Northwest Hydropower News

Waterpower Hydro Basics Course lights up new hires

HydroCourseWhat better place for new hires and experienced professionals moving into the hydropower industry to learn “the business” than at the world’s largest hydro conference?

The Waterpower Hydro Basics Course is taking place July 25 – 26 at the HydroVision Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The full conference is July 26-29 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Click here for detailed course information and registration.

This intensive, highly practical course is designed specifically for people new to hydro to quickly gain the industry background they need, and to help persons with limited hydro experience expand their knowledge.

Taught by industry experts from hydropower producers across the country, course work immerses participants in all aspects of the industry. For instance, the physics of waterpower, the basics of electricity and distribution, plant operations, environmental stewardship, navigating the regulatory environment, and communicating hydro’s value.

Randy Stearnes, FWEE’s Board President and Tacoma Public Utilities Community Relations Officer, has been a Hydro Basics Course instructor for several years. “The Hydro Basics lesson plans can help a person new to the hydro industry better understand the work done for the generation of electricity and the successful management of fish, wildlife and recreational resources,” he said.

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Hydropower STEM Career Academy in June at Rocky Reach Dam

femalehardhatStudents who will be entering grades 9 through 12 are invited to register for a week of fun and learning June 20 to 24 at the FWEE Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam.

The academy, which is sponsored by the Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) and host partner Chelan County PUD, focuses on hydropower careers that require science, technology, engineering and mathematic skills (STEM).

“Nationally, one-third of utility employees will retire in the next 10 years,” said Debbie Gallaher, Rocky Reach Visitor Center Supervisor, “We’d like to show local students the high quality, good paying jobs that could be part of their future.”

Those attending the academy will learn how hydropower is generated at dams on the Columbia River and distributed throughout the region. During the academy, hydropower professionals, including engineers, divers, plant mechanics, operators and linemen, will conduct tours and hands-on activities to highlight the importance of their work. Students will also receive instruction and advice on how to prepare for a career in the exciting field of power generation and delivery.

These important and well-paying STEM careers are available throughout the region.  High school counselors, college advisors and mentors will be on hand to identify the prerequisites and academic achievement needed to pursue these and related careers.

The academy is open to students from a four-county area: Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan, who are entering grades 9 through 12 (space permitting).  Registration for the five-day event is $175 per student with some scholarships available. For those traveling more than one hour, a host family option is being made available.

For more information and the application, go to  Applications need to be postmarked no later than May 3, 2016.

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Web Resources Connect Students to Energy Career Paths

With “boomers” retiring at a very fast pace, quality wage employment jobs in new and traditional sectors of the energy world are booming. The diversity of opportunity is extraordinary: linemen, natural resource managers, engineers, customer service representatives, plant operators, and more.

Career focuses can vary from being technical, analytic, physical, or written. Some require being in the field while others are more office-centric. And there is just as much educational diversity needed, including certifications, two year degrees, apprenticeship programs, and four-year degrees.

Connecting students to these careers, however, is a challenge. And experts from both the academic and human resource world agree that thinking about options early is the best strategy a student can take.

This issue of FWEE Press focuses on three web resources teachers, parents and students can use to explore these possibilities.

Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy
Click here for the Interactive SMART Grid Career Map offered by The Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy (PNCECE), a Centralia College Partnership that includes a consortium of Northwest utilities, universities, government agencies and organized labor.

Environmental Science
Click here to explore a myriad of options in environmental science.

Careers in Environmental Science are so varied that that a person could be doing desk work, field work, or some combination thereof. The energy sector is fertile ground for those interested in environmental science careers. Often there is a blend of STEM, physical, and communication skills needed.

The Center for Energy Workforce Development
Click here for career pathways in specific energy industries (e.g.—natural gas) and trades (e.g.—linemen).

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Hydro Research Foundation Fellowship Application Open

HRF FellowsThe Hydro Research Foundation is leading the Research Awards Program designed to stimulate new student research and academic interest in conventional or pumped storage hydropower. The awards are made possible by a grant from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Click here for more information and application, which is due March 14th, 2016.

