Northwest Hydropower News Archives 2010 & Older

Klamath prepares for dam removal

By TIM HEARDEN
Capital Press

REDDING, Calif. — Preparations to remove four dams along the Klamath River in Southern Oregon and Northern California are moving forward, an energy official said.

Tim Hemstreet, a representative from hydroelectric facility operator PacifiCorp, outlined some 21 conservation and other measures during a public hearing here Wednesday. Read on 

Posted in Dam Removal, News | Comments Off

Safe passage for fish a challenge at The Dalles

Fish biologist to take dam off to-do list

By Quinton Smith
Oregonian

There were fish problems at The Dalles Dam.

Too many young salmon and steelhead migrating down the Columbia River each spring and summer never made it past.

A federal salmon plan that governs the dams on the Columbia says from 93 percent to 96 percent of endangered juvenile salmon and steelhead must survive a dam’s spillways, turbines and sluiceway. At The Dalles, river currents pushed millions of migrating fish into shallow water below the dam and into the path of hungry predators. Not enough survived. Read on 

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Resurgent Northwest salmon show dam ‘spill’ is better than barging

Salmon success recasts debate

By Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman

Lorri Bodi’s call in the 1990s for federal dam managers to divert Columbia River flows away from hydroelectric turbines to aid endangered salmon was met by anger and an army of scientists who said that collecting the fish and barging them around dams was a better way.

Bodi worked for American Rivers then, and was among the salmon advocates fighting the federal government’s efforts to keep power production up by using a barging system that allowed turbines to run at full capacity. Today, Bodi works for the Bonneville Power Administration, the agency that markets the power from federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers and has long fought the idea of "spilling” water over the dams and away from deadly turbines. Read on 

Posted in Environment, News | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

New hatchery part of Grant PUD licensing costs

By Lynne Lynch
Columbia Basin Herald

EPHRATA — The costs associated with the estimated $43 million Chief Joseph Hatchery north of Brewster were planned spending for Grant County PUD’s licensing efforts.

Grant PUD received a new federal license to own and operate its Columbia River dams in 2008, which officials have said help ensure future low-cost power. Read on 

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Madras Inventor Makes "Pipe” Dream a Reality

By Susan Matheny
Pioneer

Paul Jensen, who for decades flew the air streams as a crop spraying pilot, saw a correlation between airflow and waterflow, which helped lead to his invention of a vastly improved fish bypass system for dams.

“I’ve been in the spray business for 30 years and have also done design work for companies in the agricultural field for years,” said the 66-year-old Jensen.

With a background in chemistry and mechanical engineering, Jensen said his idea was prompted by consulting work he was doing in 2003 for the Concep Co. in Bend, an offshoot of Bend Research Co. Read on 

Posted in Environment, News | Tagged | Comments Off

Wash. approves permit to remove Condit Dam

By Shannon Dininny
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

YAKIMA, Wash. — PacifiCorp is one step closer to removing the Condit Dam on southwest Washington’s White Salmon River, following a decision Tuesday by Washington state regulators to issue a water quality permit.

Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp has planned for years to remove the dam rather than pay for expensive upgrades needed to relicense it, but the utility delayed removal while awaiting necessary permits. The dam, built in 1913, sits about three miles upstream of the confluence of the White Salmon and Columbia rivers. Read on 

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Transmission lines key to BPA wind power plans

By Kathie Durbin
The Columbian

What if you built a wind farm and couldn’t get the energy to market? Despite a decade-long wind energy boom that has turned the upper Columbia River Plateau into one long horizon of slowly rotating white wind turbines, that hasn’t happened.

And the Bonneville Power Administration is scrambling to make sure it never does.

The federal power marketing agency has seen energy generated by wind in its four-state service area grow from virtually nil to about 3,000 megawatts – enough to power 750,000 homes – in little more than a decade. With projects in the pipeline, the BPA expects to incorporate up to 6,000 megawatts of power into its grid by 2013.

And that’s just the BPA grid. Read on 

Posted in Hydropower, News, Wind Power | Tagged | Comments Off

County again stuck with Boyd hydro power plant

By Dean Brickley
East Oregonian

A Utah man’s option has expired to buy the idled Jim Boyd Hydroelectric Porject near Hermiston.

The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners discussed the project Tuesday, but took no action, said county counsel Doug Olsen.

“The option has been allowed to expire,” he said. “The potential purchasers did not want to extend it and the county did not take any formal action to extend it.”

Olson said commissioners really haven’t determined what to do next. Read on 

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Massive structure removed for Boundary Dam project

Specialized contractors assist Seattle City Light in $1.5 million in jobs

By Kim Frlan
Journal of Business

In a project that involved Spokane contractors and engineers, a 312-ton metal structure has been lifted from 200 feet beneath the surface of the reservoir behind Boundary Dam, in northeast Washington, to a concrete slab for a year-long, $1.5 million maintenance project. Read on 

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EPUD may sell hydro plans

The rural utility district has a potential buyer for the proposals that were once called a “nightmare”

By Susan Palmer
The Register-Guard

The Emerald People’s Utility District may have a buyer for two hydroelectric proposals that it has spent millions of dollars on, but that are years away from actually being built.

A publicly traded Canadian company has expressed interest in buying the utility’s Dorena and Fall Creek proposals, said EPUD general manager Frank Lambe. Read on 

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Search is on for a solution to balance Northwest power

Federal agency reaches agreement with one developer to provide its own backup resources

By Nathalie Weinstein
Daily Journal of Commerce

When Northwest winds aren’t blowing, the energy grid compensates automatically by tapping into hydropower sources operated by the Bonneville Power Administration. But the federal agency says it is pushing the limits of how much backup power it can provide.

The BPA is required by the state of Oregon to reserve 1,000 megawatts of hydropower to back up alternative energy sources that have variable power outputs. The agency provides backup hydropower to 3,000 megawatts of wind energy in the Northwest. The backup power is necessary to prevent utility customers from being left in the dark. Read on 

Posted in Environment, Hydropower, News, Wind Power | Tagged | Comments Off

Studies on dam removal on track

Decision likely by the March 2012 decline

By Ty Beaver
Herald & News

Federal authorities studying the feasibility of Klamath River dam removal are on schedule and say the U.S. Secretary of the Interior should be able to make a decision by the March 2012 deadline.

Meanwhile, Oregon utility officials gave final approval to a customer surcharge that pays for a portion of the removal. And in November, Klamath Basin voters will voice their opinions on the issue in an advisory measure.

But the outcome of the vote or any decisions on the surcharge won’t impact feasibility studies, federal officials say. Read on 

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Army Corps hires Austrian firm for heavy lifting at McNary Dam recoil

10 power generators will be replaced

By Dean Brickey
East Oregonian

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started an immense project at McNary Dam that will take many months and many millions of dollars to complete.

Using two huge cranes, employees of Andritz Hydro started the heavy lifting late last week. It took them 2-3 hours to expose the various components of two giant generators. Workers will start replacing worn electrical components in a few weeks.

Andritz Hydro is an Austrian firm with significant experience in hydroelectric plants. Its workers will replace the stator, the part of the generator where power is generated. The new copper wire coils or windings comprise more copper and less – but better – insulation, said Bruce Henrickson, a Corps of Engineers spokesman in Walla Walla. Read on 

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Turbine work nearly a year behind schedule

PUD unhappy with contractor

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

NEWPORT – The first new turbine at Box Canyon Dam should be up and running by Jan. 24, 2011. The original plan was to have it up and running by mid-March 2010.

The major delay has to do with the unit’s discharge ring. The ring has a part in improving efficiency and fish friendliness. It is welded to the casing that surrounds the turbine, and that weld hasn’t met specifications, according to Charlie O’Hare, Chief operating officer for the Pend Oreille Public Utility District (PUD). The first weld had cracks in it, and crews had to install a totally new discharge ring. It should be arriving soon. Read on 

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County signs Seattle agreement

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

NEWPORT – Pend Oreille County commissioners officially signed off on a agreement over the next 10 years of impact payments for Boundary Dam, ending two years of heated negotiations with dam owners Seattle City Light.

The Seattle City Council has yet to put its signature to the document. City Light officials refused to issue a statement about the agreement until after the next council meeting, Sept. 20. Read on 

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Future of fishing on WS River sans dam open for discussion

By Staff
The Enterprise

With removal of Condit Dam set to begin next fall, representatives of state and federal fish and wildlife agencies will hold a public meeting next Tuesday, Aug. 31, in Underwood to discuss the future of sport fisheries on the White Salmon River.

