Federal budget proposal includes millions for U.S. hydroelectric power, dams

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President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget requests include a number of requests for both the Department of Energy and Bureau of Reclamation that could provide significant funding for conventional, pumped-storage, and marine and hydrokinetic hydroelectric power.

The President’s proposal includes more than US$67 million for DOE’s Water Power Program, with funds being split $25.5 million for conventional and pumped-storage hydropower, and $40.8 million for MHK.

Specifically, DOE’s allocations would be used for:

  • Furthering the HydroNEXT program, which encourages the addition of hydropower at existing non-powered dams by supporting the research and development of modular powertrain technologies “with the potential to minimize the need for costly, customized, site-specific engineering”;
  • Promoting R&D that would help balance the cost-to-benefit ratio of small, low-impact projects that currently rely on “expansive and expensive civil works” required by “conventional technology and development designs”;
  • Completing the “front end engineering and design” for a full-scale, grid-connected open-water wave test facility capable of testing and demonstrating MHK components and systems;
  • Supporting the integration of MHK components into prototype systems, with specific targeting toward advanced controls, advanced power take-off (PTO) and optimized structures; and
  • Developing accurate and cost-effective monitoring instrumentation for MHK applications.

The funding will also invest 5% of Water Technology Program funding “toward new off-roadmap innovative technologies and solutions that can help meet existing goals but are not represented in a significant way in the current portfolio or technology roadmaps.”

The DOE proposal represents more than $6 million in additional funding for the conventional hydropower program, with a $300,000 dip for MHK from the past fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the budget request includes a total of $1.1 billion for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation what would “provide robust investments in the safety, reliability and efficiency of America’s water infrastructure and in conservation, reuse and applied science to address the nation’s water supply challenges,” the agency said.

The budget also reflects Reclamation’s challenges in addressing the drought facing America’s west, which, the Bureau said, “affects major U.S. river basins in virtually every western state.”

Specifics of Reclamation’s budget request include:

WaterSMART Program — The budget proposed $58.1 million for the WaterSMART program to “assist communities in optimizing the use of water supplies by improving management. Included are:

  • $23.4 million for WaterSMART grants
  • $5.2 million for the Basin Studies Program
  • $20 million for the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program
  • $4.2 million for the Water Conservation Field Service Program
  • $2.5 million for the Drought Response Program
  • $2.5 million for the Resilient Infrastructure Program
  • $250,000 for the Cooperative Watershed Management Program

America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative — The Bureau said it has a “responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations”, with many of its AGO activities supporting Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery programs. Specific allocations include:

  • $16.7 million is for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance for river operations.
  • $24.4 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $17.5 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $4.4 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Programs.
  • $6.8 million of the $18.0 million Klamath Project supports wildlife refuge and environmental needs, the remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural and tribal and facilities operations and maintenance activities.
  • $37.0 million for the California Bay-Delta Restoration, equal to the FY 2015 budget. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the co-equal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability, under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $7.2 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $28.1 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.
  • $49.5 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations in the CVP service area of California.
    Within California’s Central Valley Project (CVP), $11.9 million and an additional $1.5 million in the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration program.
  • $9.5 million, as part of the Middle Rio Grande Project budget, targeted to support environmental activities developed through an Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.
  • $18 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Other hydroelectric and dam-related budget highlights include:

  • $123 million to operate, manage, and improve CVP. More than one-half of that amount provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $20.3 million for the Replacements, Additions, and Extraordinary Maintenance program which provides for modernization, upgrade, and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. The remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies and environmental needs.
  • $36.5 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • $12.8 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions. Funding is also included to continue construction on fish passage facilities at Cle Elum dam.
  • $88.1 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or will continue at a number of facilities. A focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam in California.
  • $26.2 million for site security to continue Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program, which includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.

Reclamation’s budget also includes $112.5 million for its Indian Water Rights Settlements account, which the Bureau said is “among the highest priorities”.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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