Technical clarity in inter-agency negotiations: lessons from four hydropower projects

Vol. 31(2) 187-194

We investigated the effect of technical clarity on success in multi-party negotiations in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing process. Technical clarity is the shared understanding of dimensions such as the geographic extent of the project, range of flows to be considered, important species and life stages, and variety of water uses considered. The results of four hydropower licensing consultations are reported. Key participants were interviewed to ascertain the level of technical clarity present during the consultations and the degree to which the consultations were successful. Technical clarity appears to be a prerequisite for successful outcomes. Factors that enhance technical clarity include simple project design, new rather than existing projects, precise definition of issues, a sense of urgency to reach agreement, a sense of fairness among participants, and consistency in participation. Negotiators should not neglect the critical pre-negotiation steps of defining technical issues and determining appropriate studies, deciding how to interpret studies, and agreeing on responses to study results.


Burkardt, N., Lamb, B.L., Taylor, J.G.