Production cost models (PCMs) simulate dispatch of generators across a large power grid and are used widely by planners to study the reliability of electricity supply. As energy systems transition away from the thermoelectric technologies that have traditionally balanced electricity supply and demand, hydropower and its representation in PCMs is of increasing importance. A limitation of PCMs applied to continental power grids with diverse generation portfolios is that hydropower generation is simulated without full consideration of complex river dynamics, leading to possible misrepresentation of grid flexibility and performance. In addition, data used in PCMs may reflect outdated operating policies. In this paper we propose a hydropower generation feasibility test for PCMs. The approach uses a detailed hydropower model to determine whether the hourly hydropower schedule from a PCM with simplified monthly parameterization can be attained after accounting for realistic river dynamics and operating policies, such as spill requirements and general water movement and balance through a cascade reservoir system. We perform this hydropower generation test for the ‘Big 10’ hydropower system on the Columbia River (part of the Western Interconnect of the United States), revealing 9% overestimation of available hydropower generation in a PCM solution in an average hydrologic year. Our evaluation provides insight on the cost and opportunities for better representing hydropower in PCMs.