A Groundbreaking Proposal

By Kris Polly

This month, we feature news of a groundbreaking set of proposed legislative reforms to the Federal Power Act. Originating in an Uncommon Dialogue discussion series at Stanford University, the reform proposal has the buy-in of the hydropower industry, tribal nations, and the conservation community, and includes nothing that all three parties could not agree on. We speak with three top negotiators—Mary Pavel, a partner at Sonosky Chambers Sachse Endreson & Perry; Richard Roos-Collins, a principal with the Water and Power Law Group; and Chuck Sensiba, a partner at Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP. 

To learn more about the background to the reform proposal, we also speak with Dan Reicher of Stanford University, who launched the Uncommon Dialogue on hydropower and river conservation in 2018. 

When a broken slab of concrete in the tailrace of Glen Canyon Dam recently began to shift, the Bureau of Reclamation needed to reposition it, and it used an unexpected means to do so: balloons. Bob Martin, the deputy power manager for Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Power Office, explains. 

Andrew Blakers, a professor of engineering at the Australian National University, was one of the leads of a recent project to survey the entire surface of the earth for suitable sites for off-river pumped storage facilities. We talk to him about the study, which returned 600,000 sites, and the importance of pumped storage for the transition to a net-zero energy future. 

Decades ago, Rory Alsberg’s father was one of the founders of North American Hydro; today, Mr. Alsberg works for marine construction firm J.F. Brennan Company Inc. We interview him about his background and his current work. 

If one emissions-free energy source is good, two are better: The large reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams provide a promising location for floating solar installations. To learn more, we speak with Jairo Criollo and Jon Wank of Noria Energy, which installs floating solar systems. 

In September 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a new manual entitled Dam Safety Warning Signs Best Practices. Edward M. Laatsch, the director of the Safety, Planning, and Building Science Division of FEMA’s Risk Management Directorate, tells us about the manual. 

Finally, we continue our Half-Century Leaders series with generator expert Jiří Ruml of Mavel. Mr. Ruml worked with Czechoslovak firm Škoda for decades and has literally written the book on generators: His book How to Purchase a Good Generator is intended to pass on his knowledge to a new generation of professionals. 

The new legislative proposal is proof that industry, the environmental community, and tribal nations can come to major agreements. This is an excellent sign for the future of the industry, as are the other technological advances and planning initiatives we highlight this month. 

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.