Smith, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act

December 7 2023

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Kim Schrier (D-WA) introduced the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act, legislation extending a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) to American hydroelectric investments to improve power production, provide environmental benefits, or remove outdated dam infrastructure through 2031.

The members released the following statements:

“As an affordable and highly sustainable source of energy, hydroelectric power is a valuable component of an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy dominance. H.R. 6653 addresses the primarily frontloaded development cost of hydropower to maximize infrastructure investment, energy savings, and stewardship of our natural resources,” said Rep. Smith. “In an increasingly competitive global energy market, the United States cannot afford to leave any opportunity to increase energy production on the table. I thank Reps. DelBene, Tenney, Kuster, Fitzpatrick, Schrier, and our colleagues in the Senate for their cooperation on this bipartisan legislation.”

“Washington has long been a trailblazer in leveraging hydropower to provide clean, affordable energy and this legislation would help us build on that success,” said Rep DelBene. “The bill would create a new tax incentive for hydropower facilities to enhance the safety of dams, protect and enhance fish habitat and passage across the Pacific Northwest, improve grid resiliency, and water quality. This will help lower energy costs for Washingtonians and help us meet our emissions reduction goals.”

“Incentivizing renewable energy, including hydroelectricity, is a proven way to transition to a clean energy future,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act implements a 30 percent investment tax credit for improvements to hydroelectric facilities to further tap into renewable energy resources in Pennsylvania and nationwide.”

“We must embrace an all-of-the-above approach to meet our clean energy goals – hydropower is a critical part of the effort,” said Rep. Kuster. “This legislation is a key step forward toward improving dam safety, increasing hydroelectricity production, and enhancing the health of our nation’s rivers. Let’s get this done!”

“Hydropower is the largest source of electricity in Washington state, comprising 67% of the energy generation mix. It’s important we invest in the safety of this reliable, affordable resource to achieve our emissions goals while restoring river health and safe passage for salmon and steelhead populations,” said Rep. Schrier. “This legislation will incentivize safer hydroelectric energy production while also enhancing aquatic ecosystems, water quality, and public use upgrades.”

Currently, the ITC covering hydropower only applies to investments that produce a marginal increase in power generation. Vital environmental and maintenance investments such as new fish passage to help enhance aquatic ecosystems, structural upgrades to ensure the safety of dams, and generator rewinds to improve grid resiliency that do not result in power increases are not currently eligible for this credit. With many decades-old hydroelectric dams facing costly upgrades to continue operating safely and economically, the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2023 bridges the gap in current law. Examples of eligible investments include adding fish-friendly turbines or new fish ladders, managing river sediments to improve habitat, upgrading or replacing floodgates and spillways, and expanding access to public waterways impacted by existing dams.

The bipartisan bill would also support local efforts to remove non-power producing river barriers, including abandoned or obsolete dams, dikes, or embankments, allowing those rivers to run free and naturally once again. Private, state, local, and non-profit groups could use the 30 percent federal tax incentive, with a direct pay option, to support efforts to demolish and remove unnecessary barriers with the owner’s consent. Removing obsolete river obstructions that no longer meet their intended purpose nor benefit society can provide new outdoor recreation opportunities, create new fish and wildlife habitat, spur local economic development, and increase the resilience of rivers.

Industry leaders shared the following statements in support of the legislation:

“Central wishes to thank Congressman Adrian Smith for introducing The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act,” said Dave Rowe Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Board President. “This is a transformative piece of legislation that will support our long-standing commitment this District and Nebraska has dedicated to our water resources through the infrastructure like Kingsley Dam as it approaches a century of service to our State.”

“Lake McConaughy is one of the most important pieces of water infrastructure in Nebraska and this bill can help provide resources necessary to help maintain the safety and structure of Kingsley Dam for generations to come,” said Devin Brundage Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District General Manager. “It will ensure all of those benefits that were envisioned in the construction of this and other projects continue for generations to come.”

“A clean energy grid requires water power to complement wind and solar for 24/7 reliability,” said Malcolm Woolf President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association. “I send my deepest gratitude to Representatives Smith and DelBene for carrying forward this vital priority in the House. Hydropower currently provides an estimated 30 million American homes with zero-carbon electricity. Yet almost half of the non-federal hydropower fleet faces expensive relicensing in the next several years, with 17,000 MWs of flexible, carbon-free generation at risk of premature retirement. This bill, like its Senate counterpart, will help preserve the existing fleet by enabling facilities to make environmental and dam safety enhancements – outcomes that will lead to healthier rivers and a more reliable grid. I urge Congress to pass this bill as soon as possible; our industry, our environment, and the energy needs of Americans can’t wait a moment longer."

“City Light applauds the collaborative effort of the bipartisan leaders for introducing this bill that incentivizes environmental, infrastructure, and dam safety improvements to support the future of hydropower generation and strengthen the health of our rivers’ ecosystems,” said Mike Haynes Interim General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.