WITH ALL OF the northwest’s major dam sites used up or ruled out in the US, the region is considering improvements to its existing facilities as well as evaluating the potential to develop mini hydro projects.

This spurt of activity has been sparked by the general shortage of power in the northwest and the continuing crisis in California. In British Columbia, the Canadian province bordering the US northwest, reaction to the energy situation is similar. It is moving ahead with the expansion of generating capacity at four dams on the Kootenay and Pend Oreille rivers.

According to a 1998 report by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), the US has 30,000MW of undeveloped hydro power capacity at 5677 sites. In the state of Washington, it lists 11 dams where production could be increased; 283 sites not currently generating power; and 313 undeveloped sites. In Idaho, it lists 14 existing hydro dams, 86 non-power producing dams and 273 undeveloped sites.