The National Hydropower Association recognized outstanding achievements in the United States’ hydro sector with the presentation of its Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters and Dr. Kenneth Henwood awards earlier this week.
Announced during NHA’s Waterpower Week in Washington, Michael A. Murphy was selected as the recipient of the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award, while Avista Corp., Brookfield Renewable, Grand River Dam Authority, PacifiCorp and Whooshh Innovations took home Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters honors.
Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award — Michael A. Murphy
Serving as NHA’s de facto lifetime achievement award, the Henwood is the organization’s most prestigious honor and presented to recipients who embody the characteristics and commitment to hydro of its namesake.
This year’s recipient, Michael Murphy, was selected after more than 30 years in the hydro industry.
Murphy began his career as an attorney for Green Mountain Power, overseeing relicensing and compliance for eight hydro projects. After moving to Central Maine Power, he performed similar services for more than 30 hydro plants.
When CMP divested its hydroelectric assets in 1999, Murphy and three partners created EPRO, offering jobs to 50 former CMP employees who would have been unemployed otherwise. The firm grew to a national consulting firm with more than 150 employees before eventually being sold to engineering, consulting and construction management firm TRC. Murphy served as vice-president and National Market Director for Hydropower with TRC until his retirement in January.
“I hope that my career in hydropower demonstrates a strong belief and passion for hydropower — the belief that we’re involved in something real and valuable for today and for the future,” Murphy said. “At the end of the day, it’s such a great industry to be involved in and has so many passionate people all working on the same team.”
Murphy was a vocal advocate for hydro throughout his career, speaking before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Congress and Clinton Administration while helping shape the EPAct 2005 and provisions in the Federal Power Act.
He was also active with the NHA, serving as president from 1999 to 2000, during which time he helped expand the organization’s reach through the regional meetings program and incorporation of the Hydraulic Power Committee. Murphy also severed on NHA’s board of directors, legislative affairs committee, Henwood committee and as track chair for HydroVision International’s Water Resources track, amongst many other volunteer positions, throughout his career.
Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Awards
The Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) Awards recognize projects that have “provided extraordinary recreational, historical, environmental or educational value”, with recipients selected in categories including recreational, environmental and historical enhancement; public education and operational excellence.
Recognized in the Recreational, Environmental and Historical Enhancement category:
- Brookfield Renewable: Innovative Efforts to Cease Herbicidal Spraying — After acquiring Conejohela Flats, located in the Susquehanna River, as part of a hydro facility acquisition, the company learned herbicidal spraying was being employed for vegetation management.
To protect the migrant shorebirds that flock to the region, Brookfield developed an amphibious vehicle outfitted with burning equipment that boils unwanted vegetation from the inside out. The new method is as effective as herbicide, but removes the presence of chemicals.
- PacifiCorp: Land Acquisition for Wildlife Habitat Mitigation in the North Fork Lewis River Basin — More than 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat was lost when PacifiCorp constructed the Merwin, Yale and Swift dams along the north fork of Washington’s Lewis River. Though the company had already committed to protecting and managing 10,000 acres of land surrounding the facilities, it decided to add 5,000 acres during their 2008 relicensing. Acquisitions eventually resulted in 15,162 acres of protected wildlife mitigation lands.
- Whooshh Innovations: Upstream Fish Passage and Hydropower — A 700-foot long, 180-foot high modular fish passage system was constructed in less than three months at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Cle Elum Dam in Washington, allowing fish to navigate a 70-foot height difference.
Whooshh uses pressure differentials to transport fish through the system, which is also capable of counting, measuring and sorting. And because the system is modular, it opens the door for more affordable fish passage at many dams, potentially expanding the market for hydro.
Recognized in the Public Education category:
- Grand River Dam Authority: Rush for Brush: Aquatic Resource Enhancement Program — GRDA’s “Rush-for-Brush” program aims to rehabilitate aging lakes by improving the aquatic habitat for popular game fish. The program not only educates fishermen and conservationists about management practices, but also encourages volunteers — primarily local anglers — to create artificial habitats using GRDA-supplied materials.
To date, 5,780 habitats have been created by more than 1,100 volunteers, with the artificial brush piles covering nearly 11 acres of GRDA-managed lakes.
- Seattle City Light: Five-Year Plan for Wildfire Mitigation to Protect Historical and Critical Infrastructure — After recognizing the threat of wildfire to its Skagit River hydro plant and utility-owned towns of Newhalem and Diablo in Washington, Seattle City Light partnered with community members and other organizations to develop a wildfire mitigation plan.
The initiative included evacuation procedures, vegetation management and the cleanup of invasive species near transmission lines. The plan was put into action in 2015, when a lightning strike ignited a fire that burned 7,000 acres of land surrounding the Skagit complex. However there were no injuries, no critical damage to utility-owned or historical buildings, and no long-term loss of transmission infrastructure.
Recognized in the Operational Excellence category:
- Avista Corp.: Long Lake Dam Spillway Modification Project — Avista undertook a three-part project to mitigate risks to fish downstream of its Long Lake Dam after discovering the structure created high total dissolved gas levels.
The project needed to be completed between spill seasons to a reduce significant cost increase — a goal that had a very low chance of success — but to prepare, the utility worked with stakeholders to create plans for 20 potential risk scenarios and a precise construction schedule.
The efforts paid off as 19 of the scenarios were ultimately deployed, but the project itself was completed under budget and with no lost-time safety accidents, compromises to quality or contract claims. TDG values were also shown to have dropped — in some instances, to levels lower downstream than upstream of Long Lake.
“From creative solutions to protect wildlife, including land preservation and new technologies, to increasing environmental education, these companies went above and beyond to find exciting new solutions,” said Linda Church Ciocci, NHA Executive Director.