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May 5, 2015

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The Policy Racket

Obama signs Hoover Dam power allocation bill


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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  1. What should come next, is lessening Clark County's dependance on the water in Lake Mead in order to protect the dam's ability to generate power.

    That means the local population must stablize and NOT grow, and that every possible effort to reduce water useage must be employed. Buildings, homes, and institutions need to be retrofitted with devices that will conserve water, which might include incinerator toilets. Supporting efforts to use bottled water may also be another plan.

    Either way, the Clark County Planning Commission must be held to the fire in accountability, and now view Las Vegas as a maturing city, not one that will continue non-stop building and exponential growth. Improving the infrastructure should also be a focus. Las Vegas can remain competitive and re-invent itself as needed without all the incessant wasteful building.

    Nevada is famous for constantly re-inventing the wheel instead of examining successful models & following them, so the old mindset MUST change. Perhaps the Hoover Dam power allocation bill with wake folks up to change that requires forward-thinking and accountability.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. The water allocation rules have been in place since the '20's or '30's. It was developed by Herbert Hoover then Sec. of Commerce. Google the Colorado River Compact for the details.
    Time to update those rules as well.

  3. While the power might be divided a bit more fairly than the water, why should the lions share of this water go to re-supply the Salton Sea and irrigate crops in California. For as much as Southern Nevada has increased usage (until the recent population decline), California continues to grow, unchecked, and demands that everything go their way. Is high time California become more sustainable in their usage, and not on the backs of bordering states, but the burden should be on them. If you disagree, check out the distribution allocation from the Colorado River Compact that Paul has stated above.

  4. Las Vegas could decide not to get another drop of water from the Colorado and it wouldn't affect Lake Mead: we get less than 5% of the River's allocation and have 5% effect on Lake Mead water levels. If the Federal Government would just charge for water like it does for electricity (even a below market rate like electricity) all the problems of Lake Mead AND power generation AND water available for Las Vegas would be solved. Now the farmers get free water, so what do they care about wasting millions of acre/ft per year with their antiquated irrigation practices? If they had to pay they wouldn't waste. Paul Gelsman is right: The rules have to be updated to match the urban and green society we have now.

    BTW, even if the charge for water were to be set at market rates, Las Vegas will save about $1000 per acre/ft vs. the interest costs alone of building Pat Mulroy's absurd pipedream to Central Nevada. The lake would fill in 3 years and the power output of Hoover Dam would probably double or triple even though the flow of the river would be less because the water falls a much greater distance into the turbines and carries much higher potential energy, which is converted into the kinetic energy (electricity). Of course, this is far too simple a solution for empire-builders and fear mongers like our water czar. Ed Uehling