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Kuster introduced the bipartisan Twenty-First Century Dams Act in the House today and Feinstein will introduce a companion bill in the Senate later in July

WashingtonSenator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Representative Annie Kuster (N.H.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) today announced legislation to accelerate the rehabilitation retrofit, or removal of America’s 90,000 dams. Representative Kuster introduced H.R. 4375, the bipartisan Twenty-First Century Dams Act and Senator Feinstein will introduce companion legislation in the Senate in the coming weeks. The bill makes a $25.8 billion investment in enhancing the safety, grid resilience benefits and power generating capacity of America’s existing dams while also providing historic funding to remove dams that are no longer necessary.

There are urgent safety, power generation and environmental demands that require the ambitious investment laid out in the Twenty-First Century Dams Act. The United States has more than 90,000 dams, including 6,000 “high-hazard” dams with poor, unsatisfactory, or unknown safety ratings that would pose a threat to human life should they fail. Hydropower is an essential baseload source of renewable energy that is responsible for six percent of electricity production in the United States — and more than 90% of the nation’s current electricity storage capacity — but the dams that generate this power are aging and need upgrades. Additionally, many of the nation’s dams have outlived their useful life and should be removed to restore rivers to their natural state.  

“The Twenty-First Century Dams Act is a critical step in efforts to modernize our nation’s dams and hydropower systems,” said Senator Feinstein. “The bill includes significant investments to increase the safety and power generation of our dams, a particularly important issue for California. Hydropower generation is a critical part of a comprehensive climate strategy to mitigate U.S. carbon emissions, a complement to increasing solar and wind generation. The bill will also allow for the removal of unnecessary dams and the restoration of river ecosystems. We know all too well in California that we must invest in our water infrastructure, and modernizing dams and hydropower is a big step in that direction.”

“We have the opportunity to build stronger, more resilient water infrastructure and hydropower systems in the United States, and the Twenty-First Century Dams Act advances an innovative plan to rehabilitate, retrofit, or remove U.S. dams (the 3Rs) to bolster clean energy production while taking steps to conserve our waterways for generations to come,” said Rep. Kuster. “It is rare to see such coordination and unified problem-solving from across industries, and I am proud to introduce this legislation in the House to enhance America’s clean energy production and the health of our nation’s rivers.”

“The state of Alaska has tremendous hydroelectric potential, and through it, we can provide our rural and remote communities with reliable, renewable energy,” said Congressman Don Young. “Unfortunately, our state is home to dams in urgent need of repair and retrofitting, in addition to dams that need to be removed outright. Today, I am proud to join Congresswoman Annie Kuster as we introduce the Twenty-First Century Dams Act, which will make significant investments to achieve these goals. I have long supported utilizing Alaska’s vast hydropower capabilities, and was proud to support projects such as the Terror Lake Hydroelectric Plant and the Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project. Our bill will help us truly unleash Alaska’s hydro momentum so that we can not only diversify our energy portfolio, but secure clean, affordable energy for future generations. I call on my friends on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to help us get the Twenty-First Century Dams Act across the finish line.”

The Twenty-First Century Dams Act will:

  • Improve Public Safety: Invests in state dam safety capabilities, expands grant funding for the rehabilitation of existing dams, and makes available low-interest loans to rehabilitate non-federal dams. 
  • Enhance Clean Energy Production and Grid Resilience: Creates a 30% investment tax credit at qualifying dams for safety, environmental improvements, grid flexibility, and dam removals, and invests in existing federal dams to improve their safety and renewable energy generating capacity. 
  • Restore River Ecosystems: Authorizes an interagency and stakeholder advisory committee to help administer a public source of climate resilience and conservation funding to reconnect 10,000 miles of rivers through the removal of 1,000 dams with owner consent.  

This legislation builds on the negotiations and lessons learned from Stanford University’s Uncommon Dialogue and puts them into action to ensure dams are safe for our communities and designed and operated to meet the climate, economic, and environmental needs of the 21st century.

The Twenty-First Century Dams Act is supported by The Nature Conservancy, American Society of Civil Engineers, Low Impact Hydropower Institute, American Rivers, Association of State Dam Safety Officials, Hydropower Reform Coalition, National Hydropower Association, World Wildlife Fund, Hydropower Foundation, Rye Development, Hydropower Reform Coalition, Union of Concerned Scientists and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“The major agreement we brokered last October between the U.S. hydropower industry and environmental community has led to an exciting opportunity to address climate change and the health of our nation’s rivers through the “3Rs” — rehabilitating some of the nation’s 90,000 dams for safety, retrofitting some for power, and removing some for conservation,” said Dan Reicher, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, Senior Scholar at the Stanford Woods Institute, and Founding Executive Director, Stanford Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. “The 3Rs legislation being introduced in both the House and Senate will help seize this terrific opportunity, with great upside for people and the planet." 

“Hydropower’s existing fleet plays a significant role in America’s clean energy infrastructure, and will play a critical role in achieving President Biden’s goal of a zero-carbon electricity grid,” said Malcolm Woolf, CEO & President of the National Hydropower Association. “With the right tools, we can optimize generation efficiency and output, make environmental enhancements, and bolster dam safety – outcomes that will lead to more clean energy and healthier rivers. The hydropower industry, along with the river and climate communities, have found common ground to address the nation’s 90,000 dams, and we applaud Rep. Kuster, Rep. Young, and Senator Feinstein for leading a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the performance of the existing hydropower fleet.” 

“Healthy, free-flowing rivers are essential to our future as we face the challenges of climate change. Investing in dam removal and river restoration will revitalize ecosystem health, improve public safety and strengthen communities,” said Tom Kiernan, President, American Rivers. “We applaud Rep. Kuster, Rep. Young, and Senator Feinstein for recognizing the need to improve the safety and management of dams, and for prioritizing healthy rivers. We urge Congress to enact all of the elements of this important bipartisan package together.”

“The Twenty-First Century Dams Act addresses our nation’s more than 90,000 dams targeting investments to ensure they are safe for our communities and can meet the energy and environmental needs of the 21st century. The Act also supports a historic investment to restore at least 10,000 miles of free-flowing rivers, emphasizing the critical role healthy freshwater ecosystems play in allowing people and nature to adapt to a changing climate,” said Tara Moberg, Global Freshwater Advisor for The Nature Conservancy. “Taken as a comprehensive package, these are critical and timely infrastructure investments, and we’re grateful for the leadership of Rep. Kuster and Senator Feinstein and all of the original co-sponsors to make sure they are on the table.” 

“The Twenty-First Century Dams Act is an important step for our freshwater ecosystems,” said Jeff Opperman, Global Freshwater Lead Scientist, WWF. “This legislation would make critical investments in river restoration while contributing to solving the climate crisis and moving us further down the road toward smart infrastructure. These benefits will be seen across the US, and also serve as a model for how communities around the world can craft solutions to find a better balance between river systems and water management infrastructure.”