The informational meeting, hosted by the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the Underwood Community Center in eastern Skamania County, off the Cook-Underwood Road. Read on 

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Douglas PUD to sell $113 million in bonds for dam upgrade

$113 million offering shores up utility’s finances, protecting its rating

By Christine Pratt
World staff writer

EAST WENATCHEE — Douglas County PUD will sell $113 million in revenue bonds today to refinance old debt and modernize Wells Dam.

PUD General Manager Bill Dobbins said $100 million will be used to rehabilitate the Columbia River dam’s 10 turbine/generators.

Rehabilitated turbines generate more electricity with the same amount of water.

The remaining $13 million will refinance outstanding debt. Read on 

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Snoqualmie Falls hydro plant gets into hall of fame

By Dan Catchpole
SnoValley Star

Snoqualmie Valley has been the home of a movie star, professional athletes and business leaders. The Valley is now also home to a new hall-of-famer.

The inductee never sought out fame. It only did its job, year after year.

That hard work and dedication was recognized the last week of July, when Snoqualmie Falls Plant 2 was inducted into the Hydro Hall of Fame at the annual Hydrovision International Conference in Charlotte, N.C. The hall is run by PennWell, which publishes two hydroelectric trade journals. Read on 

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Congressman tours new Baker River fish facility

By Staff
Courier Times

CONCRETE – U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett) visited Puget Sound Energy’s Baker RIver Hydroelectric Project to hear utility staffers promote the economic and environmental benefits the energy facility brings to the region.

PSE is reducing the environmental impact of its two Baker dams by meeting conditions of its new license. These include a new fish hatchery and an upstream “trap-and-haul” facility for migrating salmon. Read on 

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Public meeting scheduled on hydropower for Bowman Dam

PGE is voluntarily seeking input from affected residents

By Jason Chaney
Central Oregonian

Next week, local residents will have their first opportunity to weigh in on a proposed hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam.

Portland General Electric is hosting a public meeting at the Crook County Library on Tuesday afternoon to solicit public input on their plans for the facility. Read on 

Posted in Environment, Hydropower, News | Tagged | Comments Off

City Light starts gate rehab at Boundary Dam

By Journal Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

Seattle City Light is preparing for a $1.2 million maintenance project at Boundary Dam on the Fend Oreille River in northeast Washington The yearlong project will rehabilitate a 312-ton gate used to maintain the dam’s seven sluice gates. Read on 

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Ancient Northwest fish in peril

Columbia River: As efforts help salmon rebound, lampreys are in danger of becoming a thing of the past

By Ben Pittman-Polletta
The Oregonian

At the north side of the Bonneville Dam spillway, what looks like a ventilation duct zigzags out of the Columbia River and climbs up and over the concrete dam. Red placards along the hinged top read: “Do Not Lift.” If you disobey those signs at the right time of night, you might see a scaleless gray fish sucking and wriggling its way to spawning grounds.

Lamprey. It swims with salmon up and down the Columbia River during its life cycle, but it’s uglier, older, slower and not as popular as chinook or sockeye or even steelhead.

And its numbers are plummeting –fast. Read on 

Posted in Environment, News | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Round Butte Dam tower to release more cold water

Deschutes River: Operators will try a cooler mix to meet temperature goals

By Quinton Smith
The Oregonian

Operators of a massive new water tower at Round Butte Dam near Madras agreed Friday to again release more cold water into the lower Deschutes River because of concerns they were not always meeting permitted temperatures. Read on 

Posted in Environment, News, Relicensing | Tagged | Comments Off

Feds look at scaling back hatcheries

Fisheries service offers alternatives to trim Columbia basin production and protect fish

By Scott Learn
The Oregonian

Federal biologists on Friday sent their strongest signal to date that the Columbia River Basin’s immense hatchery production –and the lucrative fishing opportunities that result from it –could be reduced to better protect wild salmon and steelhead runs.

The draft report, the most thorough evaluation to date of the damage from hatchery fish, rounds up years of study of 178 hatchery programs feeding the Columbia, Willamette and Snake rivers. Read on 

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Reaping the Wind

‘Community Wind’ takes a village

By Keri Brenner
The Dalles Chronicle

WASCO – Ormand Hilderbrand says he “now knows the real meaning of ‘going for broke'” after spending five years working to launch Oregon’s first small, independently developed wind farm.

“You have to have a vision and you have to stick to it,” said Hilderbrand, 59, an entrepreneur whose family has farmed dryland wheat in the Mid-Columbia region east of the town of Wasco since the 1860s. “If you have the least bit of doubt, you won’t get it done.” Read on 

Posted in News, Wind Power | Comments Off

Gold Ray decision expected

Demolition timing hangs on District Court ruling

By Mark Freeman
Daily Tidings

Construction crews as early as today will learn if they can resume preparing Gold Ray Dam for demolition or must wait indefinitely while a lawsuit challenges Jackson County’s removal of the 106-year-old structure from the Rogue River.

Read on 

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Tacoma Power receives 50-year license for Cushman Dam

By Arla Sherphard
Shelton-Mason County Journal

More than a year after Tacoma Power and the Skokomish Tribe agreed to settle their three-decade-long fight over the Cushman Dam properties, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order Thursday amending the power company’s license to include the terms of the settlement. Read on 

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Company plans new hydroelectric facility

Project on local irrigation canal could power 2,450 homes

By Tim Doran
Bulletin

A Bend company plans to build a 5-megawatt hydroelectric facility on the North Unit Irrigation District’s main canal in Jefferson County and sell the electricity it generates.

The company, EBD Hydro LLC, plans to divert water from the irrigation canal, run it through a turbine and generate enough electricity to power between 2,100 and 2,450 homes. Read on 

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PSE completes Baker River hatchery

By Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

BELLEVUE – Puget Sound Energy recently completed a new fish hatchery and upstream trap-and-haul facility on Baker River in the North Cascades. Read on 

Posted in Environment, News | Tagged | Comments Off

No more give in the NW power grid

By Ted Sickinger
The Oregonian

On the afternoon of May 19, in a single chaotic hour, more than a thousand wind turbines in the Columbia River Gorge went from spinning lazily in the breeze to full throttle as a storm rolled east out of Hood River.

Suddenly, almost two nuclear plants’ worth of extra power was sizzling down the lines –the largest hourly spike in wind power the Northwest has ever experienced. Read on 

Posted in Environment, Hydropower, News, Wind Power | Tagged | Comments Off

Packwood Lake hydroelectric project upgrade stalled

By Natalie Johnson
Shelto-Mason County Journal

PUD 3 has a 10-percent stake in electricity produced at Energy Northwest’s Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project but staffers said this week that an effort to increase productivity at the site will be scrapped due to an inability to secure stimulus funding. Read on 

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Feds OK with plan for North Fork dam repairs

Regional engineer had raised alarm about condition of spillway gates

By Erik Robinson
The Columbian

Federal energy regulators say they’re satisfied with PacifiCorp’s plan to repair spillway gates at three major dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River. Read on 

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Inspection spurs alarm about dams

Feds says there’s potential for catastrophic failure; PacifiCorp calls them safe

By Erik Robinson
Columbian

Federal energy regulators are raising alarm about the potential for “catastrophic failure” of spillway gates on three major PacifiCorp-owned dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River. The concern arises from a 10-year inspection earlier this year by the investor-owned utility that was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late January. PacifiCorp and the federal agency declined to release the report itself, citing security concerns.

However, it did elicit a strong reaction from federal regulators. Read on 

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Company gives report on sediment behind dam

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

REXBURG – Rocky Mountain Power continues its preliminary work prior to starting the physical rebuilding of the Ashton Dam.

After a lengthy review of the condition of the dam by its own engineers, consultants and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the power company decided in February it would rebuild part of the dam.

Initially the company said the project was anticipated to take two years, but upon further analysis, the company has decided to try to complete the work by the end of 2012. Read on 

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Rains swamp region’s dams

Power managers divert flow to reservoirs, slow plant output and give power away

By Ted Sickinger
The Oregonian

Winter’s snow drought has given way to a temporary flood of late-spring runoff, forcing regional managers of the electrical grid to give away power, dial back generation at thermal plants and rapidly fill reservoirs to maintain acceptable conditions for migrating fish.

Robust water flows in the region’s rivers are typically a blessing, creating a bounty for electricity generation, irrigation, fish passage and recreation. Indeed, only a month ago, the Bonneville Power Administration was issuing dire warnings about summer water shortages. Read on 

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New face for the Falls

Work in high gear for upgrade, lowering of dam

By Seth Truscott
Snoqualmie Valley Record

Normally, the power generators at the Snoqualmie Falls hydroelectric plant run at a painful roar.

This summer, the machinery is silent for the first time in more than a century.

The silence is bittersweet for folks like Power Plant Manager Dave Magnuson, who has worked alongside mementos of history at the Puget Sound Energy-run site for two years.

