Senate Passes Minibus with Amendment to Strengthen U.S. Hydropower

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., today secured passage of a number of hydropower-related provisions through a bipartisan amendment that was incorporated into H.R. 5895, the first FY 2019 appropriations package, by unanimous consent. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., were also cosponsors of the amendment. H.R. 5895 passed the Senate today by a vote of 86-5.

“I thank Sen. Manchin and my colleagues for their strong support to help Alaska and our nation continue to develop our clean, abundant hydropower resources,” Murkowski said. “As with so many energy projects, the timelines and process associated with hydro projects can be cumbersome, challenging to navigate, and cost companies tens of millions of dollars. Our amendment will provide greater certainty to these projects, including Terror Lake in Kodiak, Alaska, which will be able to provide nearly 100 percent clean, renewable, and affordable power to the city of Kodiak and the nation’s largest U.S. Coast Guard base for years to come.”

“The Jennings-Randolph Dam project will further diversify West Virginia's energy resources, boost local economies, create jobs, and do so in an environmentally responsible way,” Manchin said. “I was glad to work with Senator Murkowski and my colleagues to support the Jennings-Randolph hydroelectric project as well as to give FERC the authority to extend these licenses in the interest of good governance.  I will continue to support common sense legislation that helps West Virginia move forward with innovative development projects.”

The Murkowski-Manchin amendment includes 10 bipartisan hydropower bills that have passed either the Senate or the House of Representatives – or both chambers – in the 114th and 115th Congresses. All of the measures in this amendment have been reported favorably by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in this Congress by voice vote. Amendment #3059 was added to the minibus last week by unanimous consent.

Amendment #3059 includes provisions to:

  • Provide FERC with authority to extend the construction start time for a licensed hydro project for up to 10 years without an act of Congress;
  • Extend the existing FERC licenses for projects seeking to add capacity to non-powered dams: the Jennings-Randolph Dam in West Virginia, the Three Red River Lock and Dams in Louisiana, the Gibson Dam in Montana, the Cannonsville Dam in New York, the W. Kerr Scott Dam in North Carolina, and the Gathright and Flannagan Dams in Virginia;
  • Authorize the expansion of the Terror Lake project in Kodiak, which will allow Kodiak and the largest Coast Guard base in the United States to continue to receive reliable, emissions-free energy;
  • Authorize a stay of the hydroelectric license for the Mahoney Lake Hydroelectric Project in Ketchikan, which will allow the Southeast Alaska Power Association (SEAPA) to consider this renewable project for future needs; and
  • Correct a survey error to convey up to 25.8 additional acres of land to SEAPA to expand the Swan Lake dam reservoir and generate additional electricity to power Ketchikan and southeast Alaska.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Manchin is a member of the committee. The committee has held several hearings on hydropower-related issues, and numerous hydropower provisions were included in Murkowski’s bipartisan energy bill, which passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 85-12 in the 114th Congress. These provisions are also included in Murkowski’s bipartisan Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017. More information about Amendment #3059 is available here.

Related Issues: Energy