Salt River Project

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Salt River Project
Type Public-Private Partnership
Headquarters 1521 North Project Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85281
Area served AZ
Key people John M. Williams Jr., President
Industry Electric Producer & Utility
Water Management & Utility
Products Electricity, Water
Revenue $371 million
Net income $371 million (2010)[1]
Employees 4,388 (2007)
Parent State of Arizona
Divisions Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District
Salt River Valley Water Users' Association

The Salt River Project, or SRP, is the collective name used to refer to two separate entities: the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, a political subdivision of the state of Arizona, and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association, a private company that is an electrical utility and water provider for the Phoenix metropolitan area. Operating under the umbrella name, SRP, it is one of the primary public utility companies in Arizona.

In 2010, Salt River Project had a net revenue of $371 million. Operating revenues were $2.7 billion.[1] Because SRP is a private company, the compensation information for its President, David Rousseau, is unavailable to the public. The Arizona Republic reported in 2009 that he made $150,000 a year when he was vice president of the public entity, the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, while president John Williams Jr.-- an elected official, elected to the position by landowners in SRP's territory-- made $180,000 a year. Together, they "spent nearly $81,000 on travel, dinner receptions and other expenses."[2]

Support for the American Legislative Exchange Council

SRP also is on the corporate ("Private Enterprise") board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. Russell Smoldon, Manager of State Government Relations, is SRP's representative on ALEC's corporate board as of 2011.[3]

A list of ALEC corporations can be found here.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

SRP is a long-time member and supporter of ALEC. According to the Phoenix New Times, "in 1997, SRP, mainly through Smoldon, spent $6,573 on state legislators, including $2,352 to send Republican lawmakers to the annual American Legislative Exchange Council meeting; $152 for a picnic for legislators and staff; and various sums on flowers and food for public officials (including Jim Bloom, assistant to the chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission)."[4]


Despite its support of proponents of less government like ALEC, SRP itself is a product of big government. The Boston Review reported in March/April 2011:

Federal dollars also help explain Arizona’s historic rise. How else to explain a housing oasis in the northern Sonoran desert? Remarking on this mystery, writer and environmental activist Edward Abbey wrote, "There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be."

Big Government made this desert miracle possible with two massive water diversion projects—- the Salt River Project and the Central Arizona Project (CAP).[5]

Early settlers in Phoenix and nearby areas were forced to depend upon the flow of the Salt River to sustain agricultural activities. The river was prone to both floods and droughts and proved to be a less than reliable resource for the settlers. Failed plans to build a dam on the river in 1897, combined with a series of droughts, heightened the need for controlling the river.[6]

With the passage of the National Reclamation Act of 1902, funding for reclamation projects with low-interest government loans paved the way for the creation of the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association the following year. Over 200,000 acres (800 km²) of private land belonging to the ranchers and farmers in the association were pledged for collateral and the association was officially incorporated February 7, 1903, becoming the first multipurpose project under the National Reclamation Act.[7] Construction on the Roosevelt Dam would commence the following year.[6]

Although the construction of dams was the association’s most visible and costly project, an integral part of the effort was also the construction and improvement of a system of canals designed to distribute the water from the Salt River among the various members living in the valley.[6]

In 1909, a hydroelectric generator was installed at Roosevelt Dam; since then, SRP has also been a major player in the power generation business.[6]

As of 2011, SRP owns or operates twelve electrical generating stations, eight hydroelectric plants, and has energy purchasing agreements with three major hydroelectric stations along the Colorado River, making it a major provider of electric service in the Phoenix area.[8] Along with the six reservoirs along the Salt and Verde Rivers, SRP operates the Granite Reef Diversion Dam, the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir on East Clear Creek and a number of canals, making the SRP a major provider of water to the Phoenix area.[9]

Existing coal-fired power plants

SRP owned 5 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 3,231 MW of capacity. Here is a list of SRP's coal power plants:[10][11]

Plant Name State County Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions
Navajo AZ Coconino 1974, 1975, 1976 2409 MW 19,900,000 tons 3,843 tons
Coronado AZ Apache 1979, 1980 822 MW 6,314,000 tons 13,515 tons

In 2006, SRP's 2 coal-fired power plants emitted 26.2 million tons of CO2 and 17,000 tons of SO2.

