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Risch, Barrasso Bill Will Increase Hydropower Development, Create Rural Jobs

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

February 13, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.”  The bill 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.  If we can continue to modernize conventional water canals, conduit piping, and irrigation ditches with new conduit hydropower technology, then why is the federal government making it so difficult to expand hydropower technology in Idaho and other western states?  This bill will streamline federal bureaucracy and eliminate red tape to allow Idaho canal companies and irrigation districts to expand agriculture projects, create new jobs, and generate new clean energy,” said Risch.

“Wyoming has the most Bureau of Reclamation canal sites of any state in the country—but Washington regulations prevent us from installing hydropower units in these areas.  It’s time to eliminate red tape that stops America from fully embracing hydropower’s potential.  We need to take advantage of this abundant, renewable and inexpensive source of electricity.  By removing the barriers to hydropower development, our bill will create jobs and lower electricity prices for American families,” said Barrasso. 

Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) are original co-sponsors of the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.”


Many rural water and irrigation districts and electric utilities in Idaho and Wyoming, as well as in other western states, seek to develop hydropower on Bureau of Reclamation water canals and pipelines. However, outdated and unnecessary federal regulations hinder these small hydropower projects, rendering them economically unfeasible.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.

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) introduced the companion bill today in the House of Representatives.