Program Eligibility

LIHI certification of low-impact facilities is limited to certain types of hydropower facilities located in the United States. Program eligibility is provided for in Section 2 of the LIHI Handbook (click HERE to access). The current eligibility requirements for LIHI certification are as follows:

Facilities Eligible for LIHI Certification

In general, conventional hydropower facilities located within the United States are eligible to apply for LIHI certification, as long as they do not involve construction of new dams or diversions after August 1998. Facilities that do not involve a dam or diversion are not subject to the August 1998 construction date limitation.

Existing and New Facilities

“Existing” hydropower facilities, meaning those that have powerhouses located at existing dams or diversions and that were generating electricity as of August 1998, are eligible to apply for LIHI certification. “New” hydropower facilities, meaning those that added a new powerhouse at a previously non-powered dam or one that increased power generation capacity after August 1998, are also eligible for LIHI certification, as long as the dam or diversion structure associated with the facility was in existence in August 1998. New hydropower plants that are eligible at existing dams include those that have added generating equipment, efficiency upgrades to existing equipment, or other means of generation, provided the added or increased capacity:

  • was created by modifications or additions to the existing facility (that is, modifications or additions to the existing dam, and/or if applicable, existing powerhouse) and did not require or include any new dam or other diversion structure;
  • did not include or require a change in water flow through the facility that worsened conditions for fish, wildlife, or water quality (for example, operations did not change from run-of-river* to peaking); and
  • did not occur at an existing dam that had been recommended for removal or decommissioning by a resource agency. Exceptions to this rule will be considered but only when it is shown that the changes in the facility resulted in improvements to fish, wildlife, or water quality protection, especially those issues raised in removal recommendations.

Hydropower facilities at dams or diversions that have been reconstructed at the site of previously existing dams may be considered for certification on a case-by-case basis.

Pre-Operational Facilities

“New” hydropower facilities that are not generating electricity at the time of their certification application (i.e., pre-operational facilities) may be eligible for consideration, provided that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license or exemption, or similar authorization addressing environmental impacts, has been issued and that there are no pending appeals or litigation associated with that authorization. In such cases, the applicant must acknowledge that LIHI may suspend or revoke the certification should the impacts of the facility, once operational, cause non-compliance with the certification criteria. For such pre-operational certification, the certification term will begin when the new power plant begins generation. Applicants will be charged a fee premium for pre-operational certification (see Appendix C, LIHI Fee Schedule).

Facilities Not Eligible for LIHI Certification

The following types of hydropower facilities are not currently eligible for LIHI certification:

  • Facilities associated with dams that have been recommended for removal by a resource agency. If a natural resource agency has concluded that a dam should be removed and has documented their recommendation in an official, publicly available report or proceeding, the hydroelectric facilities associated with that dam are not eligible for LIHI certification and owners of those facilities should not apply (see Section 2.1.1 for possible exceptions);
  • Hydropower facilities that are located at a dam or diversion that was constructed after August 1998 or that would require construction of a new dam or diversion that does not currently exist.
  • Pumped-storage hydropower facilities;
  • Hydropower facilities located outside of the United States; and
  • Facilities located in marine environments or using hydrokinetic hydropower technologies.

*A facility is operated in a run-of-river mode if the outflow of the facility is within reasonable measurement accuracy (+/- 10 percent) of the inflow to the facility, measured on an hourly basis.