On July 31, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the delay of a project to relocate Western’s high-voltage transmission lines near Yellowtail Dam in Montana from August to October because of increased environmental concerns.
“I applaud our hydropower partners at Western for their sensitivity to the potential ramifications of the outage associated with the relocation project,” said Dan Jewell, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Montana Area Office. “While these types of maintenance events are never risk-free, delaying the work until later in the year will help reduce that risk.”
The current location of the lines puts them at risk for the dangerous ice storms that occur in the area over winter, prompting a joint effort between Reclamation and Western to move the lines.
The relocation is scheduled to take about two weeks, and the outage requires Reclamation to bypass the water turbines. With the unusually warm summer and fall, agencies and environmentalists were concerned about the impact of not using the colder water at deeper water levels to power the turbines in August. Alternatives to move the water, including the holo-jets and spillways, could increase nitrogen or water temperature, potentially harming fish.
According to Friends of the Bighorn River blog, “With lake water temperatures already well into the 70′s, a slight mistake, miscalculation or unplanned natural or man-made event could have long lasting, devastating effects on the river where fish are already highly stressed from anglers, low flows, gas bubble trauma, irrigation return, warm water and habitat loss.”
The delay is thought to be a fitting compromise to ensure reliable electricity from Yellowtail Dam this winter and protection of the environment.
In February, the California legislature introduced Assembly Bill 1771 Renewable energy resources: hydroelectric generation, which, if enacted, would revise what size hydropower plant can contribute to an energy service provider’s renewable portfolio standard and how many megawatts can be counted.
Currently, only small hydropower plants qualify to be used as a renewable energy source under California’s 33-percent RPS requirement, and the maximum hydropower contribution is 30 megawatts.
If enacted in its present form, the hydropower plant size and megawatt limits would be eliminated, which could increase interest in Western’s Sierra Nevada region’s Central Valley Project. The CVP’s 11 hydropower plants produced 5,369 gigawatt-hours in Fiscal Year 2011 for preference power customers in California.
The bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard in committee March 22.
After receiving a number of requests, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Park Service decided to extend the scoping period for a new Environmental Impact Statement related to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River from Dec. 30 to Jan. 31.
During the scoping period, agencies determine what factors to consider in the EIS and gather comments from the public to identify social, economic and environmental concerns and project alternatives to evaluate.
The EIS, which is jointly led by Reclamation and the Park Service, involves adopting a Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan for the Operation of Glen Canyon Dam.
The plan, the first comprehensive review of dam operations in 15 years, will ensure that regulated flows on the Colorado River meet the goals of supplying hydroelectricity and water for communities, agriculture and industry; protecting endangered species; and lessening the impact on downstream ecosystems, including the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon.
Changes to current water flows will be evaluated as “alternatives” in the EIS.
For more information on the EIS or how to submit a comment, visit the project’s web site.