"I never thought I’d forget that day,” he said when the generators 270 feet below the Falls were shut down. Read on 

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Columbia River dams get upgrades

More power will be generated from same amount of water via $120 million project

By Shannon Dininny
Daily Journal of Commerce

BRIDGEPORT Wash. —Workers are preparing to install a new 45-ton turbine at the second-largest producing dam in the United States, part of a multi-year upgrade that will generate power for an additional 30,000 Northwest homes.

The $120 million project at Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River is one of several planned around the country as the federal agencies that operate hydropower dams replace aging equipment and employ new technology to produce more power from the same amount of water.

In the Northwest, about one-third of the region’s low—cost electricity comes from hydropower dams, many of which were built decades ago and require upgrades. Read on 

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BPA makes changes, knows which way the wind blows

By Staff
Odessa Record

As winds picked up May 12, the Bonneville Power Administration warned wind farms at 6:29 p.m. to prepare to shut down the wind turbines in four minutes. The turbines were generating about 600 megawatts more power than expected. The power system could not absorb any more.

For the first time, though, wind farms used a new mechanism BPA designed with wind operators and utilities to escape such a shutdown. They sold 330 megawatts of the unexpected energy for the following half hour. That simple step delivered more wind power to regional customers, earned them more revenue and quickly eased pressure on the power system. Read on 

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As wind power booms, so do the challenges

The revolution happening along the Columbia River is full of promise. But wind power is fickle, and keeping our energy system running smoothly has become “the great economic and engineering challenge of our time.”

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times

CENTERVILLE, Klickitat County — Along the ridge-top flanks of the Columbia River, hundreds upon hundreds of wind turbines rise from wheat fields and sagebrush.

On a blustery spring day, these turbines can crank out more than twice the power of the Northwest’s sole nuclear power plant. Then, on hot days in the summer, when the winds go still, the output plunges.

The turbines represent perhaps the most dramatic change to the regional power-supply system since the construction of the Bonneville Dam launched the era of federal power. Read on 

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Low snowpack could impact power prices

By Sean Ellis
Idaho State Journal

The extremely poor snowpack levels in Idaho this winter could have a significant impact on power prices down the road.

"There won’t be an impact his year, but there might be an impact next year,” says Gene Fadness, a spokesman for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

Snowpack is the fuel that generates hydropower and helps keep electricity rates in the Pacific Northwest among the cheapest in the nation. While it doesn’t appear power prices in the Northwest will rise in the near-term due to poor snow year, they could the following year. Read on 

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BPA warns electricity rates could increase

By Staff
Wahkiakum Co. Eagle

The Bonneville Power Administration now estimates it will likely finish the fiscal year with negative net revenues of approximately $230 million. This shortfall was reported in BPA’s second quarterly review published April 30 and is a direct result of the Northwest’s low snowpack. Reduced streamflows have resulted in $450 million less revenue than BPA anticipated at the beginning of the fiscal year. Read on 

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More powerful hydro turbine heads for Chief Joseph Dam

Hefty turbine runner requires police escort as it crosses continent

Submitted by Bonneville Power Administration
Brewster Quad-City Herald


A major new, 45-ton piece of a hydroelectric turbine last week began a 2,720-mile journey to the Chief Joseph Dam, where it will boost the renewable power generated by the Columbia River.

The turbine runner manufactured by Alstom Hydro under contract with the Corps requires a police escort in some areas, since it measures more than eight feet high and 16 feet in diameter. Its route from Alstom’s manufacturing facility in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada, was determined in part by weight limitations of roads and highways. Read on 

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City developing a HCP to protect steelhead, themselves

The development of the Habitat Conservation Plan is about a 10-year process

By Jason Chaney
Central Oregonian

Since steelhead fish were reintroduced into the Crooked River Watershed two years ago, the City of Prineville has undertaken a plan to protect the species.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) required the re-introduction of the steelhead into the watershed as part of a new 50-year hydroelectric project license for Pelton Round Butte Dam. Read on 

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County settles on Gold Ray Dam plan

106-year-old dam to be removed using stimulus cash, state grant

By Mark Freeman
Daily Tidings

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to remove 106-year-old Gold Ray Dam from the Rogue River this summer, saying the financial burden of keeping it is too much to bear for taxpayers.

In a unanimous vote after a brief discussion in Medford, the three commissioners for the first time formally chose the $5.6 million removal as the preferred alternative for a dam county officials bought for $1 almost 40 years ago. Read on 

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New heart at the dam

Tacoma Power Rebuilds 1968 Machines Inside Washington’s Tallest Dam

By Dian McClurg
The Chronicle

MOSSYROCK — What weighs 62½ tons, is 16 feet in diameter and will soon help generate 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year? If you said a new turbine at the Mossyrock Dam, you’re correct.

One such re-machined turbine was delivered to the dam on U.S. Highway 12 early Saturday morning.

Read on 

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Boundary Dam deal reached

Seattle City Light spent two years negotiating

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

Seattle City Light has reached a proposed settlement over the relicensing of Boundary Dam on the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington. The proposed settlement was submitted earlier this week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Seattle City Light agreed to protect and restore fish habitat and recreational opportunities in return for public support of a new dam license.

Read on 

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Corps outlines steps to study breaching Snake dams

A study is not imminent, and it would take several years to complete.

By Kevin McCullen
Idaho Statesman

A dramatic decline in the four-year average of wild salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act or a natural catastrophe are among the “trigger” events that would have to happen to launch the study. Read on 

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Arrowrock Hydroelectric Project completed

By Staff
Clatskanie Chief

Following more than 25 years of efforts to develop the project on a nearly 100-year-old dam, power has begun flowing from the Arrowrock Hydroelectric Project located on the Boise River in Idaho.

Read on 

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$11M effort to make fish-safe turbine

By Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

The US Army Corps of Engineers recently awarded an $11 million contract to Voith Hydro of York, PA for work at Ice Harbor Lock and dam on the Snake River near Burbank.

Voith will develop the first of a new generation of hydroelectric turbines for the federal Columia River Power System to provide safe passage for fish. Read on 

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Studies about dam removal on track

Interior Secretary to make decision by 2012

By Ty Beaver
Herald & News

The process to determine whether removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric dams is feasible and the best way to improve the river’s fisheries is on track.

About 60 people, including federal and state officials and stakeholders who participated in talks about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, met Tuesday and Wednesday at the Shilo Inn in Klamath Falls to share progress and discuss collecting data and information on dam removal. Read on 

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Planning continues to boost fish populations

New contract seeks safer turbines for fish

By Staff
Daily News

Engineers will develop the first of a new generation of advanced hydroelectric turbines for the Federal Columbia River Power System to provide safe passage for fish, under a contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week.

The $10.9 million contract awarded to Voith Hydro Inc. of York, Pa., calls for design and manufacture of a new runner for an aging hydroelectric turbine at Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Snake River near Burbank. A runner is the part of a turbine that rotates in the water to generate power.

Read on 

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Let’s be sure Shoshone Falls’ future is secure

By Editorial
Times-News

Fifty years is a long time to repent in leisure.

So let’s make sure – very sure – of what we’re in for if the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency approves Idaho Power’s plans to replace two small electrical-generating turbines at Shoshone Falls on the Snake River, a change that would significantly alter the flow of water over the 212-foot cascade. Read on 

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Power on a small scale

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

A small local irrigation district is hoping to turn a canal into cash with a small hydropower retrofit that could become a blueprint for creating mini power generators out of the Rogue Valley’s irrigation canals.

The Rogue River Valley Irrigation District is studying whether it can add a micro-hydropower plant to an irrigation diversion, and sell the power to offset some of its operation costs. Read on 

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Mason Dam turbine work continues

County officials hope to submit application for power-producing turbine by June 1

By Ed Merriman
Baker City Herald

Baker County Commissioners advanced plans Wednesday for installing a $3.1 million power turbine at Mason Dam, a project that could add up to $1 million a year to the county’s coffers.

Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. said the county has been working its way through the regulatory process for about three years, and is nearly ready to submit a permit application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Read on 

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Dam repairs almost done

The BPA funded the $5 million project on four spillway gates at Foster

By Alex Paul
Albany Democrat-Herald

SWEET HOME — A $5 million repair project on the four spillway gates at Foster Dam is expected to be completed by the end of the month, allowing the road across the top of the dam to be reopened to traffic in April.

