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A Checklist of River Function Indicators for hydropower ecological assessment...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Science of the Total Environment
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1245 to 1260

Hydropower generation has advantages for societies that seek low-carbon, renewable energy alternatives, but sustainable hydropower production will require an explicit consideration of potential tradeoffs between socioeconomic and environmental priorities. These tradeoffs are often explored during a formal environmental impact assessment process that can be complex and controversial. The steps taken to address stakeholder concerns through impact hypotheses and field studies are not always transparent. We have created a Checklist of River Function Indicators to facilitate stakeholder discussions during hydropower licensing and to support more transparent, holistic, and scientifically informed hydropower environmental analyses. Based on a database of environmental metrics collected from hydropower project studies documented by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the International Hydropower Association, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, and peer-reviewed scientific literature, our proposed Checklist of River Function Indicators contains 51 indicators in six categories. We have tested the usefulness of the Indicators by applying them to seven hydropower projects documented by FERC. Among the case study projects, 44 of the 51 Indicators were assessed according to the FERC documentation. Even though each hydropower project presents unique natural resource issues and stakeholder priorities, the proposed Indicators can provide a transparent starting point for stakeholder discussions about which ecological impacts should be considered in hydropower planning and relicensing assessments.