Tag: dams

Dams & Other Obstacles on the Mekong

Dams & Other Obstacles on the Mekong

"Life by the Mekong River" by International Rivers (Photo from Xayaburi Dam site, October 2012)
“Life by the Mekong River” by International Rivers (Photo from Xayaburi Dam site, Oct 2012)

With a massive dam under construction in Laos and other dams on the way, the Mekong River is facing a wave of hydroelectric projects that could alter the river’s ecology and disrupt the food supplies of millions of people in Southeast Asia.

I wrote “Life on Mekong Faces Threats As Major Dams Begin to Rise,” for Yale Environment 360 in February 2014. The story relies on my travels along the lower river from the mountains of northern Thailand to the delta in Vietnam during fall 2013, and interviews with villagers, activists and environmentalists, and scientists.

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The Long Dam Wait

The Long Dam Wait

Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)
Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)

Colorado water managers say they desperately need to shore up supplies and storage in a region growing larger and seemingly drier. But proposals for major storage and pipelines now face high regulatory hurdles, long waits, and ever-escalating costs.

My September 2013 story for the Northern Colorado Business Report looks at water projects stuck in “regulatory limbo,” and how some cities are adjusting their proposals and expectations in response to new administrative and environmental realities.

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Big Hype, Small Dams

Big Hype, Small Dams

pc_toothrock_tunnel_bonneville_dam_1940sIn the July 27 issue of High Country News, I have a news story looking at the push for small dams in the Pacific Northwest — and the rest of the country. Utilities claim that small-scale hydropower is green energy, like wind or solar, but environmentalists say dams are as awful as, well, dams.

From the article:

Boosters tout small-scale hydroelectric projects — defined as generating less than 30 megawatts, or enough to power up to 30,000 homes — as carbon-neutral and more fish-friendly. And the resource has staggering potential: Just a fraction of the possible sites on [the state of] Washington’s waterways could power millions of homes.

But although utilities, investors and speculators are getting into the game, small-hydro development won’t be easy or cheap without policy incentives and tax credits. And not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. “We look at our watersheds and waterways in the Northwest as pretty stressed already. The impacts are apparent everywhere,” says Rich Bowers, Northwest coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition, a network of 140-plus environmental and outdoor recreation groups.

It’s no surprise that the two interests have different takes on the potential and consequences of small hydro, but the battle is still playing out as Congress bats around which energy sectors will score incentives as “renewable” energy. Federal and state policy moves and tax breaks will play a major role in how these projects move forward.

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