Roger Kline, operations superintendent for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Willamette Valley Projects, said a contract was let in October 2008 after an inspection revealed there were deformities in some of the massive steel arms that move the gates up and down. Read on 

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Mild winter means trouble for BPA officials, McNary Dam

BPA predicts $6M loss in revenue due to warm winter

By Dean Brickey
East Oregonian

BPA officials have reduced their expectations for hydroelectric power revenue this year by more than $225 million because of new forecasts for a continued depressed runoff in the Columbia Basin.
Read on 

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U.S. agrees to tweak salmon plan

Judge’s proposal:The government gets three months to review its fish-recovery effort

Matthew Presusch
The Oregonian

The federal government will spend three more months reconfiguring its plan for salmon and dams in the Columbia Basin in the hopes of pleasing a Portland judge.

Friday’s announcement by the government is the latest turn in a long-running litigation about federal agencies’ strategy to run the Northwest’s system of power-producing dams without pushing imperiled fish closer to extinction.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, the U.S. Department of Justice accepted the judge’s proposal for the government to voluntarily review its plan before the judge rules on its merits.

Read on 

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Turbine design taps into water power

By Steve Brown
Capital Press

Burt Hamner has a simple idea: Tap the nearest running water — say, an irrigation canal or a river — to generate electricity.

That electricity, he figures, could be used on-site to operate irrigation pumps or tools. Excess electricity could be sold onto the commercial grid.

Hamner, co-founder and president of Hydrovolts, based in Seattle, invented “Flipwing” technology, which he says makes turbines much more efficient than earlier designs. Under the design, hinged blades or paddles are pushed by the current, rotating a drive shaft. As the blades begin their reverse upstream stroke, they flip, presenting only their edge to the current. This eliminates almost all resistance, he said. Read on 

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Remodel of Ashton Dam to take longer than expected

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

REXBURG — A Rocky Mountain Power Co. official told the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council Tuesday in Rexburg that modifications and reconstruction of its Ashton Dam will take more time than originally announced. Read on 

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Seattle offers $1.6M to Pend Oreille

Boundary Dam: City Light offers $1.6 million for Boundary Dam fees as legislators take up the cause for the financially strapped county.

By Emily Heffter
Seattle Times

Seattle City Light offered this week to pay $1.6 million to a tiny Eastern Washington county that is home to its biggest hydroelectric dam.

For two years, Seattle has refused to pay Pend Oreille County while it negotiates a new contract.

The move marks a major shift in a two-year negotiation between Seattle and Pend Oreille County and a sign that the city may be feeling pressure from Olympia. A bill moving through the statehouse could force the city to pay millions in new fees to Pend Oreille County.

Read on 

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2010 breaching of Condit Dam not likely

Preparation, soliciting bids may not leave enough time to meet target date of October

Erik Robinson
The Columbian

Condit Dam is shown shortly before dam owner PacifiCorp agreed in 1999 to remove it rather than install expensive fish ladders. A decade hence, the dam continues to block the White Salmon River.

Owner PacifiCorp agreed in 1999 to remove Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, seen in September 2008, rather than install expensive fish ladders. It’s still there.

Preparation, soliciting bids may not leave enough time to meet target date of October

Read on 

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Low snowpack could leave hydro system high and dry

Electricity: The BPA predicts it will lose money, and Northwest residents could face higher bills

By Ted Sickinger
The Oregonian

“This is a very serious decline that impacts our power supply and therefore our finances,” said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. “We’re hopeful that the outlook will improve, but we cannot count on it.”

The BPA has financial reserves to fall back on, and just completed a rate case, so the revenue loss won’t be immediately felt by its public utility customers, said agency spokesman Michael Milstein. If conditions continue to deteriorate, however, the BPA does have a mechanism to reopen its rates.

Read on 

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Shortage could still hit farms

Irrigators review water agreement final draft

By Ty Beaver
Herald & News

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement still leaves the Klamath Reclamation Project vulnerable to water shortages in an extreme drought situation, attorney Paul Simmons told irrigators.

The document also doesn’t exempt the Project from the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, said Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association. Read on 

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Small power, big interest

Plant may be built on North Canal Dam

By Kate Ramsayer
Bend Bulletin

Bend’s North Canal Dam, just off of Division Street, has become a focus of the interest swirling around small hydropower projects in Central Oregon.

Two companies and an irrigation district have all applied for the federal OK to study the potential of a power-generating plant at the site just south of The Riverhouse in Bend, and a fourth group might throw its hat into the ring as well. Read on 

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Tacoma Power’s Mossyrock Dam up for renewable energy award

By Staff
The East County Journal

Tacoma Power’s project to rebuild two generators at Mossyrock Dam stands out as a top renewable energy project and is a finalist for the Utility Scale Renewables Award from RenewableEenrgyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine.

Read on 

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Klamath Tribes approve KBRA

By H & N Staff
Herald & News

CHILOQUIN — The Klamath Tribes voted Tuesday to support a final version of a water settlement agreement and a plan to remove four Klamath River dams to restore fish passage.

Tribal members voted overwhelming to support the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.

Read on 

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BPA postpones plan

Agency to study effects of water level changes on Lake Pend Oreille

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

The Bonneville Power Administration has temporarily shelved its request to raise and lower Lake Pend Oreille by up to 5 feet this winter, with agency officials saying they will study how fluctuating lake levels affect waterfowl habitat, shoreline erosion and boat docks.

Read on 

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Chinook repeat perilous journey

Salmon must endure same obstacles when returning up Oregon Rivers to spawn, then die

By Beth Casper and Stefanie Knowlton

Directed by her nose and an inexplicable sense of direction, an adult female Chinook will find her way back from the coast of Alaska to her birthplace on the North Santiam River.

She’s more than 15 pounds heavier than her birthweight and nearly ready to spawn.

But her journey back to where she hatched is just as perilous as the one to sea.

Read on 

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Running for their lives

Will recovery efforts in the Willamette Basin be enough to save a species that scientists fear could become extinct in 40 years?

By Beth Casper & Stefanie Knowlton

Cold, clear water gurgles past banks thick with vine maples, hemlocks and firs in the North Santiam River east of Detroit Lake.

Here, a spring Chinook salmon soon will emerge from an egg nestled in the underwater gravel beds and begin her fight for survival and reproduction.

Like many before her, the journey won’t be easy. Read on 

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Douglas PUD files draft application for FERC relicensing of Wells Dam

By Douglas County PUD
Brewster Quad-City Herald

Douglas County PUD had filed its draft license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This is a major milestone in FERC’s Integrated Licensing Process for the Wells Hydroelectric Project.

Read on 

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Tieton Hydro Dam sold to California Power Authority

Need for electricity also makes county a good windpower candidate, company’s owner says

By Randy Luvaas
Yakima Valley Business Times

California’s thirst for Northwest electrical power just keeps growing.

A Goldendale family corporation has sold its hydroelectric plant at Rimrock Dam to Southern California Public Power Authority, a consortium representing about a dozen cities in that state.

The company would not reveal the purchase price, but a source familiar with the deal indicated it was perhaps double the $20 million spent earlier to create the plant. Read on 

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Officials work out kinks

Fish collection system goes online

By Holly M. Gill
Pioneer

At the Pelton-Round Butte Dam, fish seem downright eager to pass through the new fish transfer system.

One yearling spring Chinook salmon was so anxious to head for the ocean that it traveled at least 160 miles in just over five days.

“I don’t think you could get a canoe down there that fast,” said Don Ratliff, senior aquatic biologist for Portland General Electric, which operates the dams.

Read on 

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Final funding for Gold Ray Dam removal could come soon

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board will award $1 million if environmental studies show best outcome for dam is to remove it

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

GOLD HILL — Jackson County is on the cusp of securing the final cash to remove Gold Ray Dam from the Rogue River next summer, should ongoing environmental studies conclude it’s the best outcome for the 105-year-old structure.

Read on 

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N. America’s biggest fish slips toward extinction

By Matthew Brown, AP
Daily News

As efforts falter to save North America’s largest freshwater fish — a toothless beast left over from the days of dinosaurs — officials hope to stave off extinction by sending more water hurtling down a river so the fish can spawn in the wild.

Read on 

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Applegate dam gets approval for hydropower

Federal commission issues license to retrofit dam for electricity generation

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

Water flowing out of Applegate Dam could begin generating electricity in as early as four years under a new federal hydropower license issued Thursday to a Utah-based utility that is retrofitting small dams for electricity throughout the Northwest.

After seven years of studies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officially issued its license to Symbiotics for attaching a 10 megawatt generating facility to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam on the Applegate River.

Read on 

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Agencies prepare for dam removal

By Adam Lapierre
Hood River News

Since its completion in 1923, the Powerdale Hydroelectric Project has been a major obstacle for aquatic wildlife in the Hood River. The 200-foot-long concrete diversion dam is located just a few miles upstream from the Hood River’s confluence with the Columbia, meaning significantly restricted access to and from roughly 144 miles of upstream habitat for Hood River’s native fish population.

