Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 | 10:10 p.m.
The House passed a bill to extend the allocation of electricity created by the Hoover Dam for another 50 years Monday afternoon without any objection, and well in advance of the deadline to divvy up the output from the regional power center.
The deal under which Nevada, California and Arizona share power produced at Hoover Dam is set to expire in 2017; Monday’s bill would preserve it until 2067.
It would also create a new category of power recipient: under the new contract, the participating states would agree to take 5 percent of their allocations -- for a total pool of about 100 megawatts -- that would be made available to tribes, irrigation districts, and rural cooperatives that were previously unable to tap electricity coming from the Hoover Dam.
Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, who was the chief sponsor of the bipartisan bill, praised the smooth passage of the bill.
“Extending Nevada’s access to low cost, renewable energy through this legislation is critical to Nevada’s economic recovery because it helps create certainty over future electricity prices,” Heck said in a statement. “Certainty is exactly what our economy needs right now in order to get people back to work.”
But certainty only goes so far. This deal comes against a backdrop of growing concerns about the Hoover Dam’s ability to continue producing power -- a fate that relies on the future of Lake Mead.
The lake’s levels have been dropping dramatically in recent years, save for a brief recent reprieve, and if they fall too low, Hoover Dam won’t be able to crank out any power. Local officials’ worst estimate is puts the date the Dam runs short of power well ahead of 2017, when the new contract starts.
The bill doesn’t take such concerns into effect; the main objections to it have been from lawmakers concerned that the five-percent pool won’t split things fairly between tribes, local farmers, and townships.
Among Nevada representatives, the support has been strong. Senator Harry Reid’s office rushed Monday afternoon to applaud the House’s passage of what they stressed was “Reid’s Hoover Power Allocation Act.”
The measure has not yet passed the Senate; an earlier version of it was stalled last year as part of a greater public lands bill.