream hydro-electric facilities can have significant adverse impacts on fisheries. These impacts include reduced access of fish to habitat upstrream of the dams, and changes in habitat below dams (increased salinity, higher temperatures) due to reduced freshwater flows. Although fishery related issues are now often considered in the context of new dams, many existing dams were built in the early/mid 20th century before fisheries conservation was given much consideration. In the context of existing dams (particularly older ones), the hydroelectric relicensing process can play an important role in addressing fishery related concerns that were not taken into account when a dam was originally licensed. In the United States, for example, the federal government licenses hydroelectric facilities for an initial terms of apprpoximately 25 to 40 years. At the expiration of this period, hydroelectic facility operators must then go through a relicensing proceeding if they wish to continue operating the facility. This relicensing proceeding provides an opportunity to evaluate whether there are ways the operation of the facility can be modified to provide enhanced fishery benefits (such as additional downstream flows, installation of fish ladders). The recent federal government relicensing of the Oroville Dam in California (operated on the Feather River by the California Department of Water Resources) is an example of how the relicensing process can result in tangible operational changes to help restore fisheries. This paper will be divided into two main sections. The first section will discuss the hydroelectric relicensing process in the United States, and present a detailed account of the tangible fishery benefits that came out of the recent Oroville Dam relicensing proceedings. The second section will examine how the hydroelectric facility relicensing experience with Oroville Dam specifically and the United States more generally may hold lessons for other countries and international institutions (World Bank, Asia Development Bank) that are involved in the approval and regulation of hydroelectric facilities. Will submit with final paper
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