Volume 4 Issue 5 May

Looking Toward the Future

By Kris Polly

The hydropower industry deals with large facilities, long-term agreements, years-long modernization projects, incremental technological progress, and generation-spanning workforce issues. That being the case, a long-range view toward the future is imperative for hydropower professionals. This month, we bring you the stories of numerous professionals who are working to forge the industry’s future.

The Columbia River Treaty, which has governed flood control and hydropower production on the Columbia River since its signing by the United States and Canada in 1961, will expire in 2024. In our cover story this month, we speak with Scott Simms, the CEO and executive director of the Public Power Council and the chairman of the Columbia River Treaty Power Group, about ongoing work to modernize the agreement as it is renegotiated.

Next, we speak with Baha Abulnaga, the founder of engineering company Mazdak International. Responding to challenge competitions set up by the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others, Mazdak adapted technologies from the mining sector for the purpose of dredging sediment from reservoirs. We discuss two impressive solutions: Mazdak’s slurry pulsejet engine and its capsule pipeline technology.

Oregon-based Farmers Irrigation District uses the revenue from its two low-impact-certified hydropower plants to fund piping and system modernization. We speak with General Manager Les Perkins and Hydropower Operator Zach DeHart about the recent upgrades to the hydropower plants and their potential for making the local power grid more resilient.

We also speak with Ted Sorenson, the owner and head engineer of Sorenson Engineering. We hear about his trade of buying, rehabbing, and operating small hydroelectric plants and about what makes a small hydro facility an attractive candidate for purchase.

Linda Ciocci’s accomplishments include 30 years as the CEO of the National Hydropower Association, and today she serves the industry as the executive director of the Hydropower Foundation. In our interview, she tells us about the foundation’s work promoting research and developing the hydropower workforce.

A recent report from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) puts the cost of rehabilitating all nonfederal dams nationwide at $157.5 billion—greater than estimates in years past. We speak with Sharon Tapia, California’s state representative to the ASDSO, about the new methodology and updated cost data used to calculate that number and about how those funding needs could be met.

This month’s stories help us look into our industry’s future—to see what is needed, and to appreciate the ways in which colleagues near and far are already seeking to step up and meet those needs. I hope you enjoy reading about it.

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.