Hydropower Licensing

Lake Oroville Dam

Lake Oroville is the largest of the SWP storage facilities. Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States. DWR/2005

DWR has three hydropower licenses and two conduit exemptions issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). These give FERC jurisdiction over 85 percent of the 1,560 Megawatts hydropower capacity of the State Water Project (SWP) and 70 percent of the 5.6 million acre-foot storage capacity in SWP reservoirs. The hydropower licenses contain terms and conditions related to:

  • Public safety and recreation
  • Operational reliability
  • Dam safety
  • Water and energy supply
  • Environmental and cultural resources

Under the authority of the Federal Power Act, FERC has the exclusive authority to license most non-federal hydropower projects located on navigable waterways or federal lands, or connected to the interstate electric grid.

Applicants for licenses may use the Integrated, Traditional, or Alternative Licensing Processes. Effective July 23, 2005, the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) is the default process for filing an application for an original, new, or subsequent license. FERC approval is required before using either the Traditional or the Alterative Licensing Processes.

Once a license or exemption is granted, FERC staff ensures that regulated entities remain in compliance with the terms and conditions of their respective licenses or exemptions, which are designed to protect, mitigate and enhance beneficial public uses of hydropower projects. FERC staff is responsible for administration and tracking of license requirements, inspecting site conditions, investigating compliance issues, and assessing penalties for license violations.

Hydropower License Planning and Compliance Office (HLPCO)

The Hydropower License Planning and Compliance Office (HLPCO) serves as the centralized focal point for planning, managing, coordinating, leading and supporting our hydropower license activities. HLPCO’s main responsibilities are:

  • Overseeing compliance with all license conditions for the SWP hydropower facilities under the jurisdiction of FERC and other federal and state agencies
  • Managing activities and strategies for securing new licenses and renewing/amending existing licenses
  • Monitoring activities involving other FERC licensed projects for possible effects on the SWP

HLPCO tracks, communicates, and coordinates DWR’s compliance with our FERC licenses, serving as DWR’s primary contact with FERC on all hydropower license compliance matters and works to create an internal culture of proactive compliance across DWR. HLPCO is responsible for assessing DWR’s commitment of resources and funding for license compliance; monitoring and reporting compliance performance; and fostering uniform compliance practices.

FERC license compliance responsibilities are shared by many other divisions and programs within DWR.