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ICYMI: Young, Kuster Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Restore Rivers, Improve Public Safety, and Modernize Hydropower

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This month, Representatives Don Young (AK-AL) and Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced H.R. 4375, the bipartisan Twenty-First Century Dams Act. This 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. Upon introduction, Young and Kuster were joined by Representatives Kim Schrier M.D. (WA-08), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Scott Peters (CA-52).

In Alaska and across the country, 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 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. 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.”

“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 Congresswoman Annie 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.”

“Deficient and unregulated dams pose a public-safety threat to thousands of U.S. citizens, their property, and the environment,” said Lori Spragens, executive director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. “Recent dam failures and incidents show the urgent need for stronger state and federal dam safety programs and policies to ensure the safety of communities living near dams. ASDSO applauds Representative Kuster and Representative Young for introducing legislation to address this public safety need.”

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.

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