Congress boosts security at federal hydro facilities

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Oct. 31, 2001 à‚– Responding to last month’s terrorist attacks, the US Congress adopted a measure to shore up security at federal dams and hydroelectric facilities.

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Tuesday and by the House Oct. 23, after attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, underscored the vulnerability of the nation’s electric power infrastructure. It will now go the Pres. George Bush for his signature.

The measure establishes criminal penalties for violations and allows law enforcement officers from the Department of Interior to carry guns and make arrests on facilities under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation.

The second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the US, the Reclamation Department earlier suspended popular guided tours at the 2,000 Mw Hoover dam and hydro plant in Nevada and ordered large vehicles to detour around the facility.

The bureau also imposed specific restrictions at Kirwin Dam and Reservoir in Kansas. Vehicle traffic has been restricted across the upstream side of the dam, but fisherman and hunters may still walk in from nearby areas.

Reclamation’s 58 power plants in the West, ranging from Texas to Washington, annually provide more than 40 billion kw-hr and produce enough electricity to serve 6 million homes. Reclamation power plants account for 23% of the hydroelectric generating capacity in the West. Its plants range in size from 350 kw at the Lewiston power plant to the giant Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River in Washington, which has generating capacity of 6,000 Mw.

The bureau also administers 348 reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 245 million acre-ft and delivers 10 trillion gal/year of water to more than 31 million people.

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