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July 3, 2015

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The Policy Racket

Obama signs Hoover Dam power allocation bill

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge section of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project is seen just south of the Hoover Dam on Aug. 19, 2010.

President Barack Obama signed the Hoover Power Allocation Act into law today, cementing an electric power-sharing agreement that will be in place until 2067.

Under the law, Nevada receives approximately a quarter of the electricity generated by the Hoover Dam, which through 2008, was producing an annual average of about 4.2 billion kilowatt-hours. Five percent of that — and 5 percent of all recipient states' allocations — will go to a pooled fund that can be tapped by tribes, irrigation districts, and rural cooperatives that before this law, couldn't access electricity generated at the dam.

The Hoover Dam is one of the most inexpensive sources of electrical energy in Nevada, a fact highlighted in Sen. Harry Reid's comments on the bill's passage today.

"I commend President Obama for ensuring 50 more years of affordable, renewable energy for Nevada," Reid said. "This legislation is good for our economy and our environment and I look forward to seeing Nevada benefit from this agreement for decades to come."

Even with the shares in place, how much electricity Nevada will reap from the Hoover Dam over the 50-year contract that begins in 2017 has yet to be determined.

There is growing concern that the Hoover Dam's ability to continue to produce power — a fate that's closely tied to the health of Lake Mead — will decline. By some estimates, Lake Mead will drop too low to produce power well before 2017.

Still, the bill has received wide support from the Nevada delegation; Rep. Joe Heck sponsored it in the House, where Rep. Shelley Berkley was a cosponsor. In the Senate, Sen. Dean Heller and before him Sen. John Ensign had signed on as co-sponsors to Reid's bill.

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