Press Releases

Kuster Leads 39 Colleagues in Letter to Biden Administration Urging Funding for Hydropower and River Conservation Efforts

**This effort is supported by leaders in hydropower and river conservation**

**The full letter is available HERE**  


Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Sean Casten (IL-06) led 39 colleagues in the House of Representatives in sending a letter to President Biden and Cabinet members urging the inclusion of funding to retrofit, rehabilitate, and remove dams, as outlined in the Stanford University uncommon dialogue, in the next infrastructure package.


Historically, the hydropower and river conservation communities have been viewed in diametric opposition to one another. However, as climate change continues to impact the health of our nation’s rivers and the need for the U.S. to increase its carbon-free energy production becomes abundantly clear, these two groups reached an agreement that generating more clean energy and improving the health of river ecosystems can be jointly achieved. 


“By including funding, tax incentives, and other federal support for the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of the nation’s 90,000 dams in your forthcoming infrastructure package and related proposals, you can help improve public safety, increase free-flowing rivers, expand low-carbon generation, and create jobs,” the Members wrote. “We strongly urge you to pursue this course and look forward to working in partnership with you to secure America’s clean energy future.”


“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Sean Casten (IL-06) for recognizing that hydropower is an essential climate solution,” said Malcolm Woolf, CEO & President of the National Hydropower Association. “Congress and the Biden Administration have an opportunity to preserve and expand the 100 GW of existing carbon-free hydropower and pumped storage with tax incentives to spur investments in dam safety, environmental improvements, and grid flexibility. Equally important, by investing in the existing federal hydropower fleet, we can accelerate our clean energy future while creating well-paying jobs.”


“Healthy, free-flowing rivers are vital to our nation, especially in an era of climate change,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers. “I applaud the leadership of these and other members of Congress for supporting the investment opportunity that advances our country’s river conservation, climate, and economic needs through these important strategies.”


"Our nation’s 90,000 dams need help — to make them safer, produce more low-carbon electricity, or take them down, where they no longer serve a useful purpose. At Stanford, we've brought together the U.S. hydropower industry and environmental community to agree on key steps to provide this critical help. We look forward to working with Congress and the White House to address this major challenge — and opportunity,” said Dan Reicher, Stanford Senior Research Scholar and project director of the "Uncommon Dialogue: Hydropower — Climate Solution and Conservation Challenge.”


Retrofitting, rehabilitating, and removing dams will:

  • Increase clean energy production: The Department of Energy estimates that by rehabilitating and retrofitting our dam infrastructure and installing new pump storage capacity, we can increase hydropower output by 50 gigawatts, supporting 200,000 hydropower jobs and eliminating trillions of tons of carbon emissions.
  • Protect public safety: Rehabilitating and removing dams can help the country address the nearly 6,000 high hazard dams with sub-standard or unknown safety ratings. 
  • Promote healthy ecosystems: Removing our nation’s unsafe or obsolete dams will help return rivers to their natural state and help communities around the country experience the benefits of healthy river ecosystems.


Co-signers of the letter include Representatives Cindy Axne (IA-03), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), William R. Keating (MA-09), Susie Lee (NV-03), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Marie Newman (IL-03), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Scott Peters (CA-52), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Katie Porter (CA-45), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Darren Soto (FL-09), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Lori Trahan (MA-03), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).


The full letter is available here, and the text is available below:


Dear President Biden: 


In October 2020, environmental organizations and hydropower companies, in a process organized by Stanford University, reached a historic agreement, pledging in a “Joint Statement of Collaboration” to work together on the “3Rs” – the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of  America’s 90,000 dams to help address climate change by both advancing the renewable energy and electricity storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers. We encourage you to include substantial funding and other support in your forthcoming infrastructure package and related proposals to advance the 3Rs at dams across the nation. Pursuing this course will increase clean energy production, promote river conservation and public safety, and create good-paying jobs, particularly in disadvantaged communities. 


Hydropower is a proven energy technology and provides the United States with more than seven percent of its electricity. In addition to generating consistent electricity, hydropower facilities also “firm up” variable solar and wind power, with pumped-storage hydropower currently providing more than 90 percent of all U.S. electricity storage. The U.S. Department of  Energy estimates that by retrofitting existing powered dams, adding generating capacity at some of the 97% of U.S. dams that are not powered, and developing new pump storage facilities, U.S.  hydropower electricity output could increase by approximately 50 percent by 2050, substantially cutting CO2 emissions while supporting nearly 200,000 clean energy jobs.


Rehabilitating dams is also an important way to improve public safety. There are nearly  6,000 “high-hazard” dams across the country with poor, unsatisfactory, or unknown safety ratings that would pose a threat to human life should they fail. The nation’s high hazard dams have an estimated $22 billion repair backlog. The May 2020 failure of Michigan’s Edenville and Sanford dams – and a near-miss in California at the nation’s tallest dam, with 180,000  people evacuated – are harbingers of potential future disasters for communities around the country with unsafe dams. It is critical that the United States invests in rehabilitating dams to avoid future costly calamities.  


There are also ample opportunities to remove unnecessary dams that no longer provide benefits to society, have safety issues that cannot be cost-effectively mitigated, or have significant and longstanding adverse environmental impacts that cannot be addressed. Dam removals can restore the natural functions of rivers, return extirpated and endangered fish species to the rivers, protect environmental and cultural resources important to communities, and increase the climate resilience of U.S. rivers. For example, the dams in the western United States have impacted the salmon runs which have a significant natural, cultural and economic importance to the region.  


Maine’s Penobscot River is a good overall example of what can be achieved when industry parties work together towards mutual goals. In 2004, the Penobscot Nation,  environmental organizations, and the hydropower industry reached a landmark agreement that led to the removal of two large dams and rehabilitated and retrofitted other hydropower facilities to improve fish passage, increase their generating capacity, and advance safety. After $65 million of work was completed in 2016, more than 2,000 miles of river habitat were reopened for the endangered Atlantic salmon, total hydropower generation was increased, and the river’s role as the center of Penobscot tribal culture was improved. More work needs to be done in the  Penobscot basin, but this recent effort points to a promising direction for rivers nationwide. 


Mr. President, by including funding, tax incentives, and other federal support for the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of the nation’s 90,000 dams in your forthcoming infrastructure package and related proposals, you can help improve public safety, increase free-flowing rivers, expand low-carbon generation, and create jobs. We strongly urge you to pursue this course and look forward to working in partnership with you to secure America’s clean energy future.  



U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm 

Acting Secretary of Interior Scott de la Vega 

Acting OMB Director Rob Fairweather 

White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy