Volume 4 Issue 1 January

Making the Case for Hydropower

By Kris Polly

When Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and United States Senator Patty Murray of Washington announced a joint federal-state investigation into whether four dams on the Lower Snake River should be removed, Northwest RiverPartners knew it was a critical moment to make a public case for the value of hydropower. Ultimately, the Inslee-Murray report recommended against the removal of the dams, citing arguments similar to those made by Northwest RiverPartners. In our cover interview, Executive Director Kurt Miller tells us more about the member-driven organization’s highly successful campaign.

Based on long-term power supply plans it drew up for its member entities, nonprofit wholesale power supplier American Municipal Power Inc. (AMP) decided to develop four new hydropower facilities on existing dams owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Ohio River. In our interview with President and CEO Jolene Thompson and Chief Operating Officer Pam Sullivan, we learn more about these facilities and the planning and strategy work that goes into guaranteeing reliable power supplies for AMP’s members.

Washington State–based Associated Underwater Services deploys teams of divers to carry out dam and turbine inspections, debris removal, trash rack work, sealing gate work, the installation of bulkheads and fish monitoring equipment, and more. General Manager Kirk Neumann tells us more about this fascinating line of work.

British Columbia–based consultancy Ecofish provides electric utilities and independent producers with environmental assessment, monitoring, and mitigation services with a focus on hydropower. Recently, as Director of Science Practices Andrew Harwood tells us, a study on a group of four hydroelectric plants in British Columbia showed that reducing flows in a series of steep, cold streams actually increased fish populations downstream. Novel results like this are important steps toward identifying win-wins for both power production and environmental protection.

The past 2 years saw the passage of two significant congressional spending bills: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. Jeff Leahey, a vice president at Strategic Marketing Innovations, joins us to help explain the raft of new incentives introduced by the BIL and the IRA.

Finally, we speak with Corey Vezina, the acting program manager for the hydropower program in the
U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, about the department’s cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps to further sustainable domestic hydropower generation across the entire industry’s hydropower fleets.

Any reader of this magazine knows about the great benefits hydropower dams provide to the U.S. economy, but it is important to make the case to the general public as well. Northwest RiverPartners’ public-facing campaign provides an excellent model for others in the industry to follow.

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.