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Geothermal Aesthetic and Recreational Resource Assessment Overview (17)

Aesthetic or visual resources are often considered during the land use planning process to ensure appropriate views are preserved for the public's recreational and other uses.

Possible sources of visual impacts during construction and operation of a bulk transmission facility include:

  • Ground disturbance and vegetation removal that produce contrasts of color, form, texture, and line. Such disturbances could occur as a result of excavation for foundations and ancillary structures, trenching in bury pipelines, grading and surface roads; clearing and leveling staging areas, stockpiling soil, and soil scars and exposed slope faces resulting from excavation, leveling, and equipment movement;
  • River modifications from structures placed in or across the river;
  • Road development (new roads, or expansion of existing roads) and parking areas, depending on the route relative to surface contours, and width, length, and surface treatment of the roads;
  • Conspicuous and frequent small-vehicle traffic for worker access and frequent large-equipment traffic (trucks, graders, excavators, and cranes) for road construction, site preparation, and construction of the facility that could produce visible activity and fugitive dust in dry soils;
  • Temporary presence of large equipment, producing emissions while operational and creating visible exhaust plumes; and
  • Support facilities and fencing associated with the construction work.
Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development – Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Website.

Aesthetic and Recreational Resource Assessment Overview Process

17.1 to 17.2 Will the Project Be Located on or near a Wild and Scenic River?

In 1968 Congress passed PL 90-542, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, in order to protect rivers of particular scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values from impact on their free-flowing condition. Free-flowing condition refers to "existing or flowing in natural condition without impoundment, diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modifications of the waterway."

If the project is located on or near a Wild or Scenic river the developer may require a permit.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Section 7(a):

A wild, scenic or recreational river area eligible to be included in the system is a free-flowing stream and the related adjacent land area that possesses one or more of the values referred to in Section 1, subsection (b) of this Act. Every wild, scenic or recreational river in its free-flowing condition, or upon restoration to this condition, shall be considered eligible for inclusion in the national wild and scenic rivers system and, if included, shall be classified, designated, and administered as one of the following:

(1) Wild river areas -- Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.
(2) Scenic river areas -- Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
(3) Recreational river areas -- Those rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past. ( WSRA Sec. 2(b)).

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cannot license the construction of any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line, or other project works under the Federal Power Act (FPA) (41 Stat. 1063), as amended (16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.), on or directly affecting any river which is designated in section 3 of this FPA as a component of the national wild and scenic rivers system or which is hereafter designated for inclusion in that system... Nothing...shall preclude licensing of, or assistance to, developments below or above a wild, scenic or recreational river area or on any stream tributary thereto which will not invade the area or unreasonably diminish the scenic, recreational, and fish and wildlife values present in the area on the date of designation of a river as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. ( WSRA Sec. 7(a)).

17.3 to 17.5 - Will There Be Any State Aesthetic Issues?

A state may require a permit if a project affects line of sight, creates excess noise, affects a protected aesthetic resource, etc.


In Hawaii, geothermal developers may need to obtain a Noise Permit from the Hawaii Department of Health Indoor and Radiological Health Branch. For more information, see: Noise Permit:


In Montana, the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation may conduct an aesthetic resource assessment for any geothermal project. For more information, see: Aesthetic Resource Assessment: