(The Center Square) – New Hampshire and other states could get a windfall of federal funding to repair and remove aging dams under new legislation filed by Rep. Annie Kuster.
The proposal, which Kuster co-sponsored with Alaska Rep. Don Young, would provide about $26 billion for repairs and removal of more than 90,000 dams nationwide to improve water quality and increase hydropower generation capacity.
“We have the opportunity to build stronger, more resilient water infrastructure and hydropower systems in the United States, and the Twenty-First Century Dams Act advances an innovative plan to rehabilitate, retrofit, or remove U.S. dams to bolster clean energy production while taking steps to conserve our waterways for generations to come,” Kuster said in a statement.
The legislation, which is sponsored by California Sen. Diane Finestein in the Senate, would provide a source of funding for the rehabilitation of existing dams through federal grants. The plan would also offer low-interest loans to help rehabilitate non-federal dams.
It also proposes a 30% tax credit to help states and local governments offset the costs of removing old dams and make safety and environmental upgrades on hydropower dams.
A 2019 investigation by The Associated Press identified at least 1,680 dams nationwide as "high-hazard" because of the potential for loss of life if they failed and were considered to be in poor or unsatisfactory condition.
New Hampshire had 37 problematic dams, according to the AP's report, the largest number of any New England state. At least 50 Granite State dams in the state have failed in the last century, the report noted.
Aside from addressing the public safety concerns, environmental groups say the proposed infusion of federal funds would also help restore the health of crucial rivers and waterways that have been impeded by dams built decades ago to provide power for textile mills in manufacturing.
“Healthy, free-flowing rivers are essential to our future as we face the challenges of climate change," said Tom Kiernan, president of the nonprofit group American Rivers. "Investing in dam removal and river restoration will revitalize ecosystem health, improve public safety and strengthen communities."
New Hampshire also stands to get federal funding for fixing aging bridges from President Joe Biden's $2.2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, which is pending before Congress.
The Biden administration's Infrastructure Report Card gave New Hampshire a C- grade, saying there are 250 bridges and nearly 700 miles of highway in poor condition.
Biden's plan would be financed by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and other tax changes targeting large corporations.
"For decades infrastructure in New Hampshire has suffered from a systematic lack of investment," a recent White House statement read. "The need for action is clear."