Read on 

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Local fish hatchery welcomes 700,000 coho salmon eggs

Nez Perce Tribe delivers eggs to Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery as part of restoration program

By Staff
Sandy Post

The Nez Perce Tribe delivered approximately 700,000 bright orange-eyed Clearwater coho salmon eggs collected and spawned at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery in northern Idaho to the Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery in Estacada last week.

Read on 

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What’s all the dam fuss about?

Army Corps plays with Willamette water flows

By Camilla Mortensen
Eugene Weekly

Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through.
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew.
Canadian Northwest to the ocean so blue,
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.

Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,
So, roll on, Columbia, roll on.

— Woody Guthrie

No one ever wrote a song about the wonders of the 13 dams on the Willamette River. Somehow the joys of flood control navigation, irrigation and recreation (despite the handy built-in rhyme scheme,) never lent itself to a chorus of "So roll on, Willamette, roll on.” Read on 

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Salmon plan is close, judge says

Columbia River: The federal government added “insurance” for fish, but it needs work

By Matthew Preusch
The Oregonian

Many hoped that more than 10 years of lawsuits over protecting Northwest salmon and operating Columbia Basin dams would come to a close in a Portland courtroom Monday.

It didn’t, but the end could be in sight.

Read on 

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Snohomish PUD reaches key agreements on Jackson Hydro project relicensing

By Staff
Stanwood Camano News

Snohomish County Public Utility District has reached agreements with several key parties as part of the relicensing of the Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric Project, located north of Sultan.

Read on 

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Idaho firm engineering Montana hydro project

By Zach Hagadone
Idaho Business Review

Idaho Falls-based engineer Ted Sorenson has designed or built hydroelectric projects around Idaho. Now he’s extending his expertise into Montana, where his companies, Sorenson Engineering Inc. and Turnbull Hydro, are building a $12 million hydro plant on an irrigation canal near Fairfield, Mont.
Read on 

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PUD works on a plan for people and fish

The PUD is renewing a hydropower permit and hopes to improve the Sultan River’s environment and recreation.

By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer

EVERETT — A few years from now, there could be more salmon spawning in the Sultan River, and more chances for kayakers and boaters to get out on the water as well.

Improving a river for people as well as fish is the key component of the Snohomish County PUD’s application to renew its federal licensing for its hydropower system, utility officials say. Read on 

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Packwood Lake getting stimulus funds, turbine

Energy: Increased capacity expected

By Staff
News Tribune

Centralia – The Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Facility in Gifford Pinchot National Forest will receive up to $800,000 in federal stimulus money to make upgrades and become more efficient, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read on 

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Chester Dam makes good progress

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

ASHTON — As the Henry’s Fork continues to drop over the Chester Dam, construction crews are working on both shores of the river on a project that could improve the fishery and produce 3.3 megawatts of power. Read on 

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Grant PUD electric rate increase proposed

By Staff
The Star

After six years without an electrical rate increase, Grant Public Utility District’s preliminary 2010 budget includes a pair of five-percent rate increases, one in 2010 and one in 2011, the utility said Tuesday. Read on 

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Costs of removal

PacifiCorp: Removal, not relicensing, in best interest of customers

By Ty Beaver
Herald – News

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement calls for removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric dams, with PacifiCorp customers paying for the removal over the next decade. Read on 

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It’s about ‘dam’ time

EPUD hopes hydroelectric project can begin soon

By Jon Stinnett
Cottage Grove Sentinel

Economic woes have delayed a project that should eventually find hydroelectric turbines pumping at Dorena Dam.

Read on 

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Study’s conclusion: Hydro boom could mean new jobs

By Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — Mommas, let your babies grow up to be hydropower engineers.

A study released last week predicts that national trends toward cleaner energy could create as many as 700,000 jobs in the hydropower industry nationwide by 2025. Read on 

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Power: EPUD seeks to add turbines despite roadblocks

By Susan Palmer
Register Guard

Amid the nation’s headlong rush for clean energy, two projects in Lane County show just how hard it can be to develop new sources of eco-friendly hydroelectric power. Read on 

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Hydro plant proposed near Henley

Irrigation district facility would be built at A Canal

By Ty Beaver
Herald – News

Klamath Irrigation District is considering spending $1.5 million to rebuild a hydroelectric facility on one of its canals to generate revenue for the district. Read on 

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Energy firm proposes facility at Bend dam

By Kate Ramsayer
Bulletin

The North Canal Dam, on Bend’s north side, is the latest Central Oregon dam to attract interest from a company wanting to build a small hydropower facility. Read on 

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Bogged-down dams

Fish: The issue of chutes and ladders can’t be ignored

By Susan Palmer
Register Guard

Dams are among the worst enemies of imperiled fish, such as some salmon and trout species.

Yet some dam owners and operators have to spend a lot more money than others to mitigate the harm their waterway barriers cause to fish. Read on 

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Bigger than Elwha project: Utility to fell 4 Klamath dams

By Staff
Peninsula Daily News

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — What is being touted as the world’s biggest dam-removal project — larger and more complex than the Elwha River dam removals near Port Angeles — an agreement has been reached to remove four dams on the Klamath River and restore a 300-mile migratory route for beleaguered salmon. Read on 

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Dams – stakeholders tout agreement for removal

Stakeholders optimistic in spite of obstacles

By Ty Beaver
Herald – News

Is this a blueprint for removing dams?

That’s what James Honey said people are asking him about the recently released Klamath River dam removal agreement. Read on 

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Irrigation district to start negotiations on hydro generator

By Katy Nesbitt
Bulletin

The Central Oregon Irrigation District hopes to finalize a deal today that will allow it to build a hydroelectric generator on a canal near Juniper Ridge. Read on 

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Foundation invites power company to address Ashton Dam Future

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

PacifiCorp officials have agreed to participate in a Henry’s Fork Foundation meeting on the operation and repair and maintenance of the Ashton Dam.

The meeting will be held from 7 to 8:30 pm Tuesday at the Ashton Community Center. Read on 

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Avista eyes big upgrades at dams later

Cabinet Gorge, Long Lake projects total $316 million, could serve 108,000 homes

By Richard Ripley
Journal of Business

Avista Utilities has listed in a new long-term plan three potential major hydroelectric upgrades at its Long Lake and Cabinet Gorge dams that would add 144 megawatts of generating capacity to its system, or more than the 125 megawatts of combined capacity at all six of its Spokane River dams. Read on 

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Obama’s goal: Help salmon faster

The US is open to breaching – even removing – dams to protect the fish

By Matthew Preusch
Oregonian

The U.S. government wants to do more to save Northwest salmon, and faster. And if that doesn’t do enough for the imperiled fish, it will consider breaching one or more dams on the Snake River in Washington, sacrificing power production to help fish swim to and from the sea. Read on 

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Breaching could be ‘last resort’

Obama officials tweak the Bush plan to manager salmon. Will it finally get the court’s approval?

By Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman

Salmon levels would have to drop to mid-1990s levels – when some runs came close to winking out – before the federal government would even study breaching dams under the plan announced by the Obama administration Tuesday. Read on 

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2 local hydro projects get funding from DOE

By Journal Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

Yesterday, the US Department of Energy said 22 advanced water power projects throughout the nation would receive up to $14.6 million in funding. Two of the projects are in Washington state. Read on 

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Symposium emphasized cooperation

By Staff
News-Examiner

In a day-long seminar focused on Bear River, those attending were told over and over again the benefits of cooperation and communication. Read on 

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Opponents of Shanker’s Bend project say chose ‘No dam option.’

High dam would cost over $1 billion

By Gary DeVon
Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune

OROVILLE – More than 120 people packed the Old Oroville Depot to express their concerns over a feasibility study of water storage at Shanker’s bend on the Similkameen River. Read on 

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PUD gets an earful regarding Shanker’s Bend Dam feasibility study

Dozens tell utility they do not want dam

By Gary DeVon
Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune

OROVILLE – Over 120 people attended a meeting last week on a feasibility study on water storage at Shanker’s Bend, many voiced their concerns that a dam, no matter how high, would flood their property. Read on 

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Natural gas prices to decline, but electricity’s going up

By Susan Palmer
Register Guard

Natural gas customers will get a double-digit break on their utility bills this fall, while many electricity customers can expect increases.

