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. Click HERE to access the new, 2nd Edition LIHI Certification Handbook (Revision 2.03, December 20, 2018) 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 receives a preliminary confidential review along with an estimate of the full certification application fee payable with Step Two of the application process.  LIHI’s target time frame to complete the Intake Review is 60 days from receipt of the draft application and intake 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.  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 final 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, and will become the Certificate Effective date if the Certificate is issued. LIHI’s target time frame to complete Step Two – Full Review 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 full 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.  Once the Preliminary Decision is announced there is also a 30-day appeal window available to the applicant and to anyone who commented in the original 60-day public comment period.

Recertification: Certification terms are for a fixed number of years, however renewal of Certification (recertification) is available to all Certified facilities in good standing.  Approximately six to nine months prior to the expiration of the current term, LIHI will remind the facility owner of the upcoming expiration and provide instructions on how to apply for recertification (see Section 6 and Appendix B 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 and Handbook that are in effect at the time of application.

Stage I of recertification evaluates the completeness of the application and asks three simple questions:

  1. Is there any missing information in the application for recertification?
  2. Have there been any material changes at the facility during the term of the previous Certification (see Section 6 of the Handbook)?
  3. Have there been any material changes in the LIHI criteria or certification process since the facility was originally certified?

If the answer to all questions is no, then recertification can be issued promptly.  If the answer to any question is yes, then a Stage II Review of each criteria is performed in the same manner as an original LIHI application.  Since issuance of the 2nd Edition Handbook in March of 2016, all applications for recertification since that time must undergo a full review once. Recertification is also subject to the 60-day public notice and comment period, and 30-day appeal window after a preliminary decision.

Program Forms and Documents

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

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Please review these Example New or Recertifcation Applications for reference:

Additional Program Documents and Forms:


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