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Risch-Barrasso Hydropower, Rural Jobs Bill Passes Senate

Senate passes bill that streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for small hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation's facilities.

August 2, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and John Barrasso (R-WY) praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.”

The bill, which already passed the House of Representatives this past April, authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation hydropower development on nearly 47,000 miles of federal canals throughout the West. This will help create jobs in rural communities across the country and provide America with a cheap and clean source of electricity.

“One of the best sources of renewable, clean, energy is hydroelectric,” said Risch. “Signing this bill into law will allow further modernization of conventional water canals, conduit piping, and irrigation ditches with new conduit hydropower technology, thereby expanding hydropower technology in Idaho and other western states.  This bill will streamline federal bureaucracy and eliminate red tape. It will also provide great opportunities for Idaho canal companies and irrigation districts to expand agriculture projects, create new jobs, and generate new clean energy. I eagerly await this bill becoming law.”

“Hydropower developers will soon have the certainty they need to create rural jobs and lower electricity prices for American families,” said Barrasso. “Wyoming and other states with many potential Bureau of Reclamation sites will now be able to fully embrace hydropower’s potential. I encourage the President to sign this bill into law immediately. Congress must also continue to come together remove more Washington red tape and clear the way for more American energy development.”

The “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act” will now be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.


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) sponsored the House bill (H.R. 678) which passed the House of Representatives on April 10th 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, according to a Bureau of Reclamation March 2012 report, 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.