Hydropower Program

Significant Legislation and Legal Opinions Affecting Reclamation's Power Program

The basic policies governing Reclamation's power utilization activities are set forth in a large number of laws relating to electrical power activities. Some of these acts relate specifically to the Bureau of Reclamation. The others serve equally to establish the general policy for all Federal agencies and in the administration of power programs. The most important of these Acts are as follows:

Date Law/Opinion Purpose
1902 Reclamation Act Authorized Secretary of the Interior to develop irrigation and hydropower projects in the 17 Western States
1906 Town Sites and Power Development Act Authorized Secretary of the Interior to lease surplus power or power privileges
1914 Reclamation Extension Act

Notes of Opinion clarify that in making repairs and replacements chargeable to "operation and maintenance" the government is not limited to preserving the status quo, but may, in the exercise of sound discretion, utilize materials or equipment of an improved type or design.

1920 Federal Water Power Act Regulated hydroelectric development of navigable waterways
1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act Authorized construction of Hoover Dam
1935 Rivers and Harbors Act Authorized Grand Coulee Dam for construction
1937 Bonneville Project Act Created BPA (Bonneville Power Administration)
1939 Reclamation Project Act Extended the contract term to 40 years for sale of power or lease of power privileges, giving preference to public entities
1944 Flood Control Act Authorized Secretary of the Interior to market power from Army Corps of Engineers projects and authorized the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program
1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Protects rivers in their natural state by excluding them from consideration as hydroelectric power sites.
1969 National Environmental Policy Act Ensures that environmental considerations are systematically taken into account by Federal agencies
1973 Endangered Species Act Protects listed endangered species and their critical habitat
1974 Federal Columbia River Transmission System Act Authorized BPA to issue revenue bonds
1974 Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Ensures equal consideration of fish and wildlife protection in the activities of Federal agencies
1977 Department of Energy Organization Act Transferred existing Power Marketing Administrations to the Department of Energy and created Western Area Power Administration
1977 Clean Water Act, Sections 401 and 404 Ensured Federal and non-federal compliance with state water quality standards and regulates water quality impacts of dredging and filling
1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act Encourages small-scale power production facilities; exempted certain hydroelectric projects from Federal licensing requirements, and required utilities to purchase - at "avoided cost" rates - power from small production facilities that use renewable resources
1980 Energy Security Act Exempted small-scale hydroelectric power from some licensing requirements
1980 Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act Authorized BPA to plan for and acquire additional power resources
1980 Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax Provided tax incentives to small-scale hydropower producers
1984 Hoover Powerplant Act Allocated post-1987 Hoover power and authorized Hoover Powerplant uprating
1986 Electric Consumers Protection Act Amended the Federal Power Act to remove public preference for relicensing actions; gives equal consideration to non-power values e.g., energy conservation, fish, wildlife, recreation, etc.) as well as to power values when making license decisions
1992 Energy Policy Act of 1992 An act to provide for improved energy efficiency. Includes provisions to allow for greater competition in energy sales and amendments to section 211 of the Federal Power Act.
2013 Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act An act to authorize all Bureau of Reclamation conduit facilities for hydropower development under Federal Reclamation law, and for other purposes.
2014 Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 Section 3087 of Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to lease power privileges at projects constructed pursuant to the Water Conservation and Utilization Act

See also: Reclamation's Searchable Phone Book and Office Addresses List

Last Updated: 4/6/18