First Low-Impact Hydroelectric Facility Receives Certification

The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has ruled that a hydroelectric site in Colorado should be certified as a Low Impact Hydropower Facility.

WASHINGTON, DC – The LIHI says the Stagecoach Dam and reservoir on the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs complies with the group’s eight criteria and should become the first “green” certification of a hydropower facility in the United States. The preliminary decision to certify will become by the end of March unless an appeal is filed. The certification is the first issued by LIHI, which began operations last year, and is the first certification of a hydropower facility issued under a program committed to public participation and to informing consumers about their choices of electricity sources. The Low Impact environmental requirements include the provision of appropriate flow releases from the dam; protection of water quality, fish, threatened and endangered species, watershed health, and cultural resources; and provision for public recreation access and use. In addition, the Stagecoach dam has not been recommended for removal, which would have made it ineligible for certification. The Stagecoach facility is owned and operated by the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, and generates 5,400,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year, enough for 500 homes. “The Stagecoach facility demonstrates that hydropower dams, if properly sited and operated, can be a good source of green power,” says LIHI executive director Lydia Grimm. “The facility provides the benefits of nearly emission-free power generation, while imposing low impacts on the environment, relative to other hydropower facilities.” “While not every hydropower facility will be able to meet our criteria, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has done what it takes,” she explains. “We hope that consumers interested in environmentally sound, sustainable energy supplies will encourage more hydropower facility owners to do the same.” LIHI is an independent non-profit association that created the voluntary program to certify hydropower facilities with low environmental impacts that are based on objective environmental criteria. The distinction allows well-sited and well-operated hydropower dams to gain a market advantage for the benefits that hydropower dams provide. Decisions to certify are made by LIHI’s Governing Board, which is comprised of individuals in the renewable energy field. Current Board members include representatives from American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, American Whitewater, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense.