This summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking new steps to prevent and limit damage to the dams along the Missouri River. Invasive zebra mussels are clogging up power generating systems and could increase rates for customers.
Gary Hinkle, deputy chief of operations in Omaha for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Gavin’s Point Dam in Yankton County has been hit the hardest so far.
“For the summer of 2020, Gavin’s had to have each of the three units shutdown at three different times to clear the zebra mussels from the cooling water piping,” Hinkle said. “A typical Gavin’s point outage for a week could be up to 50,000 dollars in lost revenue.”
Hinkle said that loss of revenue could raise utility prices for customers of the Western Area Power Administration.
“People that benefit from the power that we produce actually have an arrangement where they will provide the government upfront funding for important projects, usually capital improvement projects,” he said.
According to Hinkle, zebra mussel damage has not caused prices to rise yet.
Gavin’s Point Dam is the only one on the reservoir that’s needed maintenance for a zebra mussel infestation so far. But the Army Corps is using other methods to prevent the zebra mussels from spreading.
Russell Kieffer, operation projects manager at Fort Randall Dam, just upstream from Gavin’s Point, said zebra mussels attach to the inside of pipes, clogging the cooling devices needed for generating units.
“You’re probably talking a good month to remove all the air coolers and clean them out and so forth so that’s a lot of revenue loss,” Kieffer said. “It could be millions in lost revenue just for an outage to take care of something and you know that can be easily treated for $25,000 to 30,000 a year using or put an EarthTec QZ chemical in an injection system.”