New Recertification Process - Second Comment Period

In October of 2020, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute proposed a new approach to LIHI Certificate recertifications. That public comment period closed in January of 2021. The staff, Technical Committee, and Governing Board reviewed the comments received and revised the proposal. LIHI is seeking comments on the revised process.

Like the previous proposal, the amended process would incorporate events that would trigger a full or partial review, regardless of the number of years since the original certification. It would also extend the base certificate term to ten years (from five). For full details, please see below and attached.

LIHI would like to hear from stakeholders on this proposal, which if adopted, would go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Comments should be sent via email to comments@lowimpacthydro.org with RECERTIFICATION PROPOSAL COMMENTS in the subject line. Please include your name, organization and contact information in case we have any follow up or clarifying questions. Comments will be due December 6, 2021.


Background

The original LIHI Criteria for certification was published in 2000. In 2016 a comprehensive update to the Certification Handbook was published which included substantial changes to the standards used to meet the LIHI Criteria. It also changed “recommended for dam removal” from a criterion to an eligibility requirement and made upstream and downstream fish passage separate criteria. In addition, the concept of zones of effect was introduced, requiring a comprehensive review of the criteria for each different area of impact.

Because of the comprehensive changes to the Handbook, each active LIHI Certificate was required to go through a two-stage recertification process under the new Handbook. All active LIHI Certificates will be through that process by the end of 2023.

In 2019, LIHI began a discussion with a focused group of stakeholders (certificate holders, conservation organizations and agencies) to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the current approach. After many discussions together, review of stakeholder problem statements, financial analysis, and board review, a proposal was developed and circulated for public comment. The proposal has been revised based on comments received.


Proposal

LIHI is now seeking a new round of comments on the revised proposal which will:

  1. Extend base term to ten (10) years;
  2. Enhance annual compliance reviews;
  3. Enact new mid-term reviews with public comment opportunities for facilities that have undergone material changes during the current LIHI term; and
  4. Modify recertification procedures.

The proposals are included in this red-lined draft Handbook 2.05 for review. Also included are clarifications and edits meant to better articulate process and/or intentions. These are indicated by blue highlights. Proposed process changes are highlighted in both underline and yellow.

Under the proposal, mid-term reviews would be required under a limited number of circumstances such as receiving a new FERC license, material changes to a facility or its operations, new formal resource agency recommendations, or published new watershed management plans or policies. Changes to the Handbook that occurred since the last Certification would only apply at the time of the review. Significant Handbook changes would not in themselves be a basis for a new in-depth review.

For facilities undergoing FERC relicensing, annual compliance reviews would track progress toward LIHI Criteria-relevant improvements being made as a result of relicensing. If a full review is required due to relicensing, and if approved, a new 10-year term will begin based on the date the application was received.

As part of the enhanced annual compliance reviews, the status of compliance will be posted to the project page on LIHI’s website, including status of any active conditions.

As is the case today, stakeholders may provide information to LIHI at any time and LIHI will work with the Certificate holders to resolve any issues that may arise.

Certification terms would be ten years SO LONG AS annual compliance reports are filed in a timely manner and no violation to the LIHI Criteria have occurred. Since changes to the Handbook only apply if another event triggers a full or partial review, Certificate holders can be confident that such Handbook changes would not affect their Certificate.

LIHI will continue to work with external third-party reviewers for application analysis and reports. Annual reviews will be more in-depth, but less burdensome than full recertification reviews. LIHI will be able to remain confident that LIHI Certified facilities continue to meet the LIHI Criteria. In cases where LIHI Criteria are not being met, or are at risk of not being met, LIHI will be able to take action in a timely manner.

Application fees would remain consistent with today’s rates although full reviews would be less frequent and partial review fees would be less than today’s stage 2 recertification review fees. Most partial review fees would be $2,000, the same as today’s stage 1 recertification review fee. If a full review is needed, those fees would be determined after an independent reviewer provides an estimate. There are no changes to the annual fees.

The new proposal, if adopted, would apply to all facilities that have been certified or recertified under the 2nd Edition Handbook.


Public Comments

LIHI seeks the public’s input on the following questions:

  1. Does the revised proposal adequately retain the ability for the public to comment on LIHI Certified facilities?
  2. For applicants, would this proposal impact your decision to seek LIHI Certification for the first time?
  3. Would the proposal impact (positively or negatively) your confidence in the LIHI Certification program?
  4. Any other comments you feel would be helpful?
  5. If you are interested in becoming more involved with LIHI, please indicate so here.

Comments may also be submitted via the link below. The comment period ends December 6, 2021.