Low Impact Certification means that a hydropower facility meets or exceeds the LIHI Certification Criteria which address the following key areas: ecological flow regimes, water quality, upstream fish passage, downstream fish passage and protection, shoreline and watershed protection, threatened and endangered species protection, cultural and historic resource protection and recreational resources.

Owners of eligible hydroelectric facilities are encouraged to apply for LIHI Certification.  The LIHI Certification Program policies and rules, including detailed instructions on how to apply are provided in the Low Impact Certification Program 2nd Edition Handbook, published on March 7, 2016.  The 2nd Edition replaces all previously published Handbook editions in entirety.  The 2nd Edition Handbook implements the revised certification criteria that were approved in the fall of 2014 and defines the application process for all applications submitted in calendar year 2016 or later, including new intakes, certification applications based on 2016 intakes, and recertifications.

Click HERE to access the new, 2nd Edition LIHI Certification Handbook that is now in effect.

There are two steps to the LIHI Application Process:

Step One consists of the initial Intake Review, when the applicant submits a confidential draft application and receive a preliminary non-published review of the facility as well as an estimate of the certification application fee payable with Step Two of the application process.  LIHI’s target time frame to complete Step One – Intake Review is 60 days from receipt of the draft application and fee. The Intake Review results in a Transmittal to the applicant explaining how the project performs under each criterion, what additional information is required to evaluate the application, and provides suggestions on how to improve the application for likely success in Step Two.  The Transmittal may suggest specific improvements the owner may need to invest in, or studies that need to be performed.  Intake Reviews are confidential because they provide early vetting of projects for compatibility with the LIHI Criteria, enabling owners to elect not to proceed if they choose.

Step Two is the submission of the revised LIHI application, which is published for public comment.  The date that LIHI receives a complete application file and fee is noted in the public filing, as it will become the Certificate Effective date if the Certificate is issued. LIHI’s target time frame to complete Step Two (Certification Application) and issue a Preliminary Certification Decision is 120 days from the receipt of a complete application (which must include all components of the application materials in Appendix B as well as payment of the Certification application fee quoted in the Intake Review).  Upon receipt of the complete application, LIHI program rules require a public notice and comment period of 60 days, which is contained within the overall 120-day goal.  Once the Preliminary Decision is announced there is a 30-day appeal window available to the applicant, and to anyone who commented in the original 60-day notice and comment period.

Recertification – Certification terms are fixed to a number of years, however renewal of certification (aka Recertification) is available to all certified facilities in good standing.  Approximately six months prior to the expiration of the term, the facility owner will be invited to apply for Recertification by LIHI.  Information about Recertification is provided in Section 6 of the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Similar to the initial application, Recertification also consists of two steps – the first of which is the submittal of new application materials under the current Criteria that are in effect at the time of application.  The Recertification Intake review evaluates the completeness of the application and asks two simple questions: has there been a material change in the operation of the plant, and have the LIHI Certification criteria changed?  If the answer to both questions is no, then recertification is issued promptly.  If the answer to one or both questions is yes, then a full review of each criteria is performed in the same manner of the original application.  Recertification is also subject to the 60-day public notice and comment period, and 30-day appeal window after a preliminary decision.

Special Note:  All applications currently in process that were submitted prior to December 31, 2016 (Intakes, Certifications and Recertifications) will continue to be evaluated under the approach in the 2014 Handbook Edition. Click HERE for more information.

Program Forms and Documents

The application materials are available for download below in Microsoft Word format:

© 2016 Low Impact Hydropower Institute.  All Rights Reserved.

Please review these Example New or Recertifcation Applications for reference:

Additional Program Documents and Forms:


Please CONTACT US if you have any questions.



Applications submitted prior to January 1, 2016 are evaluated using the Certification Handbook, April 2014 Edition.  All certifications that were approved using the 2014 Handbook continue to be governed by the LIHI Certification Criteria in the 2014 Handbook through the duration of their certification term. All active certifications (including those who applied under the 2014 Handbook) must follow the program rules and procedures (except for the Certification Criteria) in the current Certification Handbook (2nd Edition, March 2016).

LIHI Handbook – 2014 Edition

Appendix B – LIHI Questionnaire

Please CONTACT US if you have any questions.