401 Water Quality Certifications for hydropower licenses

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U.S. Supreme Court stays lower court ruling that vacated 2020 EPA rule

April 6, 2022 - The 2020 EPA Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule was previously invalidated (vacated) by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in October 2021. A group of states and industry groups appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then sought a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court pending the Ninth Circuit appeal. 

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the stay on April 6, 2022, which reinstated the 2020 EPA Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule until the Ninth Circuit appeal concludes.

We are reviewing our processes to determine what modifications are needed in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Please review our main Section 401 Water Quality Certification page for the most up-to-date information.

When an applicant requests a license, either to re-license an existing dam or for new construction, we work with the utility to review studies, analyses, and plans.

If we determine that water quality standards are attainable, a 401 Water Quality Certification is issued, with conditions to ensure that the standards will be met. These conditions become part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license.

401 Guidance Manual

The Water Quality Certifications for Existing Hydropower Dams Guidance Manual spells out our expectations of applicants who want us to certify that a hydropower project meets Washington's water quality standards. This manual is useful for utility districts, local governments, tribes, and the public.

New water quality 401 applications

Existing 401 certifications for dams

We have a 401 Water Quality Certification decision for the following projects. If you would like to access a copy of these decisions, please access our list of existing 401 certifications for dams.