Utah League of Cities and Towns

Making Life BETTER

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R) – Bill Issues April 2012

Please describe a bill or an issue you are working on that directly impacts Utah’s cities and towns.

Enactment of the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act (HR 460) would allow for the development of 50 megawatts of clean and renewable hydropower. The citizens of South Utah Valley would primarily benefit from the influx of power to the energy grid. Federal taxpayers also stand to gain from annual fees power developers would be required to pay.

The hydropower facilities would be located on the Diamond Fork Unit of the Central Utah Project. The Central Utah Project is a system of dams, pipelines and tunnels that transports water from the eastern mountains of Utah to the Wasatch front population centers. The Diamond Fork System transports water from Strawberry Reservoir to Utah and Salt Lake Valley. Massive amounts of energy are generated on the Diamond Fork System as the water flows downhill from the mountains to the east. Currently, energy dissipaters are scattered throughout the pipeline to slow the flow and disperse the energy. Under HR 460, the operators would be able to replace dissipaters with turbines, allowing the currently wasted energy to be converted into electricity.

An existing Department of Interior regulation inhibits hydropower development on the Diamond Fork System. This regulation requires power developers to pay a $161 million sunk-construction cost prior to development. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the requirement makes power development unlikely. HR 460 would waive the requirement to pay the sunk cost. With or without HR 460, the $161 million will never be repaid – but without HR 460, the benefits of clean hydropower and will never be realized.

Once this regulation is removed, power developing entities would apply for the right to develop power on the Diamond Fork System. The developer would be determined based on a competitive and public process governed by the Department of Interior. The developing entity would then be required to pay the Department of Interior annual fees for use of the federal infrastructure. The Congressional Budget Office expects these fees to generate $2 million in revenue for the US Treasury over a 10-year period.

The Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act provides for low-cost, clean, renewable and emissions-free hydroelectricity while utilizing existing federal facilities. This benefits Utah power users, the environment, and taxpayers. The House Committee on Natural Resources will discuss the merits of HR 460 in a Congressional Hearing Tuesday April 17, 2012.