Hydropower will continue to play a role in our nation’s energy portfolio because it provides electricity without the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel plants. This is why American Rivers supports the continued operation of most hydropower dams.

However, “low emissions” does not necessarily mean “clean.” Hydropower dams have significant environmental impacts, and those impacts must be avoided. We can have—and must demand—energy that avoids carbon emissions, does not consume finite natural resources, and does not irreparably harm the environment. We cannot responsibly meet our nation’s 21st century energy needs by damming new rivers or by weakening environmental protections designed to protect rivers from harm caused by existing dam operations.

Rather than building new dams and adding stress to aquatic ecosystems that are already reeling from the impacts of climate change, the primary focus on hydropower in the coming years should be on maximizing the efficiency and environmental performance of existing dams. We should focus on retrofitting existing dams and other water infrastructure with hydropower in an environmentally sensitive manner and aim to get the most generation for the least amount of environmental impact.