Canada Relations Committee Recap:
Co-Chairs, Washington Representative Debra Lekanoff and Alberta MLA Grant Hunter would like to recognize and thank the speakers below who brought their expertise to share and especially Alaska Representative Sara Hannan, one of the committee’s members, who kindly agreed to co-facilitate the session with MLA Hunter.
65% of U.S. dams are privately owned–
Association of Dam Safety Officials
More states are regulating dams, but maintenance is challenging
Representing the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), President Sharon Tapia, P.E., PMP and Division Manager of the Division of Safety of Dams for the California Department of Water Resources, provided historical context to this discussion by cycling through the evolution of dam safety in the United States from 1889 when the South Fork Dam failed in Pennsylvania.
Only 11 states regulated dams in 1940, increasing to 49 states in 2005. Possibly, the most surprising fact about dams is ownership–65% of U.S. dams are privately owned. Examples of that ownership include companies, individual citizens, associations such as HOAs and trusts. This makes maintenance quite challenging.
Prior funding streams have run dry for “high-hazard potential” dams in 2023
Del Shannon provided a national snapshot of aging dams in the United States on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on America’s Infrastructure. As Chief Dam Engineer at Kiewit Engineering Group, he has led ASCE’s national dams report card chapter for the last few years. Every four years, ASCE issues grades akin to a school report card assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement for seventeen categories ranging from aviation to bridges and ports to roads.
Dams earned a “D” in 2021, the same grade it earned in 2017. That means, on average, U.S. dams are in poor condition and are at risk. While the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) provided $1.2 trillion investment in all 17 Report Card categories and addressed 43 Report Card recommendations, other streams of funding such as the National Dam Safety Program and the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program were either not reauthorized or did not receive annual appropriations in FY 2023.
Alberta’s big hydrogen production and investments are spurring opportunity
The committee also got to hear from Charles Ward, Director of Natural Gas Strategy and Engagement for Alberta Energy on clean hydrogen. He addressed the various colors like green and blue often referred to when speaking about this fuel. He also highlighted the hydrogen economy and opportunities that exist as part of the global market.
Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada at 2.5 million tons per year, aided by their skilled labor force, low-cost natural gas, and experience with handling and processing hydrogen at scale, given their 50+ years of experience in production. Other reasons include incentives in place by the Province of Alberta, such as grants of 12% of eligible capital expenses and tradable carbon credits created from blue hydrogen/ammonia production. Their Hydrogen Centre of Excellence also cannot be ignored. It invests in made-in-Alberta hydrogen technologies to the tune of $50 million over four years.
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