Maintain Environmental Quality
Maintaining environmental health upstream and downstream of your site is a priority when installing a micro hydropower system. With diligent planning, these small systems can be embedded within an existing legacy dam with minimal alteration to the environment.
Evaluating Environmental Risk
This section is designed to help define environmental impacts and their sources in a structured way so that you don’t feel as though you are randomly trying to understand everything that could possibly happen as a result of a microhydro project. Going though this process is valuable because it helps prioritize which environmental concerns are specific to your site, and can prepare dam owners before speaking to regulatory agencies and other stakeholders.
We know hydropower projects can pose risks to biological communities and the aquatic ecosystem. Many of these are associated with the existence of the dam, and some are associated with the hydropower generation infrastructure and operation itself.
When thinking about the possible environmental impact, we want to identify all of the potential issues and risks and be as thorough as we can:
- What are the risks? Identify the possible environmental risks of installing hydropower on your dam.
- How big are they? Walk through each risk and how it could affect your stream’s ecosystem. Consider how large or how small the impacts of each risk could be, and how likely they are to happen.
- What are we going to do about it? Are there trade offs? When possible, a project will first try to avoid the environmental risk altogether. If that’s not possible, then work to minimize the risk, and to mitigate the possible impact. How each risk is addressed will be unique to each site because every site and every dam owner is different.
Once you are familiar with the the various potential environmental concerns at your site, the next step is to begin compiling data. This will include getting publicly available data from local municipalities or state and federal agencies in the form of tables, maps or documents. You can hire local experts to create your own data (maps and field studies) and even begin to collect your own data and observations to support the process. The data that is collected will likely be part of your legal and permitting process as well. Working with regulatory agencies while collecting data can help make sure you collect all required information for your site.
Environmental Impact Reporting
When assessing environmental impact, using publicly available resources can provide an idea of what concerns exist. Working with technical experts can also ensure that you meet the required environmental standards.
Engaging with stakeholders early on in the process can ensure that potential risks and concerns that will affect your project are identified early on in the process. Engaging with stakeholders early also helps to build working relationships that will be necessary throughout the project.
There are many resources and data available to inform your site selection and environmental impact.
- NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation – EAF Mapper
- Provides preliminary information for the Environmental Assessment Form.
- USGS – National Water Information System
- A guide to retrieving data from the National Water Information System
- Hudson River Estuary and Watershed Research and Extension Mapper
- A resource for natural resources, land use, and conservation planning research and projects in the Hudson River Valley region of the state.