Many of the resources used in the United States for the production of electricity are nonrenewable. In other words, once current supplies are exhausted, there will be no more. Commonly used nonrenewable resources are fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Other sources of electrical power are renewable, that is, they can be replenished. One renewable source of power is hydropower, or power produced by flowing water.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has been actively involved in building and operating hydroelectric plants since the 1930's. Many Corps projects which were built primarily for navigation, flood control, or other purposes are also used for hydropower production.
The Corps is the Nation's largest single producer of hydroelectricity. Nationwide, the Corps operates 75 hydropower projects, housing 349 generator units with a total capacity of 20.7 million kilowatts, or about 3.5 percent of the Nation's total electric power production.
Along the Missouri River itself, the Corps operates a total of 36 generator units capable of producing approximately 2.4 million kilowatts of power. These powerplants and dams were authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1944, commonly called the Pick-Sloan Act. The act authorized harnessing the Missouri River to provide for flood control, irrigation development, navigation, municipal and industrial water supply, recreation, and hydropower generation. The water used to produce electricity at Fort Peck Dam in Montana passes through five other powerplants, each producing more electricity on its way to the ocean. This makes hydropower one of the most efficient forms of power generation for use by the people of the Midwest.
How does the electricity get to you, the consumer?
The Western Area Power Administration markets and delivers the power produced at the Missouri River powerplants within a 15-state region of the central and western United States. WAPA markets this power to the rural electric cooperatives, municipal and public-owned systems which in turn sell the power to you.