What We Do

Hydro plant spanning Skagit River.
Gorge Plan on the Skagit River in North Cascades NP.

Photo - Tom O’Keefe

Learn about the NPS roles and procedures for participating in FERC hydropower licensing process.

Applicants for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hydropower licenses must consult with the NPS on hydropower licensing proceedings regardless of whether it impacts a part of the National Park System, or the National Trails System. The NPS helps others engage more effectively in the licensing process for hydropower projects.

For areas outside of the National Park System, the NPS may participate in FERC licensing proceedings and make recommendations that would help minimize adverse impacts and enhance recreational and cultural resources. We work closely with the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

FERC is prohibited from licensing new hydropower projects in many components of the National Park System. For all parks that are impacted by FERC hydropower projects, the NPS strives to protect resources and visitor opportunities by making recommendations to FERC. In limited circumstances, the NPS has the authority to mandate conditions to FERC to protect park resources. The NPS plays a key implementation role for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The NPS is responsible for reviewing water resources projects under Section 7 of the Act, including FERC-licensed hydropower projects associated with many designated rivers, as well as rivers authorized by Congress for study. FERC recognizes the Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI), maintained by NPS, as a comprehensive plan and must take care to avoid or mitigate actions that could adversely affect NRI segments.

The NPS also has oversight responsibilities to ensure protection of recreation areas established through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act, and the Federal Lands to Parks program.

NPS selects projects based on the following:

  • Policy and Guidelines for Recreational Technical Assistance in Hydropower Licenses,” 57 FR 61915, December 29, 1992. The National Park Service issued a management policy and guidelines for its Recreation Technical Assistance in Hydropower Licensing Program. The policy and guidelines give direction to National Park Service staff in providing technical assistance and assist the public in understanding this program.

Major Authorities:

  • Federal Power Act, regulations as amended - requires consultation with NPS (18 CFR 4.38(a); 18 CFR 5.1 (d); and 18 CFR 16.8(a)); identifies topics for consultation (18 CFR 4.51(f)(4) & 18 CFR 4.51(f)(5)).

  • Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963, PL88-29 - NPS technical assistance about outdoor recreation resources (16 USC 4601-1).

  • Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, PL90-542 - FERC license restrictions related to the national wild and scenic rivers system (Sec.7(a) and (b), 16 USC 1278(a) and (b)); federal assistance (including NPS) related to river conservation (Sec.11(b), 16 USC 1282(b)); and Federal agency consideration for potential wild, scenic, and recreational river areas (Sec.5(d), 16 USC 1276(d)).

  • National Trails System Act of 1968, P.L. 90-543, as amended through P.L. 107-325, December 4, 2002 - NPS technical assistance for trails (Sec. 11, 16 USC 1250).

  • The NPS Organic Act, "…conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife…" (18 U.S.C. 1 et seq).

  • The NPS Mission, "Preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world."

Last updated: August 14, 2018