The US National Hydro Power Association (nha) has said that a new federal order which has prevented the development of hydro power generation is a further sign that the country’s licensing process is broken and in need of repair. NHA reacted strongly to a decision by the Federal Energy Regula-tory Commission (FERC) to rescind a licence previously issued for the 4.1MW Enloe dam project in Okanogan county, Washington.

Although FERC was in the process of engaging all parties in addressing fish passage issues at the dam, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has challenged the process as encroaching its authority under Section 18 of the Federal Power Act and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. NMFS has insisted on imposing a fish passage requirement in the project licence despite opposition by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Okan-ogan Indian Nation and the Canadian government. There is also considerable doubt about whether fish historically ran above the dam. NMFS stated that its preferred position in the proceeding was ‘licence denial and dam removal’.

‘What is particularly galling in this case is that NMFS is abusing its authority in prescribing fish passage in a situation where there’s no conclusive evidence that fish ever passed above the dam,’ said NHA executive director, Linda Church Ciocci.

‘Through the unbridled use of its authority, a single federal agency has spoiled an opportunity for much-heralded collaboration to produce environmentally sensitive energy development. Mandatory conditioning has once again upset the apple cart and neither the northwest salmon nor the region’s people will benefit,’ she added.

The Enloe dam is situated 100m above a natural fish barrier— a 7m high waterfall on the Similkameen river. Okanogan Public Utility Department has been pursuing licensed energy capacity at the 80-year-old dam since 1981.