By Chenfei Zhang
WASHINGTON – The nation could get new electricity from old dams, saving time and money compared to damming new streams, under a bill that passed the House unanimously this week.
The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and praised by one environmental watchdog group, would speed up the licensing of projects that retrofit existing dams and pipelines.
Building new hydropower dams can be harmful to rivers, Matthew Rice of American Rivers said, but “this bill considers more than just increased megawatts.”
Just 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams are designed for hydropower, but almost 70 percent have the potential to generate electricity, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy. Different dams could be retrofitted to generate between 1 megawatt and 500 megawatts. Read more.
By Becky Kramer
Nearly 50 years ago, Canada and the United States shook hands over a groundbreaking accord that altered life in the Northwest.
The Columbia River Treaty turned the 1,200-mile-long river and its tributaries into an electrical powerhouse, producing more kilowatts than any other North American river system.
As a result of the treaty, three large storage dams in British Columbia and Montana’s Libby Dam were built to boost downstream hydropower production, fueling the Northwest’s supply of cheap electricity. The storage dams also held back the spring runoff that had caused destructive flooding.
“Even though it’s not commonly known, the treaty really runs the lives of everyone in the Northwest,” said Suzanne Skinner, executive director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy in Seattle. “It’s the fulcrum, or balancing point, for everything we want from the river.” Read more.
By Christian Wihtol
COTTAGE GROVE — After nearly a decade of planning, an energy company has begun building a powerhouse to generate electricity from water flowing at Dorena Dam southeast of Cottage Grove.
The work began in late June and is expected to take a year.
The power project’s owner is Idaho-based Symbiotics, a branch of Riverbank Power, a privately held Toronto company that’s pursuing hydroelectric projects in the United States, Peru and Chile.
Riverbank Power in mid-May announced that it had secured $38 million in loans to finance the 7.5-megawatt Dorena project and the 4.7-megawatt Clark Canyon hydroelectric project in Montana.
The company has not said how much the Dorena project is costing, but officials at the Emerald People’s Utility District, which until last year was involved in the undertaking, estimated its cost at $20 million. Read more.