Along with other Western senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich are sponsoring the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013.

According to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the bill seeks to increase the nation’s hydropower capacity, to expand clean-power generation and create jobs.

Murkowski says that hydropower already supplies 24 percent of Alaska’s electricity needs, and the state has identified about 200 promising sites for additional development.

Begich says that Alaska is home to more than a third of the nation’s untapped hydropower. He adds that the proposed legislation would help develop fish-friendly hydro sites.

The act would allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend preliminary permit terms, and explore a faster process for hydropower development. The act also would direct the Department of Energy to further study hydroelectric power generation.

The bipartisan legislation was co-sponsored by senators from Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

In somewhat related news, Murkowski also announced last week that she had introduced a bill that would prohibit FERC from charging fees for projects that are no longer on federal land.

The agency now is able to charge small fees for hydroelectric dams that are on land formerly owned by the federal government, but has since been transferred. Among those are Swan Lake and Tyee Lake dams, both owned by the Southeast Alaska Power Agency; and Beaver Falls Dam, owned by the City of Ketchikan.

The Alaska hydroelectric projects affected by the land-use fees and the amount they paid to FERC last year are listed below:

Swan Lake ProjectSE Alaska Power Agency (Alaska)$20,141.66
Tyee Lake ProjectSE Alaska Power Agency (Alaska)$17,552.58
Blind SloughCity of Petersburg (Alaska)$3,261.47
Black Bear LakeBBL Hydro Inc. (Alaska)$1,993.82
Cooper LakeChugach Electric Association (Alaska)$18,081.97
Skagway-Dewey LakesAlaska Power & Telephone Co. (Alaska)$1,662.07
Beaver FallsCity of Ketchikan (Alaska)$6,948.65
Bradley LakeAlaska Energy Authority (Alaska)$62,623.40
Green LakeCity of Sitka (Alaska)$14,705.88
Blue LakeCity of Sitka (Alaska)$18,546.51
Annex/Salmon CreekAlaska Electric Light & Power$10,057.62