Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Low Impact Hydropower Institute?
There are approximately 2,500 hydropower dams in the United States located on many of our most important rivers and streams. These facilities generate renewable electricity, but they can also produce significant adverse impacts on fish, wildlife, and other resources.
Recognizing this, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute’s (LIHI) organizational mission is to reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydropower with the primary purposes of:
- setting criteria for characterizing hydropower facilities as Low Impact;
- conducting a program to certify that hydropower facilities meet these criteria; and
- making information about the impacts of hydropower available to the public.
The LIHI Certification standard was established in 2000 by a coalition of environmental organizations led by American Rivers and Green Mountain Energy Company, with the assistance of the Center for Resource Solutions along with representatives of the hydropower industry, environmental organizations, renewable power marketers, and other stakeholders. The LIHI governing structure includes a board of directors, half of which have river conservation backgrounds, as well as advisory input from the hydropower industry, renewable energy marketers, and state and federal resource management agencies.
Is LIHI a regulatory agency?
No. LIHI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For over two decades, LIHI has been the only nation-wide, independent, voluntary program reviewing hydropower facilities in the US based on their environmental, recreational, and cultural impacts, and certifying as Low Impact those that meet our criteria and standards.
What is LIHI Certification?
LIHI Certification is a voluntary program designed to recognize hydropower facilities that have minimized their impacts and incentivize facilities to further minimize their impacts.
Just as an organic label can help consumers choose the foods and farming practices they want to support, LIHI Certification can help energy consumers choose the energy and hydropower practices they want to support. LIHI Certified® hydropower assures consumers that their hydropower-based electricity has been independently verified as being protective of river habitat and resources, while giving owners access to regulatory and voluntary power markets that can provide a return on their environmental and social investments.
How does a hydro facility become LIHI Certified®?
First, the facility must be eligible to apply. The program currently only certifies facilities in the United States. Existing conventional hydropower facilities, new conventional facilities constructed at existing non-powered dams or diversions, and in-line conduit projects are eligible for certification. Facilities on dams built after August 1998 and dams or diversions that have been formally recommended for removal are not eligible, nor are pumped storage facilities or riverine and marine hydrokinetic facilities.
Second, the facility owner submits a detailed application to LIHI. The application contains the necessary information for LIHI to evaluate the facility’s impacts. Assessing whether a facility is Low Impact requires a comprehensive evaluation. The LIHI designation of Low Impact Certified is not defined by facility size or specific operational parameters, but by how the facility operates in relation to all of the following criteria:
- Ecological flow regimes that support healthy aquatic habitats
- Water quality that is supportive of fish and wildlife resources and human uses
- Safe, timely & effective upstream and downstream fish passage
- Protection, mitigation and enhancement of the soils, vegetation, and ecosystem functions along the shoreline and in the watershed
- Protection of threatened and endangered species
- Avoidance of impacts to cultural and historic resources
- Recreation access is made available where safe, and is provided without fee or charge
Third, LIHI contracts with independent application reviewers to evaluate the application and develop a comprehensive report with recommendations on whether the facility satisfies the LIHI criteria and can be certified. Anyone can comment on the application, and those comments are taken into consideration during the certification decision-making process. Those who comment on an application are also able to appeal a certification decision.
If a facility is certified, the Certificate term ranges from 10 to 15 years. During that time, the facility is subject to annual compliance reviews, mid-term reviews in some cases, and a recertification review at the end of the Certificate term.
The certification requirements, application process, and compliance procedures are described in detail in the LIHI Handbook.
Where can I find information about LIHI Certified® hydropower facilities?
Visit the LIHI Website and view our certified projects and pending applications facility map. You can also view our lists of certified facilities and pending applications. By clicking on the facility name, you will be taken to the facility webpage that describes the facility and its operations, and find additional information such as the LIHI application, certification review report, comment letters, and other public documents related to the facility.
How can I learn about a hydroelectric facility applying for LIHI Certification or recertification?
When an application for certification or recertification is received and deemed complete, LIHI sends out an email announcing the start of the 60-day public comment period. The announcement is also forwarded to resource agencies and other stakeholders listed in the application and shared via social media.
To receive these notifications, sign up for one or more of our email lists and select the state(s) in which you are interested, or select “national” for notifications related to all applications and certified facilities. You can also sign up to receive our newsletters and/or other general interest communications that LIHI issues from time to time.
How can I comment on applications or Certified facilities?
Submit your comments and inquiries via email to email@example.com. All comments are given serious consideration in our application review process. Comment letters are posted on the facility webpage along with any responses provided by the applicant.
All comments and applicant responses are addressed and incorporated into the application evaluation and review report which is posted on the facility webpage when a preliminary certification decision is made. Notification of preliminary and final certification decisions are also made to those on our email list(s) for the facility.
LIHI welcomes public comments at any time, not only during the public comment periods while a new or recertification application is under review.
During a certificate term, we share comments we receive with the facility owner and work with them to resolve any issues or concerns in a timely manner, but do not post the comments on the facility webpage. The owner or LIHI will respond directly to the comment.
How does LIHI monitor compliance with certification?
LIHI verifies ongoing compliance with the LIHI criteria and with facility-specific conditions on an annual basis using an Annual Compliance Statement form. The facility owner completes the form, reports on any changes and the status of facility-specific conditions and self-certifies that the facility remains in compliance. LIHI checks public sources of information to confirm compliance and may request additional information from the owner. The owner must also notify LIHI as soon as possible when a violation of the terms of the LIHI Certificate has or may have occurred.
LIHI first works with the owner to resolve potential non-compliance issues but may modify, suspend, or revoke the Certificate if compliance violations occur and are not corrected in a timely manner. Facility compliance status is posted on the facility webpage along with relevant supplemental documents and any additional information provided by the owner.
What if an owner makes changes at a Certified facility?
The annual compliance submittals require the facility owner to notify LIHI of changes made during the prior year. Facility-specific conditions may require more frequent notifications for changes that are in progress. LIHI reviews the changes to ensure that the facility continues to satisfy the LIHI criteria. In addition, LIHI verifies facility compliance with the Certificate and with relevant regulatory requirements.
Why is some application and compliance information not publicly available on LIHI's website?
Some application information may include sensitive details such as locations of archaeological sites or of threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, or plant species. This information is kept confidential to protect the sites and species. Other structural facility information is considered “critical energy infrastructure information” and kept confidential to protect the facility and the public.
Annual compliance statements submitted by facility owners are not posted on the facility webpage as they may include sensitive information and are considered confidential; however, compliance status and facility-specific condition status is posted on the webpage.
Does LIHI keep or share my personal information?
We do not share your personal information except for public comment letters and emails which are posted on our website. Comments are also shared with the facility owner and incorporated into application review reports. We do not retain your personal information elsewhere in our files.
How can I remove my name from LIHI's email list for a specific facility or for some/all communications?
Simply fill out our Contact Form by clicking on the Contact tab on our website and let us know what information you no longer wish to receive. You may also unsubscribe from a particular mailing list via a recent email from LIHI. Simply scroll to the end of the communication and click Unsubscribe. We will promptly remove you from our email list(s).
How can I get more information?
In addition to detailed information about LIHI Certified® facilities and pending applications, the LIHI website has a wealth of information on our organization’s governance including our bylaws and financial statements, information on green energy markets, and other resources including reports and publications along with useful links to other websites.
You may also contact us at any time. Our address is:
Low Impact Hydropower Institute
1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Office 407
Arlington, Massachusetts 02476
Certification Program Director