In 2016, the Foundation anticipates making one-year awards to between 4-10 students. Students are selected based on research vision, innovation, academic performance, potential for leadership and overall strength of their research proposal. Each award typically includes the following:

  • A living stipend of up to $18,000.
  • A tuition, fees and university-provided health insurance allowance of up to $10,000.
  • Travel costs to attend the Annual Hydro Research Roundtable each year the student is in the program.
  • The student’s academic advisor for the research will be awarded $2,000 annually into a University discretionary account, for aiding in, and supervising the research. The advisor may also have the opportunity to attend HydroVision International.
  • Each student may have the opportunity to participate in an internship with an industry partner. These internships may result in employment for the researcher.
  • Each student will have an industry mentor and a Foundation mentor.
  • The foundation will assist the student in finding employment in the hydropower community.
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New Grant PUD Visitor Center Opens

Grant PUD’s new visitor center, The Power of the Columbia River, opened December 1st.

Located adjacent to Wanapum Dam, about seven miles south of the Vantage Bridge, The Power of the Columbia River provides an opportunity for visitors of all ages to experience firsthand how Grant PUD operates its dams on the Columbia. Displays highlight the balancing act between hydropower, fish passage, recreation, and natural resource management.

There are many interactive exhibits within the 2,000 square foot facility that allow visitors to travel through time as they see how the Columbia River shaped Grant County. A theater features several videos that describe how the Columbia Basin was formed and how Wanapum Dam works. Visitors will also generate their own electricity, learn about fish in the river, as well as where to enjoy recreation along the Columbia River.

“We want this to be a center where schools, families and members of the community can visit and use as an educational resource,” said Grant PUD Commission President Dale Walker.

The visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday in October through April and open daily (including Saturday, Sunday and holidays) in May through September. The Power of the Columbia River is located south of Interstate 90 on Highway 243. Once on Highway 243, head south and follow the highway for approximately 4 miles and then turn onto Wanapum Dam Road. Admission is free. The center is a component of Grant PUD’s federal license requirements to provide educational opportunities and access to customers.

For further information, contact Chuck Allen at (509) 754-5035,

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Columbia Basin breaking records for returning fall chinook salmon

By George Plaven
Seattle Times

PENDLETON, Ore. — The Columbia Basin’s 2015 salmon season is the second-strongest year since the federal dams were built nearly 80 years ago.

A record number of fall chinook salmon returned up the Columbia River past McNary Dam in 2015, continuing on to spawning grounds at Hanford Reach, the Snake River and Yakima Basin.

More than 456,000 of the fish were counted at McNary Dam, breaking the facility’s previous record of 454,991 set in 2013. An estimated 200,000 fall chinook made it back to Hanford Reach, the most since hydroelectric dams were first built on the Columbia nearly 80 years ago. Read more

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New visitor center opens at Wanapum Dam

By Staff
Tri City Herald

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EWEB commits up to $750,000 to land trust hoping to manage 260 forested acres along McKenzie River

The Eugene Water & Electric Board voted unanimously Monday to commit up to $750,000 toward the restoration and future management of 260 forested acres along both sides of the McKenzie River that a local land trust is seeking to purchase.

EWEB commissioners said the funding to the McKenzie River Trust would be a wise investment as it protects water quality on the waterway — the utility’s sole source of drinking water — and potentially could help reduce its costs to secure a new operating license for its largest hydroelectric generation project farther upriver. Read more

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Let region renegotiate Columbia River Treaty

By Steve Wright and Matthew Rooney
Spokesman Review

The Columbia River Treaty has been one of the most successful international agreements ever, partly due to the leading role played by regional entities on both sides of the border in its management. It has produced billions of dollars of benefit for American and Canadian residents of the Pacific Northwest, and showed the world how a cross-border river basin could be managed to benefit two countries.

But circumstances have changed, and it is time to modernize the treaty. Renegotiation should begin now, and the United States should not hesitate to provide notice of intent to terminate the applicable treaty provisions to ensure a serious negotiation. Read more

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Electricity project gets boost from Chinese company

By Staff
Spokesman Review

YAKIMA, Wash. – Plans for a proposed $2.5 billion reservoir system to generate power south of Goldendale have found an unlikely partner: a Chinese hydropower company.

The project is billed as a large-scale energy storage facility that could help utilities across the Northwest and California get the most value out of the growing supply of wind and solar power. Read more

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