Salt River Project Agriculture Improvement and Power District Clean Air Act Settlement

On August, 12, 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA announced that the owner of the Salt River Project in St. Johns, Arizona agreed to install pollution controls at the facility at an estimated cost of $400 million to reduce harmful pollutants. In addition the owner also paid a $950,000 civil penalty. The settlement resolved allegations that the Salt River Project violated New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act.[12]

This settlement marks a significant step in controlling harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in the Western United States,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program. “The installation of state-of-the-art technology sets an important benchmark for the control of this harmful pollutant. EPA is committed to ensuring coal-fired power plants comply with the Clean Air Act”.[12]

The settlement mandates that the owner install and operate new pollution control equipment on both generating units at its Coronado Generating Station. These controls will reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 21,000 tons annually.[12]

SRP will install flue gas desulfurization devices (scrubbers) to control SO2 at both units and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) controls to limit NOx at one of the units. The settlement was the first ever to secure an SCR retrofit of an existing coal-fired electric generating unit in the Western United States.[12]

Navajo Plant Upgrades

Currently the Navajo Generating Station is debating whether or not to install scrubbers to help reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2), a pollutant discharged from the burning of coal which is regulated by the U.S. EPA and can contribute to acid rain. Costs could reach $600,000 million to $1 billion to install these scrubbers at the Navajo Station.[13]

The EPA has proposed the scrubbing system which uses ammonia to reduce SO2. The Salt River Project, Navajo's managing partner, says this could add about $13 million a year to the plant's operating budget and those expanses would be passed on to customers. The ammonia must be injected into the system after the coal is burned. To reach the plant, the chemical would be delivered to Flagstaff by railroad and then trucked to Page, where the only service is a direct rail line from the Kayenta coal mine that produces coal for the plant.[13]

"It would be a very significant capital investment and challenging to do the work," said Glenn Reeves, SRP's manager of power generation. "We would have issues just getting approval from all the owners. There are a lot of uncertainties around coal plants right now."[13]

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power holds a 21 percent interest in Navajo and under California law, faces strict rules about putting money in coal-fired plants and is currently deciding whether or not to walk away from Navajo if the expenses and risk of a future closure are too high.[13]

Citizen action

December 2011: Protesters Target Navajo Generating Station

On December 2, 2011 sixteen people were arrested at the Salt River Project (SRP) offices in Tempe, Arizona. The protesters demanded that SRP shut down the Navajo Generating Station. The protest was the third in three days, all targeting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a policy research group that focuses on building private-public partnerships. SRP lobbyist Russell Smolden is Arizona’s private sector chair in ALEC.[14]

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 Salt River Project, Management's Financial and Operational Summary for 2010, corporate website, accessed July 9, 2011
  2. Ryan Randazzo, Spending by SRP leaders spurs concern, Arizona Republic, October 15, 2009
  3. American Legislative Exchange Council, Private Enterprise Board, organizational website, accessed July 8, 2011
  4. Patti Epler A peek at how the power companies played the political game in 1998, Phoenix New Times, January 7, 1999
  5. Tom Barry, Securing Arizona: What Americans Can Learn From Their Rogue State, Boston Review, March/April 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Tom Kollenborn, Roosevelt Dam: A Part of our Changing Times, Apache Junction News, 1999
  7. Historical Timeline, SRP website.
  8. Salt River Project, SRP's generation sources, corporate website, accessed July 9, 2011
  9. Salt River Project, Dams and reservoirs managed by SRP, corporate website, accessed July 9, 2011
  10. Environmental Integrity Project, Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, July 2007.
  11. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 U.S. EPA, First Settlement in Western U.S. Requiring State-of-the-Art Nitrogen Oxide Retrofit, settlement news release, August 12, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Shaun McKinnon, "Cleaning dirty air risks costlier Arizona water," Arizona Republic, November 1, 2009
  14. "Protesters Target Salt River Project's Coal-Fired Power Plant" Devin Browne, Fronteras, December 9, 2011.

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