House holds hearing on water and hydropower issues

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held an Oct. 29 oversight hearing on “A Roadmap for Increasing our Water and Hydropower Supplies: The Need for New or Expanded Multi-Purpose Surface Storage Facilities.”

This hearing examined the growing need for and the multiple-use benefits of increased water storage and ways to expedite the construction of such facilities.

“Surface storage continues to have lasting and positive impacts not only in Central Washington but to the country in general. Yet, these projects are under constant assault by litigation and other pressures to change their operations to other purposes. I will continue to oppose these policies that change existing projects and their historical mission. What is obvious is that it is necessary for us to build more surface storage if we want to maintain our prosperity,” said full House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

“There is no shortage of water and no shortage of economical storage sites. Financing has never been a problem for projects that produce abundant water and power – experience shows us that such projects pay for themselves many times over,” said Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock, R-Calif. “What we suffer is a superabundance of bureaucracy and a catastrophic shortage of vision and political will. That is what has to change.”

Multi-purpose dams and reservoirs can generate cheap emission-free electricity, store water supplies for farmers, ranchers and municipalities, tame floods, provide recreational opportunities and provide year-round cold water flows for fisheries, said an Oct. 29 statement from the committee’s Republican majority. “Unfortunately, bureaucratic ‘paralysis-by-analysis’ approaches and sometimes duplicative federal regulations have stymied proposed water storage projects for years while environmental regulations, litigation and population growth strain current water storage infrastructure,” the GOP statement added.

Among the hearing witnesses:

  • Tom Barcellos of the Family Farm Alliance Representative and a dairy farmer from Porterville, Calif., discussed ways to streamline the regulatory environment and personal experiences involving surface water storage. “Those of us familiar with water management know that increased water conservation and efficiency can help, but they are only part – a small part – of the solution. And buying and bullying water away from farmers isn’t the solution either. Meeting the current and future water needs of the West will require a thoughtful combination of means, not the least of which is the creation of news storage.”
  • Robert Shibatani, CEO and Principal Hydrologist of the Shibatani Group, highlighted the benefits of small high-elevation storage projects. “New high elevation storage reservoirs offer significant additional operational flexibility for water resource managers in many other areas. The premise is really quite simple. Capturing a larger portion of water that would otherwise be lost during the rainy season provides the additional assets that water managers can then out to direct beneficial use later on. In many ways, it converts what can be viewed as wastage and simply holds it in reserve until it can be used more beneficially later this year.”
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.