The article incorrectly says that the energy bill passed again by the Senate “would force hydropower companies to retrofit their dams so fish could swim through.” The bill would have exactly the opposite effect. It seeks to decrease the number of dams that will have to install safe and effective fish passage. Right now, a non-federal hydropower dam is grandfathered from environmental laws until its 30- to 50-year operating license expires and it must undergo a renewal process. For years, the electric utility industry has pressed for legislation to limit the cost of environmental conditions prescribed under the renewal process. Fish passage requirements are among those conditions on the industry’s hit list. This energy bill would allow dam owners to substitute fish hatcheries and other sorts of measures for effective fish ladders and screens. The bill also adds several new procedures designed to give dam owners unfair advantages. The House version is even more harmful.
Safe fish passage is a basic environmental requirement for a dam. Both chambers of Congress are putting forth hydropower proposals that allow electric utilities to slide by such requirements. While recreational and commercial fishermen and Indian tribes watch their fish stocks plummet, Congress should take a hard look at this provision and strike it.