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Hydroelectric generation

Hydroelectric generation is the production of power using flowing water. Hydroelectric dams in Wisconsin are regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Additionally, many are also regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Wisconsin's FERC Regulated Dams

FERC is an independent federal agency that is responsible for regulating all aspects of hydroelectric generation, including the construction and operation of hydroelectric dams.

FERC has jurisdiction over hydropower dams that have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Occupy federal public lands or federal reservations
  2. Are located on navigable streams
  3. Use surplus water or waterpower from a federal government dam
  4. Were constructed after August 26,1935 and are located on a non-navigable stream that affects the interests of interstate or foreign commerce (including providing power to an interstate power grid)
Wausau Dam on the Wisconsin River
Wausau Dam, Wisconsin River

Wisconsin has over 120 FERC regulated dams. The number of FERC regulated dams in Wisconsin is one of the highest in the nation. Common requirements established by both FERC and/or the department include:

  • Operation plans (could include water levels and flows)
  • Water quality monitoring & management
  • Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species monitoring & management
  • Recreational improvements
  • Fishery habitat improvement projects
  • Shoreline erosion monitoring & management

Wisconsin's Non-FERC Regulated Dams

The department typically has regulatory authority of hydropower dams where FERC does not take jurisdiction. In addition, not all dams produce electricity. Non-hydroelectric dams are usually regulated by the state, not FERC. The department would be involved with requirements related to inspections, repairs, in addition to environmental matters. Learn more about state regulated dams.

Where are FERC Regulated Dams Located in Wisconsin?

Map of FERC Regulated Dams in Wisconsin

Additional Information

If you have questions about a FERC regulated Dam, please contact the departments Statewide FERC Coordinator, Cheryl Laatsch - 920-387-7869

Contact information
DNR Dam Safety
DNR Dam Safety Program, WT/3
101 South Webster Street
PO BOX 7921
Madison, WI 53707–7921