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Lawmakers show support for $380M hydroelectric project

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 11:10 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 11:25 a.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Daily News)
A number of public officials, including Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack and Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army’s civil works division, were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project in Pella on Wednesday.

PELLA — Iowa’s efforts to remain one of the nation’s largest consumers and generators of renewable energies received a more than a quarter billion dollar shot in the arm Wednesday.

Ground was broken for the $380 million Red Rock Hydroelectric Project, which will retrofit the dam currently in place at Lake Red Rock with the ability to produce energy for up 18,000 homes in four states.

“Iowa  has been a national leader in renewable energy dating back to the ‘80s,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who helped celebrate the groundbreaking. “We have always kind of bought into the ‘all above’ strategy and a very diversified portfolio. We do that by prioritizing our investments in renewable energy like wind, solar, biofuel and by doing hydro, it puts Iowa ahead of many other states.”

Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), based out of Sioux Falls, S.D., partnered with the City of Pella to bring this project to the area.

“We needed to find a site where we could do renewable resources, and we have quite a bit of wind resources already. Hydropower is an important part of our history at (MRES) and we started looking around for a bit at available sites,” said Bill Radio, MRES spokesperson.

MRES is projecting the plant to product 36.4 megawatts of power. The project is expected to be completed in 2018, and once it’s finished, it will be the second largest hydroelectric facility in Iowa.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army’s civil works division, said getting this project completed was high on the priority list for President Barack Obama’s climate change plan, and the Army Corps of Engineers is proud to contribute.

“This project is on that list because of … the fact that climate change is having an impact in a variety of ways on all our natural resources and we have to be ready with water resources and planning and management alternatives in the face of climate change, and hydroelectric power is one way that we can meet that challenge,” Darcy said.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, was also in attendance and spoke highly of the project. He emphasized that the success of this project was due to a partnership between the private and public sector and how this type of collaboration was the “wave of the future.”

Loebsack added that this project will beef up not only Iowa’s energy portfolio but the country’s.

“That’s energy that we don’t have to go and fight a war for, which is always a good thing,” Loebsack said.

House File 630, which allows this project to receive the same sales tax credits as wind powered projects, was approved  during the 2013 legislative session.

Although, Iowa Rep. Dan Kelley, D-Newton, didn’t sponsor the bill that led to the project, he was one of its staunchest supporters in the Iowa House.

“This is a very significant project … it will provide 500 to 700 jobs through construction,” Kelley said. “Most importantly, it will provide clean and renewable energy for 18,000 Iowa homes.”

Kelley said he plans on reintroducing a bill during the next legislative session to see about developing similar projects along the banks of the Mississippi River on Iowa’s eastern border.

Environmental benefits aside, MRES is touting a $250 million economic benefit of this project for the four county region surrounding Pella.

Pella’s mayor, James Mueller, said that more houses were selling, apartments were filling up and local business were having increased sales numbers.

Before partnering with MRES in 2011, Pella got its electricity from a coal burning plant located in the city. The location of that former plant will now become a green space.

Contact Senior Staff Writer Ty Rushing at (641) 792-3121 ext. 6532 or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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