Measure introduced to allow tribes to buy electricity from Hoover Dam

WASHINGTON — A bill that would allow Indian tribes to purchase electricity from Hoover Dam while extending Nevada, California and Arizona power contracts for another 50 years was introduced Wednesday in Congress.

The bill would extend Hoover Dam power allocations until 2067. Current contracts expire in 2017, but sponsors said early renewal would provide certainty for utility planners.

In a new provision, 100 megawatts of electricity would be made available to tribes and communities who were not original customers of the dam when power was allocated in a 1928 law, nor those specified in a 1984 law that funded turbine upgrades.

Hoover Dam generates about 4 billion kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power each year, enough to serve 1.3 million people, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam. One hundred megawatts is about three times what is used to power Boulder City, according to the Colorado River Commission.

The bill would codify an agreement the states and Southern California power purchasers reached after two years of negotiation, said George Caan, director of the Colorado River Commission that represented Nevada in the talks.

Caan said the set-aside for tribes was modeled on a formula in place at Glen Canyon Dam, Davis Dam and Parker Dam on the Colorado River. Each of the current contractors agreed to reduce their allocations by 5 percent to create the pool for new users.

Expanding the customer base spreads costs, as contractors fund generator maintenance and upgrades, Caan said.

Caan said a drop in Nevada’s take will have "minimal or no impact" on consumer power rates in Las Vegas as Hoover Dam electricity accounts for only a small amount, less than 3 percent, of the portfolio for NVEnergy, the city’s supplier.

The bill was introduced by lawmakers from the affected states. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is the main Senate sponsor.


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