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:

  1. What are the risks? Identify the possible environmental risks of installing hydropower on your dam.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Collecting Data

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.

Hydrology: The role of a dam in the local watershed

Hydrology is concerned with the amount of water available within a watershed and how that water moves across the landscape. The hydrologic impact of a project is based on how it will change the amount of water flowing downstream.
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Water Quality

The organisms that live in and around a stream rely on good water quality to thrive. Understand what effects the installation of a micro hydropower system can have on the water quality at a site.
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Biology and Habitat Impacts

The impacts that a micro hydropower system may have on the stream's habitat and the species that live there can be complex. Biological surveys can help identify what the direct and indirect impacts can be.
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Impounded Sediment

The sediment (and associated contaminants) that has accumulated in the reservoir behind a dam can potentially impact downstream water quality. It is important to evaluate the potential risk of this impounded sediment.
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Mapping the Risks

Existing data can provide a general understanding of the plant and animal species that you need to be aware of. Local municipalities may have detailed data that is more specific to your site, while state or federal resources often provide more generalized information to help identify potential environmental risks.
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Threatened Species in New York State: A USGS Gap Analysis

This web map application demonstrates how to access publicly available web mapping services for ranges and distributions of key plant and animal species that have been modeled by the National USGS Gap Analysis Program.
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Potential Impacts of Hydropower – A Community Perspective

This map series takes a local view of the potential impacts of hydropower on water and wildlife, zooming in on the Saw Kill Watershed.
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Potential Impacts of Hydropower – A Statewide Perspective

This map series takes a wider view of the potential impacts of hydropower on water and wildlife, looking at the entire state of New York.
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Data Needs Table

The data that is required will likely depend on the environmental concerns unique to your site. Read more about Bard's environmental data and reporting. COMING SOON.


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.

Stakeholder Engagment

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.

How-to Guides

There are many resources and data available to inform your site selection and environmental impact.

Saw Kill Project: American Eel

The Saw Kill Project identified the American Eel as one species of concern for the project. The American Eel is a migratory eel that uses the Saw Kill waterway during its lifecycle.

Read more about the American Eel, how Bard measured the eel populations, and how the project is considering addressing the safety of the eel in the project.

Saw Kill Project: Water Quality

Measuring a number of water quality indicators was one of the first steps that Bard went through when considering micro hydropower for the existing dams on the Saw Kill waterway.

Read more about what these water quality indicators are, how they are measured, and why they are important.