By Kris Polly
The primary purpose of hydropower facilities is to produce electricity, but their benefits go far beyond that. They can provide water storage, energy storage, flood control services, auxiliary benefits to the grid, and more. With water shortages and the increasing penetration of variable renewable energy sources into the grid, all these benefits are becoming more important, and it is crucial that the industry attract new professionals into its workforce.
Our cover interview this month is with Robert Boling, the water resources management market sector director for engineering firm HDR. HDR brings a robust toolbox of solutions to address challenges related to water resources, transportation, hydropower, and environmental impacts— which are often interlinked.
Next, we interview Willie Whittlesey, the general manager of Yuba Water Agency, which provides groundwater management services, flood control, and hydropower production to Yuba County, located on the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada. We talk about Yuba Water’s innovative projects to improve its capacities, including building a new atmospheric river control spillway, implementing forecast-informed reservoir operations, carrying out floodplain restoration, and more.
Then, we check in with Brenna Vaughn, the executive director of the Northwest Hydroelectric Association and a longtime friend of this publication. Ms. Vaughn tells us about some of the association’s exciting ventures, from its new online parts marketplace to its events, and discusses current trends in the industry.
We also highlight two important workforce development initiatives. Russ Sanford, the chief growth officer at Kleinschmidt Associates and a member of the Hydropower Foundation’s advisory board, tells us about the Hydropower Foundation’s new Waterpower Club–Waterpower Community Partnership, also known as WC2. It plans to create waterpower clubs in universities that, crucially, will have major industry support from the outset.
We also talk to Kelly Schaeffer, who is a principal consultant at Kleinschmidt Associates and serves as the chair of the steering committee of the Women in Hydropower Mentorship Program. The program connects established hydropower professionals with women who are starting out in the industry and want to expand their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Finally, we feature a water law column that sheds light on the ever-changing regulatory landscape. Shawn Zovod and Elizabeth McCormick of Troutman Pepper illuminate recent changes to Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act regulations and how they may affect permitting and licensing actions.
The hydro professionals in this issue are working to secure the future of the industry, both by developing technologies and methods to make hydro facilities more effective and by attracting and training a new workforce. We salute them and their work.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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