In both cases, blame goes partly to the weather and partly to the recession. Read on 

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Tacoma Power seeks new generation facility

By CR Roberts
News Tribune

It was President Calvin Coolidge who pressed the button that started the juice flowing from Tacoma Power’s Cushman Dam hydroelectric project in 1926. That was Dam No. 1. Read on 

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Options for new dam to be discussed

By KC Mehaffey
Wenatchee World

The Okanogan County PUD will review a study on three options to build a dam at Shankers Bend on the Similkameen River for water storage and electric generation, on Monday at 7 pm at Oroville Depot in Oroville. Read on 

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Repairs to improve dam’s spillway

Silver Creek Dam reservoir to close for about 3 weeks

By Danielle Peterson
Appeal-Tribune

Repairs that will target weather-related damage are scheduled this month at Silver Creek Dam. City officials said the estimated $30,000 project also will improve the flow of the spillway. Read on 

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Northwest wind power: My, how you’ve grown

Wind farms now have the capacity of two Bonneville dams. Many more are coming, and the region must face the challenges of this rapid growth

By Staff
Oregonian

For the past decade, Northwest policymakers have treated wind energy like a newborn, lavishing it with political love and bathing it in tax credits and other incentives. Read on 

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Conservation key word in Northwest energy plan

A council expects to meet 85 percent of new demand through efficiency

By Ted Sickinger
Oregonian

The Northwest can meet 85 percent of its new electricity needs over the next 20 years solely through conservation, and can do so at half the cost of building power plants, according to the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council. Read on 

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Politics of Power

Expanding hydropower an idea fraught with controversy

By LA Times/Washington Post
Herald & News

But the dam in recent years hasn’t produced as much power as it might: Its massive turbines act as deadly blender blades to young salmon, and engineers often have had to let the river flow over the spillway to halt the slaughter wasting the waters energy potential. Read on 

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Detroit shutdown has been remedied

By Bill Sanderson
Stayton Mail

The algae and sediment bloom last week was caused by a malfunction at the Detroit Dam complex. Because the headgates did not work properly, they had to be shut down and water released from different levels within the two reservoirs. That situation has been dealt with, and the North Santiam River is back to normal summer volume with a couple of notable exceptions. Read on 

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Yakama Nation produces electricity

By Staff
Daily Record

The Yakama Nation has revived a hydroelectric generator and is producing some of its own power. Read on 

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Tribe starts producing its own power

By Phil Ferolito
Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakama Nation is officially in the power generating business with the recent revival of a hydroelectric generator in the Wapato Irrigation Project.

The electricity it generates will eventually be used to power homes on the 1.2-million-acre reservation. Read on 

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Trout take a leap off dam for sake of science, other fish

Data will be used to help steelhead, Chinook

By Beth Casper
Statesman Journal

A rainbow trout’s six-second trip over the 463-foot high Detroit Dam is helping scientists learn how salmon will fare on their journey to sea.

For two weeks in July, almost 2,000 rainbow trout were tagged with a radio sensor and two deflated balloons. Read on 

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Tribe reclaims its land, breath

Skokomish tribal members perform three ceremonies, restoring ancestral names to three sites returned to them as part of a larger settlement with Tacoma Power

By Lynda Mapes
Seattle Times

CAMP CUSHMAN, Mason County —

This lakeside vacation spot has long been known as Camp Cushman. But Wednesday, it was once again named Place Where Songs Come From, as Skokomish tribal members gathered to ceremonially reclaim their ancestral names for lands being returned to them. Read on 

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EWEB boat ramp plans hit a snag

Summer construction of a new McKenzie River landing is stalled by a federally ordered environmental review

By Susan Palmer
Register Guard

A new McKenzie River boat ramp planned for construction this summer will have to wait for an environmental review that could push completion into 2010, well past the federal deadline for the project. Read on 

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Arrowrock Hydroelectric Project Work Continues

By Staff
Clatskanie Chief

Construction on the 18 megawatt hydroelectric project at the Arrowrock dam on the Boise River in Idaho is progressing as schedule as site work continues, the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (CPUD) announced this week. Read on 

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Wind power throws curve at BPA

A new rate order draws attention to the challenge of managing intermittent power

By Ted Sickinger
Oregonian

Utility wonks have been quipping for years that the future of energy in the Northwest is windy and gassy.

When it comes to wind power, the future has already arrived, a reality that has come rushing home in the past two years and created major friction among the Bonneville Power Administration, wind power producers and the agency’s utility customers. Read on 

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As the wind blows

Power company tries to grapple with wind supply

By Eric Florip
East Oregonian

Consider the state’s energy supply a giant juggling act.

When demand spikes, the Bonneville Power Administration must send energy over its power grid to where it’s needed, combining numerous sources into one system. When it dips, things scale back. “Energy is the kind of thing that has to be balanced,” said Elliot Mainzer, BPA’s vice president for strategic planning. “Demand has to equal supply at any given time.” Read on 

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Hydropower open house set

Navy displays new turbine system plan

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — The U.S. Navy is taking steps to design and install a hydropower system offshore of Marrowstone Island and wants to float the proposal in front of the public before it sinks any turbines.

An open house is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today on the proposed tidal energy kinetic hydropower system in Admiralty Inlet. Read on 

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Governor signs Klamath dams bill

Federal officials meet about water agreement

By TY BEAVER
Herald & News

Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill Tuesday allowing PacifiCorp to charge its customers to help pay for dam removal on the Kiarnath River as federal officials met in Klamath Falls to work on a final dam removal agreement. Read on 

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Dam dispute now at impasse

Pend Oreille County wants to triple the annual fee the utility pays for impact of Boundary Dam, an important power source, but talks have stalled.

By Emily Heffter
Seattle Times

Seattle City Light and a rural Eastern Washington county have reached an impasse in negotiations over an annual payment, so they are moving toward arbitration. Read on 

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$5 million from stimulus to pay for dam’s removal

Green jobs: The Gold Ray dam on the Rogue River will come out, probably in 2010

By Matthew Preusch
Oregonian

One Rogue River dam, Gold Hill, is gone; another, Savage Rapids, is on its way out.

Now federal stimulus money will speed the removal of a third, Gold Ray. Read on 

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Work starts on Arrowrock Dam transmission lines

By Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune

Nearly 100 poles for transmission lines to carry power from Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River have been dropped off by helicopter. Read on 

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Fish-friendly funnels

EWEB drains the Walterville canal for annual maintenance

By Susan Palmer
Register Guard

WALTERVILLE – To understand what Eugene Water & Electric Board staff biologist Lisa McLaughlin is talking about when she says “fish screen,” completely disregard the word “screen” and think instead of three tractor-trailer-size concrete funnels. Read on 

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Bill goes to governor

Power rate increase to pay for Klamath dam removal OK’d

By Ty Beaver
Herald & News

Legislation that would increase power bills for Oregonians to help pay for removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River is on its way to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s desk.

The Senate passed a version of Senate Bill 76 Monday, which included amendments approved by the house. Kulongoski has said he intend to sign the bill. Read on 

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Idaho’s electricity profile

By Staff
Times-News

Hydroelectric power plants dominate Idaho electricity generation, supplying nearly four-fifths of the state’s production. Natural gas-fired power plants provide over one-tenth of the Idaho’s production, while coal- and wood-fired generation and wind turbines supply the remainder. Read on 

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Avista awarded 50-year dam license

Pact includes ways to protect resources

By Brian Walker
Coeur d’Alene Press

POST FALLS – Avista Utilities on Thursday received a 50-year license to operate its five hydroelectric projects on the Spokane River, including the Post Falls Dam, marking the end of a seven-year process involving 200 stakeholders. The license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission includes measures designed to protect, mitigate and enhance natural resources along the river. Read on 

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Average summer lake level for Foster

By Sean Morgan
New Era

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials are anticipating an average summer managing Foster and Green Peter reservoirs as it prepares to begin repairs on three gates in Foster Dam toward the end of the recreation season. Read on 

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Proposal gives glimpse at possible Boundary projects

SCL to submit license application this fall

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

SEATTLE – The Boundary Hydroelectric project area in north Pend Oreille County has been the subject of several studies during the past few years. Now project owners Seattle City Light have proposed a number of operational, environmental and recreation measures that these studies have spawned. Read on 

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Progress at Condit

Removal of White River dam set for next year after Department of Ecology ruling

By Staff
Columbian

Spawning salmon can’t cheer – as far as we know – but legions of their human guardians are cheering a recent easement ruling by Washington’s Department of Ecology. Officials said they had no serious concerns about sediment behind Condit Dam. The 125-foot-high dam is on the White Salmon River, about three miles from where it converges with the Columbia River about 65 miles east of Vancouver. The ruling clears the way for removal of the obsolete dam, a project that could occur in October 2010, according to a June 7 story by Columbian reporter Erik Robinson. Mercury-laden sediment, probably from volcanic rock, has been building up behind the dam since it was built in 1913. Water quality was a concern after sediment samples taken from the reservoir behind the dam – Northwestern Lake – showed high levels of mercury. Mercury often is found in volcanic rock in the Cascades, and the White Salmon receives runoff from Mount Adams. Read on 

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What goes into Powerdale Dam decommission?

