Kuster Discusses River and Dam Rehabilitation at Wilder Dam in Lebanon, Highlights Legislation To Modernize Clean Energy Infrastructure
**Last month, Kuster introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate the rehabilitation, retrofit, or removal of America’s 90,000 dams, including more than 2,500 in New Hampshire**
Lebanon, N.H. — Yesterday, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, toured the Wilder Dam in West Lebanon and met with national and local hydropower and conservation stakeholders to discuss the provisions necessary to retrofit, rehabilitate and remove dams as outlined in her bipartisan, bicameral Twenty-First Century Dams Act. Following calls from Rep. Kuster, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework includes critical funding for dam retrofitting, rehabilitation, and removal to enhance our nation’s electric grid and improve climate resiliency.
“Here in New Hampshire and across the country, advocates from diverse industries have come together to reimagine our energy and water infrastructure,” said Rep. Kuster. “My bipartisan, bicameral Twenty-First Century Dams Act takes these conversations and advances an innovative plan to rehabilitate, retrofit, or remove U.S. dams to bolster clean energy production while conserving our waterways. It is rare to see such coordination and unified problem-solving, and I am proud to spearhead this legislation in the House to enhance the productivity and safety of dams like Wilder Dam in Lebanon, and the health of our nation’s rivers.”
“Our nation’s more than 90,000 dams need help and the Twenty-First Century Dams Act would go a long way in providing it through the “3Rs”: rehabilitate some U.S. dams for safety; retrofit some for power; and remove some for conservation,” said Dan Reicher, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, Senior Scholar at the Stanford Woods Institute, and Founding Executive Director, Stanford Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. “Representative Kuster’s bill provides the direction and funding that this strategy calls for, hopefully building on initial support in the bipartisan infrastructure bill recently adopted in the U.S. Senate and now being considered in the House. And we are proud at Stanford University to have come up with the original idea for the 3Rs, through our Uncommon Dialogue process between the U.S. hydropower industry and environmental community, as well as detailed recommendations about how to implement it.”
“Hydropower is an essential part of a climate solution, and we applaud Congresswoman Kuster for recognizing that it will play a prominent role in reaching the goal of a zero-carbon electricity grid,” said Malcolm Woolf, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association. “The bill provides the tools needed to encourage investment in the existing hydropower fleet, which currently provides emission-free, reliable, and affordable electricity to an estimated 30 million American homes and businesses. Working with the river and climate communities, we have forged a path forward to optimize hydropower generation, bolster dam safety, and remove dams determined by their owners to have outlived their usefulness. This bill takes a significant leap forward to advancing the clean energy benefits of hydropower, and we look forward to working with Congress towards its final passage.”
“Healthy, free-flowing rivers are essential to our future as we face the challenges of climate change,” said Tom Kiernan, President of American Rivers. “Investing in dam removal and river restoration will revitalize ecosystem health, improve public safety and strengthen communities. We applaud Rep. Kuster for recognizing the need to improve the safety and management of dams, and for prioritizing healthy rivers. We urge Congress to enact all of the elements of this important bipartisan package together.”
“The average age of the dams in New Hampshire is 90 years, and many of them date back to the 1800’s when they were built to power the nation’s Industrial Revolution,” said Jim Gallagher, Chief Engineer, Dam Bureau, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. “Nearly 200 of the dams in the state are rated in Poor Condition because they do not meet current dam safety standards. Passage of the Twenty-First Century Dams Act will provide New Hampshire with the resources needed to rehabilitate these dams, remove those that are unwanted and obsolete, and strengthen the state’s dam safety and inspection program.”
"The changing weather patterns we have all been experiencing drive home the importance of not only producing more renewable energy but also of the need to truly protect the resilience of the country's river systems,” said Shannon Ames, Executive Director, Low Impact Hydropower Institute. “The Twenty-First Century Dams Act accomplishes both by carefully supporting hydropower while also funding selective but aggressive removal of dams and improvements in the safety of remaining dams. We thank Representative Kuster for her vision and leadership in balancing these important, often competing needs."
“Locally produced hydropower, like that generated by Great River Hydro, is an essential component of our collective carbon-free renewable energy future that will help stave off the existential threat to river health posed by climate change,” said Brandon Kibbe, Director of Legislative Affairs, Great River Hydro. “New partnerships like the ‘Uncommon Dialogue’ provide a pathway for facing this challenge, and new resources will be needed to meet these new demands. Congresswoman Kuster’s leadership with the Twenty-First Century Dams Act couldn’t be timelier to support renewable hydropower and river health here on the Connecticut River, elsewhere in New Hampshire, and throughout the country.”
"Those of us who own and operate small hydropower plants in New Hampshire are facing unparalleled challenges: drought, floods, federal relicensing,” said Bob King, Executive Director, Granite State Hydropower Association. “It is great to know that Representative Kuster’s Twenty-First Century Dams Act acknowledges the important role of hydropower, large and small, in our clean energy future, and provides funding to help us keep small hydro running in the most environmentally friendly way possible."
“Federal funds are essential to our ability to remove obsolete dams to improve water quality, fish passage, and flood resiliency,” said Ron Rhodes, Director of Restoration Programs, Connecticut River Conservancy. “The Connecticut River Conservancy has worked hand in hand with our federal agency partners to remove 16 old dams since 2014, but we could do even more removals once this bill passes and is signed into law.”
Background on the Twenty-First Century Dams Act:
There are urgent safety, power generation, and environmental demands that require the ambitious $25.8 billion investment laid out in the Twenty-First Century Dams Act. The United States has more than 90,000 dams, including 6,000 “high-hazard” dams with poor, unsatisfactory, or unknown safety ratings that would pose a threat to human life should they fail. Hydropower is an essential baseload source of renewable energy that is responsible for six percent of electricity production in the United States — and more than 90% of the nation’s current electricity storage capacity — but the dams that generate this power are aging and need upgrades. Additionally, many of the nation’s dams have outlived their useful life and should be removed to restore rivers to their natural state. Dam removal can fulfill critical tribal and local priorities and enhance climate resiliency in watersheds.