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Hydropower Aesthetic and Recreational Resource Assessment (17)

Aesthetic or visual resources are often considered during the land use planning process to ensure appropriate views are preserved for the public's recreational and other uses.

Possible sources of visual impacts during construction and operation of a hydropower facility include:

  • Ground disturbance and vegetation removal that produce contrasts of color, form, texture, and line. Such disturbances could occur as a result of excavation for foundations and ancillary structures, trenching in bury pipelines, grading and surface roads; clearing and leveling staging areas, stockpiling soil, and soil scars and exposed slope faces resulting from excavation, leveling, and equipment movement;
  • River modifications from structures placed in or across the river;
  • The creation of a head pond or impoundment;
  • Road development (new roads, or expansion of existing roads) and parking areas, depending on the route relative to surface contours, and width, length, and surface treatment of the roads;
  • Conspicuous and frequent small-vehicle traffic for worker access and frequent large-equipment traffic (trucks, graders, excavators, and cranes) for road construction, site preparation, and construction of the facility that could produce visible activity and fugitive dust in dry soils;
  • Temporary presence of large equipment, producing emissions while operational and creating visible exhaust plumes; and
  • Support facilities and fencing associated with the construction work.
Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development – Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Website.

Aesthetic and Recreational Resource Assessment Process

17.1 to 17.2 Will the Project Be Located on or near a Wild and Scenic River?

In 1968, Congress passed PL 90-542, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, in order to protect rivers of particular scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values from impact on their free-flowing condition. Free-flowing condition refers to "existing or flowing in natural condition without impoundment, diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modifications of the waterway."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cannot license the construction of any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line, or other project works under the Federal Power Act, on or directly affecting any river which is included or designated for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act may also limit FERC’s authority to relicense an existing hydropower project or to license or exempt a project located below, above, or on a stream tributary to a designated river or congressionally authorized study river. 16 U.S.C. §§ 1278(a)-(b).

Wild & Scenic Rivers Section 7(a) Process:

17.3 to 17.4 – Will There Be Any State Aesthetic Issues?

A state may require a hydropower developer to obtain a permit if a proposed project will affect line of sight, create excess noise, affect a protected aesthetic or recreational resource, etc.

New York

In New York, a hydropower developer may need to obtain a Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation if the proposed hydropower project will be located within a designated river segment area.

New York’s Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act regulates land use and development on all designated wild, scenic and recreational river areas within the state, other than those located on private lands within the Adirondack Park, which are subject to 9 CRR-NY 577 and administered by the Adirondack Park Agency. 6 CRR-NY 666.2; New York – Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Permit Program.

A list and description of the state’s designated wild, scenic or recreational river segments is available at the DEC’s New York Department of Environmental Conservation – Wild, Scenic and Recreational System Overview: Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers web page. If the project is not located within a designated river segment area, no permit is required.

State Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Permit:

17.5 - No Permit Needed; Continue with Project

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