By Staff
Hood River News

What’s involved in removing a large dam from one of the Pacific Northwest’s major rivers?

This will be the focus in the Hood River valley in the next few years at PacifiCorp’s Powerdale Dam, located three miles south of Hood River. Read on 

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Snoqualmie Falls hydro to get a $250M upgrade

By Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

Puget Sound Energy received a green light from federal regulators to move forward with $250 million in capital improvements to the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project. Read on 

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Northwest governors support "pumped storage" hydropower

By Matt Preusch
The Oregonian

U.S. Department of the Interior

The Mt. Elbert Pumped Storage power plant in Colorado.

Four Northwest governors have sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu voicing their support for studying “pumped storage” hydropower sites in the region. Read on 

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BPA rides the wind

Portland organization vies to integrate wind technology

By Deirdre Gregg
Business Journal

The Bonneville Power Administration is trying — or may try in the future — an array of tactics to better integrate the variable element of wind into a grid that was designed to work with steadier power sources such as hydro and natural gas. Read on 

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Judge has reservations on dam plan

He could take direct role in protecting imperiled salmon

By Erik Robinson
Columbian

A federal judge has “serious reservations” of the lawfulness of a federal plan to balance imperiled salmon and federal dams in the Columbia River basin. U.S. District Judge James Redden sent a letter Monday to attorneys involved in a lawsuit over the plan issued by the Bush administration last year. The same judge ruled that two previous plans – in 2000 and 2004 – violated federal environmental laws. Read on 

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New dam coming to Sultan

By Polly Keary
Monroe Monitor & Valley News

Clean energy or threat to fish?

As the Snohomish PUD celebrates the coming construction of a dam on Youngs Creek near Sultan that will create enough power for about 2,000 homes, some are asking whether such small hydroelectrical projects are as green as they sound. Read on 

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A Natural Treasure’s Unnatural History

Decades of human intervention have shrunk, swollen and shifted river, falls

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

There’s a story about Spokane Falls that Bill Youngs likes to tell.

Expo ’74 promoters were trying to persuade Ford and General Motors Co. to sponsor big exhibits at the World’s Fair, so they invited company officials to Spokane. During a fancy lunch at what is now Anthony’s, one of the Expo promoters casually asked, "Oh, have you seen our waterfalls?” Read on 

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Hydropower doesn’t count as green energy, but some say it should

By David Chircop
Daily Herald

Hydropower is at the center of a running debate on the future of Washington’s green energy initiative.

When voters approved Initiative 937 in 2006, the law required large utilities, including Snohomish County PUD, to get 15 percent of their energy supply from renewable resources by 2015. Read on 

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Is dam a dirty word?

PUD wants 10 new mini-dams; environmentalists see trouble

By David Chircop
Daily Herald

MONROE — More dams are coming.

These aren’t the hulking concrete structures of the past. Read on 

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Spokane Falls will flow full time

Avista reaches dam-relicensing deal with Sierra Club

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

Water will cascade over the Spokane River’s waterfalls even during the hottest and driest of summers.

Avista Utilities and the Sierra Club have worked out an agreement for year-round flows. Even after sunset, when most of the tourists have left Riverfront Park, water will spill over a series of descending basalt columns. Read on 

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Sullivan field studies underway

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

NEWPORT — Now that the weather is warming, field studies have begun for the Sullivan Creek Hydroelectric Project.

Studies will help determine some mitigation measures as the Pend Oreille Public Utility District seeks a special use permit for future operation of the dam at Sullivan Lake. A group in mediation with the PUD has suggested removing the smaller dam at Mill Pond. Doing so would disrupt the sediment that has built up there over the years. Read on 

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Hydro plant would restore steelhead spawning areas

Under an agreement, hydro firm would install fish screens to aid smolts going downstream

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

APPLEGATE — A Utah firm is close to winning authority to retrofit Applegate Dam with hydropower turbines under an agreement that would restore wild steelhead spawning to 35 miles of creeks upstream of the dam. Read on 

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All we do to save salmon could mean nothing

Fish that spawn in the south and in the summer will die first as the world warms. Idaho’s high elevation runs may offer one of the best changes the species has.

By Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman

The Pacific Northwest has spent two decades retooling dams, rebuilding damaged watersheds and restoring stream flows to keep salmon from disappearing.

The United States has invested billions in the effort – $350 million in 2004 alone – by far the most money spent on any endangered species. Read on 

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Feds give OK to start Chester hydroproject

Chester hydroproject will start

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

ASHTON — After a few months’ delay, Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative has received verbal confirmation it may proceed with work to build a $15 million hydroelectric project at the site of the existing Chester Dam.

The project had been all set to go last fall. It had been hailed as a win-win project for the environmentally low-impact power its generators would project and for the benefit to the fisheries with the installation of fish ladders at the headworks of two canals that divert water at the site. Read on 

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Stimulus funds will pay to study dams

Dam removal critical for Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement

By Ty Beaver
Herald & News

About $4 million in federal funding will pay for studies to determine the feasibility of removing PacifiCorp’s four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Read on 

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Dam pact aims to alleviate damage

Utility to help fish, improve tribal land

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

The Box Canyon Dam is about to enter a new era – one that’s kinder to fish and more attentive to the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ long history in northeast Washington. Read on 

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BPA grabs stimlus dollars to join wind revolution

Roaring alongside mighty Columbia come new dollars and determination to rebuild the grid for 21st century

By Deirdre Gregg
Puget Sound Business Journal

As head of the Bonneville Power Administration, Steve Wright says he faces a challenge as immense as that of his predecessors who first harnessed the Columbia River to generate electricity. Read on 

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Power production increases with generator upgrades

Plans to finish fifth generator

By Staff
Columbia Basin Herald

EPHRATA – Grant County PUD plans to finish its fifth generator upgrade at Wanapum Dam in August, likely increasing power production in 2010 for the Priese Rapids Projects. Read on 

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Revisions to river treaty floated

Flooding, hydropower drove ’64 Columbia pact

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

The buzz of an electric alarm clock, the sweet heat of the shower, steam rising from a coffee mug. All over the Northwest, people start their day with energy from Columbia River dams. Read on 

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Grand Coulee contract awarded

Koontz Electric Co. awarded $6 million

By Roger Harnack
Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle

Koontz Electric Co., Morrilton, Ark., has received a $6 million construction contract to furnish and install three new power transformers and related equipment in the Grand Coulee Dam right powerplant. Read on 

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Power for the people

NCW gets ready for alternative energy future

By Christine Pratt
Wentachee World

Editor’s note: Welcome to the “Light Switch” series. Over the coming months we’ll examine NCW’s challenge to meet growing demand for electricity, keep costs low and respond to what could be an aggressive new push toward electricity as a means to reduce our country’s dependence on fossil fuels. In Part 1, we set the stage… Read on 

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Corps to trap and transport fish over Cougar Dam

Corps Engineers awarded $9.7 million contract to Nan McDougall

By Staff
McKenzie River Reflections

BLUE RIVER – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $9.7 million contract to Nan McDougall Company of Tualatin to reestablish upstream fish passage at Cougar Dam. Fisheries biologists believe that reconnecting adult spring Chinook and hull trout to this high-quality habitat will substantially support recovery of endangered fish populations in the Willamette River subbasin. Read on 

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Judge makes one more plea for compromise on salmon, dams

Most Northwest Indian tribes accepted a more negotiable role. Judge Redden hopes the Obama administration will follow suit.

By Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman

PORTLAND – U.S. District Judge James Redden has struck down two salmon and dam plans for the Columbia and Snake rivers.

But he wouldn’t say yet whether he’s going to make it three. Read on 

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High-desert hydro

Developers hope to see more hydropower near China Mountain

By Nate Poppino
Times-News

The desert southwest of Rogerson could host a little more water in the near future, according to a proposal by a group of hydropower developers.

Symbiotics LLC, a multi-state company with offices in Rigby and Boise, is seeking permission from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study building a 1,100-megawatt pumped-storage hydropower project several miles west of Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir, on China Mountain. Read on 

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Decade-plus of work planned at dam

Dozens could be added to project payroll

By Roger Lucas
The Star

The Bureau of Reclamation will begin a $400 million to $600 million project to refit generators in Grand Coulee Dam’s Third Powerhouse, the Bureau said this week.

