US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District Website Website

Hydropower, FERC Licensing

Updated September 2017
Published Feb. 26, 2015
Granting licenses for private hydropower development at Federal facilities falls within the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Private hydropower facilities currently in operation at St. Paul District sites include Xcel Energy at Upper St. Anthony Falls (Minneapolis, Minnesota); SAF Hydropower at Lower St. Anthony Falls (Minneapolis, Minnesota); Twin Cities Hydropower (aka Ford Hydropower) at Lock and Dam 1 (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota); and the city of Hastings Hydropower at Lock and Dam 2 (Hastings, Minnesota).

FERC is responsible for issuing preliminary permits and licenses to private hydropower developers. A permit gives exclusive rights for three years to develop hydropower at a given location. The FERC permit holders are expected to coordinate with the Corps and other stakeholders during development of their draft licenses. At the end of three years, the developer must have conducted sufficient studies and coordination with interested parties to submit a draft license application to FERC. After review of the final license application, FERC will conduct an environmental review prior to issuing a license. The Corps will conduct a Section 408 analysis, which is required for making modifications to a Corps structure. The Corps will also issue a Section 404 permit.


In 1999, FERC granted a license to Crown Hydropower for a project at Upper St. Anthony Falls, located on lands owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Crown Hydropower is now proposing that the project be located on Corps land at Upper St. Anthony Falls and has submitted a draft license amendment to FERC. FERC granted permit number P-14671 on August 13, 2015, for the Symphony Hydropower project at Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. Symphony is awaiting the FERC determination on the Crown project before investing in further development at this site.

Licensing of hydropower facilities by the FERC is governed by Part I of the Federal Power Act, 16 USC 791(a) – 825(r). Licensing at Corps facilities is also governed by a 2010 memorandum of understanding between FERC and the Department of the Army. As part of this agreement, the licensee must provide free power to the Corps facility. The Corps must provide written approval of the design before FERC will allow construction to begin.

A fixed amount, generally $7,000 per year, is funded under the “Investigations” account for FERC-related administrative activities and permit review. Activities such as pre-licensing, coordination during construction and re-licensing are funded under the operation and maintenance program, and these costs are reimbursed by the licensee to the U.S. Treasury through annual charges by FERC.