Enviros Want to Lower Missouri River
If environmental groups are allowed to take over management of the Missouri River, the public will face significantly increased power rates and the possibility of blackouts, according to a study commissioned by Nebraska's two largest utilities.
Omaha Public Power District and Nebraska Public Power District depend on Missouri River water to help generate power and if the river is lowered this summer, officials expect it will be necessary to buy power from outside sources.
The economic impact of lowering river flows could reach $40,000 per day, or $78 million for the entire peak summer season.
American Rivers spokesman, Chad Smith, acknowledged there could be adverse effects, but accused the utilities of overstating potential problems.
In an ironic twist of words, Smith said "[I]t is really not acceptable to have a group like this out there talking about blackouts…causing harm to children and the elderly. That's just the worst kind of scare-tactic rhetoric that has no place in an informed public debate on conservation issues." Too bad they don't practice what they preach.
Utilities say lowering Missouri River flows will cost customers
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A report commissioned by Nebraska's two largest utilities warns that a plan to reduce Missouri River flows this summer could be costly for consumers.
Lowering the flows is a move supported by environmental groups for management of the Missouri River system.
However, Omaha Public Power District and Nebraska Public Power District officials claim those reduced flows could cause power blackouts and significant rate increases for customers.
Both utilities have power plants along the river, making use of flows to help generate power.
The utilities said Tuesday that if they have to buy power to make up for reduced generation of electricity on the river it will cost them "tens of millions of dollars."
OPPD said the economic impact of lowering river flows could reach $40,000 per day, or $78 million for the entire peak summer season.
"We're very concerned about the impact of lower river flows on the ability of our plants to generate electricity," said OPPD Chief Operating Officer Gary Gates in a news release. "Since all of our major plants are located on the Missouri River, this issue could have significant consequences for our customer-owners."
Estimates and comments by utility officials were in a report compiled by the Nebraska Power Association, a statewide group that represents electric utilities.
The report examined various scenarios that could occur if the river flow were reduced in the summer under a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A spokesman for American Rivers, an environmental group involved in the debate on how to best manage the Missouri River, acknowledged the possible effects, but said the utilities went too far in the report released this week.
"It is really not acceptable to have a group like this out there talking about blackouts and Missouri River flows causing harm to children and the elderly," said Chad Smith, director of the Nebraska Field Office for American Rivers. "That's just the worst kind of scare-tactic rhetoric that has no place in an informed public debate on conservation issues."
Nebraska gets about 10 percent of its electricity from the Missouri River dams operated by the corps. OPPD operates three power plants on the river: Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, a coal-fired plant north of Omaha, and another coal fired-plant south of Nebraska City. NPPD owns and operates Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville.
All four power plants rely on the Missouri River for cooling water. Utility officials argue that reduced flows could raise river temperatures, meaning power plants could have trouble maintaining temperature levels required in their operating permits for discharging water back into the river. That would cause the power plants to curtail generation or shut down.
The proposal to reduce summer flows is part of an attempt to revise operations of the nation's longest river that has dragged on for nearly 15 years. The controversy has pitted the economic interests of farmers and shippers downstream who want increased river flows for barge traffic against the interests of the recreation industry upstream, which wants a more natural ebbing of river flows for maintenance of fish and wildlife.
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