Can’t we all just get along?

It has been my observation that the relationship between hydropower developers and environmental protection groups within the United States is, for the most part, civil — though such outward benevolence often belies apprehensions about the other party’s ulterior motives.

To be fair, both parties have vested, legitimate interests in America’s rivers. For hydroelectric operators, rivers provide the lifeblood for energy production. For conservationists, rivers are sources of fish, wildlife and recreational opportunity.

Determining why these groups might butt heads isn’t difficult then, but changing attitudes by members of both groups seem to indicate a move toward hydroelectric developers are making more concessions for environmental concerns and conservation groups are realizing the necessity of hydropower as an energy commodity.

Reflecting this is a recent series of videos released by American Rivers that showcase several instances in which upgrades to dams and hydropower infrastructure have made plants safer for rivers.

“It’s about striking a better balance between hydropower production and healthy rivers,” American Rivers Senior Director of Federal River Management John Seebach said.

The three projects highlighted represent collaborations between American Rivers and power companies, state and federal agencies, tribes and local groups, making them “win-win solutions,” according to Seebach.

Featured by American Rivers are projects restorations of a 47-mile stretch along Michigan’s Muskegon River below the 8.85-MW Croton hydropower plant; improved conditions for fish along South Carolina’s Saluda River below Lake Murray Dam; and upgrades to the 465-MW Pelton Butte plant along the Deschutes River in Oregon.

“Successes like those on the Deschutes, Muskegon and Saluda provide a blueprint for how we should be operating dams today, and in the future,” Seebach said. “This is how you do hydropower right.”

The videos are available via American Rivers’ YouTube account.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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