Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) License or Exemption

What is the purpose of this authorization?
Under the Federal Power Act (FPA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the federal agency responsible for issuing licenses or exemptions for non-federal hydroelectric projects within its jurisdiction.

FERC's hydropower development authorizations are termed licenses or exemptions.
Who issues this authorization?
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
What activities require this authorization?
Construction and operation of non-federal hydropower projects may need a license or exemption. See FERC regulations at 18 CFR Parts 4 and 5. Unless a project has a valid pre-1920 federal permit, non-federal hydroelectric projects are subject to the Commission's jurisdiction if the project:
  • Is located on navigable waters of the United States;
  • Occupies public lands or reservations of the United States;
  • Utilizes surplus water or waterpower from a federal dam; or
  • Is located on a body of water over which Congress has Commerce Clause jurisdiction, project construction occurred on or after August 26, 1935, and the project affects the interests of interstate or foreign commerce.
If you are not sure whether a potential hydropower project would require a FERC license, you may contact FERC staff or request a formal determination by filing a Declaration of Intention under Part 24 of FERC regulations (18 CFR Part 24). Projects less than 10 megawatts that would use the power potential of an existing dam may qualify for an exemption from certain parts of the FPA. Information on exemptions can be found at https://www.ferc.gov/industries-data/hydropower/licensing/exemptions-licensing. For more information on the FERC licensing and exemption processes, call or write the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as identified in the links below.
How much will this authorization cost?
There is no fee to file a license or exemption application. How much it costs to prepare the application depends on the amount of existing information that is available on environmental resources the project could affect.
Where can I get the application for this authorization?
The application is online and can be accessed at https://www.ferc.gov/industries-data/hydropower/licensing/smalllow-impact-hydropower-projects/smalllow-impact-6.
Do I need to include anything with my application?
There are several processes to develop an application: the Traditional, Alternative, or Integrated Licensing Process (see https://www.ferc.gov/industries-data/hydropower for guidance on the steps to develop an application under each of these processes). Depending on the type of project and the process used to develop the application, the application needs to include the information described in the applicable regulations and guidance, which is also available on the Commission's website (e.g., 18 CFR sections 4.32, 4.41, 4.51, 4.61, 4.107, 4.34(i), or 5.18).
Is the decision on my authorization dependent on anything besides the information in my application?
Additional information may be requested as needed to fully analyze the projects effects and make a decision on the application. Once the application is complete, the Commission will prepare an environmental assessment or impact statement on the proposed project.
How long will it take to review my application?
This will depend, in large part, on the completeness of the application, and the potential environmental effects of the proposed action.
Where do I submit my application?
An application may be filed electronically through the eFiling link on the Documents & Filings tab at www.ferc.gov (http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp).
How long is my authorization valid?
The term of a license is up to 50 years (usually 30, 40, or 50 years), and is determined by the Commission on a case-by-case basis. An exemption is in perpetuity.
What is the appeal process for the authorization?
An applicant may appeal a decision on a license or exemption application to the Commission. 18 CFR section 385.713.
Related Entries:
Notes / Comments:
The name of the application depends on the type of project. For example:
  • Application for License for Major Unconstructed Project and Major Modified Project
  • Application for License for Major Project-Existing Dam
  • Application for License for Minor Water Power Projects and Major Water Power Projects 5 Megawatts or Less
  • Application for Exemption of Small Hydroelectric Power Project from Licensing
See "Where do I submit my application" for information on submitting your application. See the "Links" section for more information.
Legal Authority:
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426
Telephone: (202) 502-6797
Website: http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower.asp
Triggering Questions:
  • Will you be developing a non-federal hydroelectric project?
  • Will the project generate more than 5 megawatts?
  • Will the project generate 5 megawatts or less?
* Permit information last updated 2/23/2021