Did you know the Corps of Engineers is the largest owner/operator of hydroelectric power plants in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world with 75 facilities, 353 generating units and 20,475 MW generating capacity producing more than 100 billion kWh per year? The 20 plants on the Columbia, Snake and Missouri rivers provide 36 percent of total electric capacity in the Pacific Northwest region and 9 percent in the Missouri River region. The median age of all Corps hydropower plants is 43 years with the majority designed to function optimally for only 35 years. Aging hydropower plants are at higher risk for outages, and in recent years availability of generating units during peak power demand periods has fallen to more than 10 percent below the national industry standard. Outage hours have increased by 25 percent since 1999 with 200,000 during that fiscal year and an almost every year rise to 500,000 outage hours in fiscal year 2011.
Beginning in 1995 with the creation of Western States Power Corporation, federal power customers have contributed nearly $500 million in upfront funding toward keeping this these power facilities operating. Sadly, Congress and successive administrations have not provided the funding necessary to take care of this valuable asset.
Federal power customers are reaching a ceiling on our ability to provide more annual funding. It is long past time for the Federal Government to step up and provide more support for this invaluable renewable resource.