U.S. House Approves Bill with Hydroelectric Power Provisions

A bill passed 417-3 yesterday by the House of Representatives authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize a number of water resource development activities, including those associated with hydroelectric power generation.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 — or officially House Resolution 3080 — preserves Congress’s role in authorizing projects at Corps dams and reservoirs, while also preventing ad hoc alterations that could present a risk to federal hydropower generation.

Passage of the bill is being lauded by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which noted that many co-ops are heavily dependent on hydro power generated at Corps projects.

“Hydro power accounts for the majority of emissions-free renewable energy generated in this country and co-ops partnered with the federal government on this valuable energy source from the start,” NRECA representative Kirk Johnson said.

The association said the loss of hydropower generated at Corps projects would require “co-ops to seek more expensive, and potentially less clean, replacement power.”

Also included in the legislation are provisions to streamline the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 by limiting the duration of feasibility studies to three years; limiting the cost of any studies to US$3 million; requiring Corps personnel to conduct concurrent reviews of feasibility studies; and requiring the Secretary of the Army to initiate federally-mandated reviews of feasibility studies with 90 days of their submission.

The resolution will now be passed to the Senate for consideration.

If ultimately signed by President Barack Obama, H.R. 3080 would be the latest of several hydroelectric power bills passed during the current Congressional session.

Obama approved the Denali National Park Improvement Act in September after having previously signed both the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 and Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act in August.

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