Corps seeks new funding sources for hydro project rehab

The Corps of Engineers gathered ideas to increase funding for aging federal hydropower projects during a two-day strategic planning workshop May 13-14.

The Corps — whose 75 projects comprise a fourth of all U.S. hydro generating capacity — relies on federal appropriations to fund the majority of its civil works. Expenses include operation and maintenance, some new construction, and engineering and technical services for hydropower.

The Corps says federal appropriations often are not adequate to finance rehabilitation and repairs needed by its aging projects, many built in the 1930s and with an average age of 46 years. As an agency of the federal government, the Corps is not allowed to profit from its hydropower, which is sold by federal power marketing administrations on a cost-of-production basis.

More than 115 representatives of the Corps and other federal hydro producers, power marketing administrations, and electric associations gathered in Las Vegas to explore more effective methods to fund the Corps’ hydropower program for long-term sustainability and reliability.

Although customer funding agreements have provided some relief, Corps hydro business line manager Kamau Sidiki said the Corps needs additional funding sources to invest more money in major rehabilitation.

Among the ideas recommended were public-private equity partnerships, access to revenue receipts from the power produced, increased appropriations and customer funding, and better joint planning among federal hydropower agencies.

Sadiki said the Corps would identify recommendations from the workshop that merit further action, develop action plans, and identify teams and schedules for implementing the actions.

Other subjects on the workshop agenda included how to mitigate effects on hydropower from water storage reallocations and how to develop a communication strategy to promote the value of federal hydropower to decision makers and the public.

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