The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is one of several state agencies that review hydropower license and relicense applications made to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).*
Hydropower licenses last from 30 to 50 years and typically stipulate how the dams are operated, what minimum water flow levels are required, what forms of fish passage must be installed and, in some cases how watershed lands are managed. Well before (often 5 years) a license expires, the dam owner must apply to FERC for a new license. The relicensing process allows FERC, state and federal resource agencies, conservation groups, and the general public to reconsider appropriate operations and land management for each project, taking into account current social and scientific knowledge.
Comments are solicited from DNR's Section of Fisheries, Trails and Waterways Unit, and Division of Waters and coordinated through the DNR Office of Management and Budget Services, Environmental Review and Assistance Unit. Recommendations are made to FERC throughout the environmental review and licensing process.
The Stream Hydrology and Dam Safety Program staff of DNR Waters reviews hydropower projects in order to determine their compatibility with DNR Waters policies. Issues such as the capability of the hydropower facility to operate as proposed without compromising water availability are addressed.
[*FERC, an independent federal commission in the U.S. Department of Energy, has jurisdiction over all hydropower dams not owned by the federal government that either: (1) occupy federal public lands or federal reservations; (2) are located on navigable streams; (3) use surplus water or water power from a federal government dam; or (4) were constructed after August 26, 1935, and are located on a non-navigable stream that affects the interests of interstate or foreign commerce (including providing power to an interstate power grid).]