ORNL has three major roles in hydropower development. One role is support to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in preparing environmental impact statements and conducting environmental assessments on hydropower projects. These documents help determine the requirements included in the operating license for a particular project. This regulatory compliance role is carried out by staff from the Energy and Environmental Sciences divisions.

Another role is to conduct applied research and development for the U.S. Department of Energy. "Since 1978 the Laboratory has been the lead environmental research facility for DOE's hydropower program," ORNL researcher Mike Sale notes. "We have been conducting studies to help promote environmentally sound hydropower development, providing guidance to regulators, resource managers, and developers on solving environmental problems. Support to DOE also includes regulatory analysis.

"We completed a study for the DOE Policy and Planning Office in which we recommended administrative and regulatory options that could streamline the current licensing process. The results of this study were provided to Vice President Gore, who headed a 'reinventing government' team that recommended ways to make the federal government more efficient. There is a lot of room for improvement in hydropower because it is one of the most overregulated energy industries."

ORNL's third role is to perform basic research for DOE and organizations such as the Electric Power Research Institute. "For example," Sale says, "we are trying to better understand the basic mechanisms by which fish populations respond to the problems that dams cause, such as poorer water quality, low instream flow, and mortality during fish passage upstream and downstream of dams. We are studying mitigation measures for these problems to determine if they are cost effective."

ORNL staff also play a strong technical advisory role. "We provide advice to a number of different organizations," Sale explains. "Our group members are involved across the country in reviewing documents, directing research by others, and working on various technical committees for industry and other federal agencies."

For example, ORNL's Chuck Coutant, who was recently elected second vice president of the American Fisheries Society, currently serves on the Scientific Review Board of the Bonneville Power Administration's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, a $100- million-a-year program supported by rate payers in the Northwest to rehabilitate the salmon population. "A board of about a dozen people assesses the quality of the technical work and its direction to make sure it is state-of-the-art science." Coutant says. "In this way we become a sort of national catalyst to help make sure environmental fixes that work are being considered throughout the country."

Search Magazine
Features Index Next Article Previous Article Comments Review Home

Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations
ORNL is a multi-program research and development facility managed by UT-Battelle for the US Department of Energy
[ORNL Home] [CAER Home] [Privacy and Security Disclaimer]

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 5, 2008 2:39 PM