Perspective: Defining a Visionary

Vision. Merriam Webster defines vision as “a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination; mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.” The dictionary also defines a person of vision as a visionary — someone “having or who is marked by foresight and imagination.”

Using those definitions, you could argue that anyone who has ever looked across a canyon or valley and imagined a dam and a hydroelectric power station at the site has vision … and could be called a visionary.

However, to have a vision is one thing; to ACT on that vision is quite another. Acting on a vision requires taking risks, getting out of the comfort zone, and, sometimes, going against the mainstream. To be a true visionary, action is required … action toward improving, enhancing, growing, and changing.

Here’s just a few examples of visionaries I see in hydro:

— AmerenUE in the rebuild of the upper reservoir of its Taum Sauk project. This Missouri utility experienced a devastating tragedy in December 2005 when the dam of the upper reservoir of its 440-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project breached, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water. After the failure, the utility committed to learn from the mistakes that were made, establish a dam safety program, and rebuild the safest and best-quality structure possible. In May 2010, I had the honor of attending the opening of this rebuilt reservoir. Local, state, and national dignitaries acknowledged Ameren’s efforts to establish one of the U.S.’s most rigorous dam safety programs and to create the largest roller-compacted-concrete dam in North America. Not only did Ameren have a vision to rebuild, this utility acted on that vision.

— Provincially owned Canadian utilities working with local communities … including aboriginal people … to develop and own hydroelectric facilities. These utilities made the investment to understand the needs of the local communities and then made major shifts in the way they do business. They’ve entered into agreements that make clear the rights and responsibilities of all parties and that ensure business training and job opportunities for local communities. Beyond agreements, there is action. For example, Manitoba Hydro and the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation are jointly building the 200-MW Wuskwatim hydroelectric project in northern Manitoba. The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation will own up to 33 percent of the project and related revenues.

— The National Hydropower Association board, officers, and staff who have a strategic mission to double U.S. hydro capacity and industry jobs by 2025. To act on this vision, these hydro leaders are influencing Congress and the administration to establish policies that would allow this growth to take place. And, the industry is already seeing the beginnings of this growth. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports a 30 percent increase over the past two years in hydro projects proposing new capacity.

This issue of Hydro Review is being distributed at HydroVision International 2010. When this event was launched in 1994, there were many questions and many doubters. Yet, those who had a vision … its then-owner HCI Publications, the individuals on the steering committee, and the first exhibitors and attendees … took action. Today, HydroVision is the world’s largest hydro event, serving the information and business networking needs of more than 2,000 individuals from 50 countries.

What’s your vision for hydro? And, more importantly, how will you act on that vision?

Marla J Barnes

Publisher and Chief Editor

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