Powering the Future

By Kris Polly

Through technological innovations, regulatory revisions, and constant advances in management, the U.S. hydropower industry is preparing to power the future. In this month’s Hydro Leader, we speak with representatives of numerous federal agencies, local hydropower entities, and industry professionals. 

Max Spiker has three decades of experience in the Bureau of Reclamation and today serves as its senior advisor for hydropower and its electric reliability officer. In our cover interview, Mr. Spiker tells us about hydropower’s critical role in providing both clean, dispatchable energy and domestic energy-security benefits. 

Powering nonpowered dams is one of the most promising and cost-effective methods of increasing hydroelectric capacity. Recently, Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) added power generation to the federally owned Red Rock Dam on the Des Moines River in Iowa. We speak with Brent Moeller, MRES’s director of generation resources, and Ray Wahle, MRES’s senior vice president of power supply and operations, about the challenges and benefits of the Red Rock Hydro Project. 

Optical, infrared, and radar observation from satellites can provide huge quantities of precise data on subsidence, seepage, and dam stability. To learn more about this cutting-edge dam monitoring technique, we speak with Camilla Braithwaite, a product manager at Rezatec, a satellite data analytics company, and Billy Cothran, CEO of South Carolina’s Startex-Jackson-Wellford-Duncan Water District, which is using Rezatec’s services. 

We also bring you the story of two impressive female dam engineers who just happen to be mother and daughter. Denise Bunte‑Bisnett is the president of the U.S. Society on Dams and works for the South Carolina Public Service Authority. Her daughter Rachael Bisnett is a geotechnical engineer at Stantec. We speak with them about their backgrounds and how to encourage young professionals to go into dam engineering. 

Most of our readers are highly familiar with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which licenses nearly all nonfederal hydropower dams. We interview David Capka, the director of FERC’s Division of Dam Safety and Inspections, about FERC’s dam safety work and the progress of the part 12 revision process. 

Finally, we interview John Palmer, a senior policy advisor for the water division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) region 10 office, about the EPA’s new report on cold water refuges in the lower Columbia River. 

I hope that the stories of these impressive professionals inspire you as you work to power our nation’s future through the hydro industry. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.