The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 31 proposed a rulemaking to speed ­licensing of hydropower facilities at nonpowered dams and ­closed-loop pumped-storage projects [RM19-6].

Final rules are expected sometime in April.

The rules, once finalized, would implement ­America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018, which directs the agency to establish processes aimed at a licensing decision within two years for eligible projects.

To qualify for the expedited process, proposed plants at nonpowered dams would have to use flows or diversions without resulting in “material change to the storage, release or flow operations” at affected dams, according to the proposed rule.

Closed-loop pumped-storage projects could be licensed under the process if operations result in “little to no change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses and is unlikely to adversely affect” species on federal ­threatened or endangered species lists, FERC’s proposal said.

The comment period on the proposed rules closed March 11.

In April, after the final rules are released, FERC will provide relevant agencies with a draft list of nonpowered federal dams with the greatest potential for nonfederal development, and in August issue a final list based on feedback from the agencies. The work will be conducted under docket AD19-7.

In addition, FERC staff will conduct workshops on closed-loop pumped-storage projects at abandoned mine sites, starting April 4, under docket AD19-8. FERC will issue final guidance on the projects in September.

FERC also approved new hydropower permitting rules on Feb. 21 to align them with AWIA.

Under the new rules, the agency can issue p­reliminary permits for four years, with another four-year extension possible. Before passage of the act, it could issue only three-year permits, with one two-year ­extension possible.

FERC also increased, from 5 MW to 40 MW, the maximum capacity of conduit-generation facilities exempt from commission licensing requirements.