Hydroelectric vision: Plan for plant on Allegheny deserves consideration

November 5, 2018

There is momentum on bringing a hydroelectric dam to the city of Three Rivers

Harnessing the might and muscle of water to create power of a different kind is not a new idea. The country’s first hydroelectric power plant — a mechanical facility that converts water’s kinetic energy into electricity—- was built at Niagara Falls in 1882.

But in the city of Three Rivers, the concept hasn’t floated.

That could be changing. And it should.

A Boston firm is moving forward with design plans for a hydroelectric power plant below the Highland Park Bridge on the Allegheny River. Rye Development is hoping to piggyback its underwater turbine to the existing Lock and Dam No. 2 structure, a $40 million to $60 million project that could produce enough electricity to power 5,000 to 8,000 homes. Rye also has plans for seven other hydroelectric plants: four on the Monongahela River and three on the Ohio River.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted Rye a license to proceed with planning. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as owner of the dams, ultimately must grant a thumbs-up.

Our hopes our buoyant. Water power is renewable. It produces no pollution or toxins, meaning it is clean. And it makes sense.

Maybe that’s why water has been used as a power source since the ancient times, when Greeks used it to turn mills that ground grain.

Already, hydroelectricity is in use in every state in the country, according to the U. S. Department of Energy, with states like Idaho, Washington and Oregon producing the majority of their electricity via hydro-plants.

Both the Trump and Obama administrations expressed support for the development of hydroelectric plants, especially those that link to existing dams and require no new impediments to the region’s watery byways.

There are legitimate concerns about fishing access and whether the turbines could reduce oxygen levels in the rivers, impacting fish and other wildlife. So the Army corps’ review of each plan should not be diluted.

We hope Rye’s plans are smooth sailing.

- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette