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BACKGROUND. The Corps of Engineers (Corps) is the single largest owner and operator of hydropower in the U.S., with 24% of the nation's hydropower generating capacity. The percentage is 16% for the Bureau of Reclamation and 6% for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Corps dams have a total nameplate capacity of close to 21,000 Megawatts (MW) and produce an average of almost 100 million Kilowatt-hours (KWh) of energy annually. Nonfederal power plants at Corps facilities add about another 2,000 MW of capacity.

Most of the Corps hydropower production is in the Northwestern Division (75.2%), including 62.6% in the North Pacific Region (NPR) and 12.6% in the Missouri River Region. The percentage for other divisions is 10.9% for South Atlantic Division, 8.3% for Southwestern Division, 4.4% for Lakes and Ohio River Division, and 1.1% for Lower Mississippi River Division. The total plant capacity of Corps dams in the Pacific Northwest is 14,524 MW -- 22% in Seattle District, 35% in Walla Walla District, and 43% in Portland District. Other major hydropower producers in the region (listed with their 1999 estimated total nameplate hydro generating capacity) include: Bureau of Reclamation (7,537 MW), B.C. Hydro (3,500 MW --Columbia projects only), Mid-Columbia PUDs' (4,700 MW), Idaho Power (1,700 MW), and Seattle City Light (1,800 MW). Annual hydro generation by Corps NPR dams in an average year such as 2002 is about 50.6 million MWh.

Total construction costs of Pacific Northwest Corps hydro projects amount to about $US 16 billion (2003 cost level), with annual benefits reaching $US 2.5 billion. Ninety percent of those benefits result from power generation.

In most years, most of the electricity used in the Northwest come from hydropower dams (53%), followed by power plants that use coal (33%), natural gas and oil (8%), nuclear energy (3%) and a combination of other resources (3%). Typical cost range of new power sources (in cents per kilowatt-hour) varies as follows: natural gas (2.9 to 9), new small hydro (4.3), wind (5.3), geothermal (5.7), solar energy (18 to 39).

POWER BRANCH. The Power Branch, Water Management Division, is the main functional element dealing with hydropower operational planning for Corps reservoirs in the North Pacific Region. Power Branch primarily performs the following tasks:

  1. Develop hydro operating plans for Corps and Treaty reservoirs in the Columbia River Basin,
  2. Coordinate regional power planning studies,
  3. Support the activities of the Corps-BPA Joint Operating Committee,
  4. Conduct hydropower rehabilitation studies, regionally and nationally, and
  5. Coordinate Corps comments on FERC license applications. Many of these activities are conducted to support the Corps' multi-purpose mission, in parallel with other power studies done by agencies and utilities whose sole purpose is power production.

The Power Branch consists of two complementary groups: the Hydropower Analysis Center of Expertise, which provides services to Corps offices in this and other regions of the country, and the Operational Planning Unit, which exclusively supports the Corps' water management functions in the Pacific Northwest.


Hydropower Information Kiosk (Pacific NW)   How the Northwest Hydroelectric System Works   Hydro Events/Activities   Monthly Power Generation at FCRPS Dams   National Inventory of Dams   *Planner's Resource Web Northwest Power Planning Council   Pacific NW Utilities Conference Committee   Regional Transmission Organization    Bonneville Power Administration   Federal Columbia River Power System   Hydropower Value to the Nation   Corps Hydropower Gateway

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Last Updated: 14 September 2004

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