Powerful Partnerships

Published Dec. 28, 2012

by Melanie Ellis

SWD Outreach Coordinator

DALLAS -- For the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers the word sustainability is often used to describe infrastructure and its life span, but now it is used to describe successful partnerships – specifically the invaluable partnership between the Corps and the Southwestern Power Administration.

Established in 1943 by the Secretary of the Interior as a federal agency that today operates within the Department of Energy, SWPA’s mission is to provide hydropower to six states – Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. To accomplish this, SWPA partners with three Corps Divisions and six Corps Districts, including the Southwestern Division, to market cost-based, wholesale power generated at 24 federal, multipurpose hydropower projects – 18 of which are located in the SWD footprint.

The importance and relevance of the partnership between SWPA and the Corps is not lost on new SWPA Administrator Chris Turner.

“I am impressed with the partnership between SWPA and the Corps and SWPA’s customers,” Turner said. “At SWPA’s last customer meeting in September 2012 it was reported that funding in the amount of nearly $300 million has been committed by SWPA’s customers for operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, and modernization work at Corps projects through the Jonesboro Memorandum of Agreement since its inception in 2000.”

Under the Jonesboro MOA, the Corps/SWPA/Customer team is able to focus on a variety of work items, including turbine replacements, generator rewinds, and rehabilitation of ancillary systems such as air coolers, piping and protective relays. These repairs are crucial to the effective and efficient operation of the hydropower facilities. Effective and efficient operations are a top priority of the team.

Turner also noted that SWPA and its customers will be taking their commitment even further in coming years. “SWPA’s customers have recently pledged to fund $1.4 billion over the next 30 years in support of major equipment replacements at Corps hydropower plants in the region,” said Turner.

Turner attributes the success of the partnership to the willingness of the team to go beyond the confines of ‘business as usual’ and embrace different ways of doing things to be more efficient and effective. He noted that this applies not only to the work under the Jonesboro MOA, but also too many of the other aspects of the partnership, such as operation of the reservoir and coordination with other users of the multipurpose project.

“With our current process of meeting regularly to discuss work under the Jonesboro MOA and operations of the projects, we are able to share experiences and promote a ‘best practice’ way of thinking,” said Turner. “In the end, this has saved us money and valuable time. I am grateful to the Corps for working with us on this.”

Part of the ‘best practice’ way of thinking for the team is looking to the future to identify potential challenges. Team members regularly work to minimize costs, which in the end helps the economy and benefits end-use electricity users.

The benefits of federal hydropower are not always visible to the end user. In an average year, this partnership saves the American public the equivalent of 8.9 million barrels of oil, 2.7 million tons of coal, or 54.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas. It also prevents the emission of greenhouse gases equivalent to 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, 13,900 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 6,200 tons of nitrogen dioxides.

Turner noted the one of the greatest benefits to the end user is that hydropower pays for itself. “The federal hydropower program, as supported by the Corps/SWPA/Customer partnership, repays the American taxpayers on initial construction costs, interest during construction, interest on investment, annual operations and maintenance and new replacement equipment.”

The team continues to look for ways to improve and provide reliable power, and their partnership demonstrates that working together is the key to successfully providing effective, efficient and necessary services to the public.

“If we keep in mind the big picture of minimizing annual and capital costs while having generating assets available as much as possible,” Turner said. “We can provide this clean, renewable resource to the Nation at the lowest possible cost for many years to come.”

Release no. 12-017