Skip to content

Risch-Barrasso Hydropower, Rural Jobs Bill Moves Forward

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passes the bipartisan Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act

May 8, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, U.S. Senators James E. Risch (R-ID) and John Barrasso (R-WY), praised the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s passage of the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act” (S. 306). 

“Hydropower is an important component of Idaho’s energy mix and I am pleased this bill has moved through the committee by unanimous consent.  By removing outdated federal regulations and processes that made these small hydropower projects too expensive, canals and pipelines can now be looked at for delivering power as well as water.  This will be a major benefit to Idaho and I look forward to getting this bill through the Senate and into law,” said Risch.

“We’re now one step closer to making small hydropower development in Wyoming and across the country a reality. With nearly 47,000 miles of federal canals throughout the West, this bill will go a long way in increasing electricity and creating rural jobs. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this important bill and send it to the President to sign into law as soon as possible,” said Barrasso.


Senator Risch, along with Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), originally introduced the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act” (S. 306) on February 13, 2013. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are original co-sponsors of (S. 306).

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives and it passed the House on April 10th with significant bipartisan support by a vote of 416-7. 

Many rural water and irrigation districts and electric utilities in Wyoming, as well as in other western states, seek to develop hydropower on Bureau of Reclamation water canals and pipelines.  In fact, Wyoming has over 121 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites where small hydropower units could be installed—the most of any state.  However, outdated and unnecessary federal regulations hinder these small hydropower projects, rendering them economically unfeasible. 

The “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act” will enable job creators to invest in domestic energy production by removing duplicative environmental analysis and reducing regulatory costs associated with hydropower development. 

In addition, the bill:

  • Provides America with a cheap and clean source of electricity available through modern technology.
  • Creates an environment for substantial rural job creation.
  • Generates federal revenue, as CBO estimates that the bill will generate $5 million in federal revenue over the 2012-2021 period.
  • Does not harm the environment since the generation units would be placed on already developed ground within existing facilities that have already gone through federal environmental review.