Work will begin on the multi-phase project late in 2012, and take about 12 years to complete, Grand Coulee Power Office Manager David Murrillo said Monday. Read on 

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Removing Dams

Bill that is key part of water agreement is making its way through the state legislature

By Lee Juillerat
Herald & News

After years of negotiations, legislation that could lead to the removal of four Klamath River dams has moved through the Oregon Senate and is now being considered by the state House of Representatives Senate Bill 76, which caps the cost of dam removal liability to Oregon PacifiCorp customers at $180 million, passed the Oregon Senate Tuesday. It could be considered in a House committee next week and voted on by mid March. Read on 

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Pipeline to serve hatchery

PA council OKs step in dam removal

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES – The City Council has given its approval to another aspect of the preparation for the removal of two Elwha River dams.

In an unanimous vote Tuesday, with Deputy Mayor Betsy Wharton absent, the Port Angeles City Council approved providing the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe with an easement on city-owned property for the construction of a water pipeline. Read on 

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Tiny county says Seattle holds back dam’s riches

City Light pays fee but gets millions selling power

By Emily Heffter
Seattle Times

PEND OREILLE COUNTY — Three hundred miles of power line have traced the unlikely connection between Seattle and Pend Oreille County for four decades.

Seattle gets about 40 percent of its power from Boundary Dam, tunneled into a limestone cliff. Its curved face stretches 740 feet across the Pend Oreille River near Metaline Falls, a mile south of the Canadian border. Read on 

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Newsprint company, others approve Box Canyon settlement

License conditions for Box Canyon Dam

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

Most every party involved has given its official approval of the settlement over license conditions for Box Canyon Dam.

The settlement allows the dam owner, the Pend Oreille Public Utility District (PUD), to begin work on several fish restoration and environmental mitigation requirements of Box Canyon’s new 50-year license. The projects were on hold since 2005 when the PUD appealed parts of the license. Read on 

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Turbine blades under construction

Pend Oreille River water will rush against new blades

By Janelle Atyeo
Newport Miner

NEWPORT— If plans continue 10 become reality, Pend Oreille River water will soon rush against a set of four new blades being built in Austria for Box Canyon Dam’s first new turbine. They’ll turn the turbine and generate the electricity needed to power Pend Oreille County homes and businesses. Read on 

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P&Z considers plans for hydroelectric project

Fall River Rural Electrical Cooperative secured a Class for construction

By Joyce Edlefsen
Standard Journal

ST. ANTHONY —- Fall River Rural Electrical Cooperative secured a Class 2 permit to allow construction of a 3.3 megawatt power plant on the southeastern side of the Chester Dam, on the Henry’s Fork.

The OK came on the condition that when the project is completed that the access to the site is adequate for the safety and welfare of the public. Read on 

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Road reopens after dam repair

Foster Dam’s spillway gates completed

By Sean Morgan
New Era

Repairs to one of Foster Dam’s spillway gates are complete, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reopened Foster Dam Road Thursday after the contractor on the project finished removing a crane and equipment from the dam.

"Our final inspection is complete,” said Mark Dasso, the Corps’ project manager for the gate repair. "We thank the local community for their patience during this repair project.” Read on 

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Wanapum to get $150M upgrade

Grant will upgrade generators at Wanapum Dam

By Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

Beginning in 2010, Grant PUD will start upgrading generators at Wanapum Dam. The utility recently approved a $150 million contract with Alstom Hydro for the work.

All generators are anticipated to be in place by 2018. Read on 

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Corps of Engineers marks completion of Foster Gate 1 repairs

Repairs on Foster Dam

By Staff
Democrat Herald

Having completed repairs on one of the spillway gates at Foster Dam, the US Army Corps of Engineers is seeking funding to do the same for the other three.

Col. Stevens R. Miles, district engineer and commander of the Corps’ Portland District, visited the dam east of Sweet Home on Thursday to mark the completion of the job on Spillway Gate 1. Read on 

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Tacoma Power settles dispute with Skokomish Tribe

Tacoma Power and Skokomish Tribe

By Staff
Tacoma Weekly

Tacoma Power, Skokomish Tribal Nation and state and federal agencies signed historic settlement agreements for Tacoma Power’s Cushman Hydroelectric project during a meeting in Tacoma Jan. 12. The agreements resolve a $5.8 billion damages claim and long standing disputes over the terms of a long term license for Cushman Hydroelectric Project, which is located on the Skokomish River in Mason County. Read on 

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Dam removal could aid coho salmon

“Kellogg for Coho” popular but still lacks full funding

By Anthony Roberts
Tribune

Dam removals typically make waves in the Pacific Northwest. But most stories involve big dams blocking big fish along big rivers, like the dwindling chinook salmon runs along the Snake River. Read on 

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Tacoma pays to end feud with tribe

Dam dispute officially ended

By Jason Hagey
News Tribune

The City of Tacoma and the Skokomish Indian Tribe officially ended a dispute Monday over a pair of dams on the Olympic Pensinsula that dates to the late 1920s. Officials from the city-owned Tacoma Public Utilities, the Skokomish tribe and numerous federal agencies gathered for a breakfast meeting at C.I. Shenanigan’s restaurant in Tacoma where they held a ceremonial signing of a settlement that gives the tribe millions of dollars and allows Tacoma Power to continue producing electricity for 40 more years. Read on 

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PUD wishlist: $1 billion

Stimulus plan could power green energy effort

By David Chircop
The Herald

Snohomish County PUD hopes a change in the White House will help it pay for major renewable energy projects during the next four years.

As President-elect Barack Obama calls for an epic economic stimulur plan, the utility is sending Congress a wish list that includes nearly $1 billion in investments for tidal, geothermal, solar and low-impact hydroelectricity projects. Read on 

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Back on the grid

Albany hydroelectric plant close to producing power again

By Hasso Hering
Democrat Herald

After years of planning and construction, Albany’s old/new hydropower plant is about to resume production.

It is old because, according to the city, Albany’s history with hydropower goes all the way back to 1888. It’s new because it sports a brand new generator, built in China and installed in the cavernous powerhouse at the Vine Street water treatment plant. Read on 

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Nine new hydro plants planned for the McKenzie

By Staff
McKenzie River Reflections

A San Francisco based company filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit to develop up to nine new hydropower projects on the McKenzie River. Principle Power Hydro said the plants would be constructed between river mile 75 at Scott Creek (just upstream of Paradise Campground) and just above Leaburg Dam at river mile 41. Each could be similar in size to the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s Leaburg or Walterville plants. Read on 

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Energy Crisis Affects Snake

By Margot Higgins

With an energy crisis looming over the West, removing part of the region’s energy supply by breaching dams might seem unreasonable. But environmentalists disagree. Pictured here, turbines inside the Bonneville Dam facility in Oregon.

The problem is not expected to be out in a flash.

According to the Northwest Power Planning Council, power shortages are likely to hit the Northwest and California for the next few years. With an energy crisis looming over the West, removing part of the region’s energy supply through dam breaching might seem unreasonable. Nevertheless, conservation groups maintain that the energy crisis does not dim their current proposal to remove the four Lower Snake River dams in order to recover endangered salmon populations.

California relies on hydroelectricity for 22 percent of its power, about a third of which comes from the Pacific Northwest.

The power shortages could stall current efforts to protect endangered salmon populations.

On at least two occasions last summer, the Bonneville Power Administration — the federal agency responsible for marketing power from dams in the Pacific Northwest — used water meant to aid migrating juvenile salmon to supply California with hydroelctricity.

As an alternative to dam removal, the BPA is recuired by the current federal biological opinion on salmon recovery, to provide minimum flow and spill levels to help salmon survive the dams. In power emergencies,” however, those fish passage measures can be suspended to allow for additional hydropower generation.

Conservation groups have long claimed that alternative isn’t working, and point instead to dam removal as the ultimate solution to restoring the region a salmon and steelhead.

“This energy crisis will not spiral out of control or be brought under control by what happens to the Snake River dams,” said Scott Basso of Idaho Rivers United.

On average, the four Lower Snake River dams annually produce about 1,231 megawatts of power, according to the Bonneville Power Administration. That anounts to enough electricity to power the city of Seattle or about 5 peccant of the region’s energy supply. Less than one percent of Califonia’s energy supply comes from the lower Snake River dams, conservation groups note.

Energy demands could stall current efforts to protect endangered salmon populations.nDuring the winter and summer months, when energy demands are at their peak, there is less water moving through the dams and less energy produced. “The only time the dams are efficient at producing energy is during the spring runoff months,” Bosse said. “We can’t simply flip a switch and release water that isn’t there.”

A low snow-pack season and poor power planning are the real culprits for the energy crisis, conservation groups claim.

“In 1960 the Northwest Power Planning Council set its mission to protect and restore salmon and steelhead and to ensure that the Northwest had a reliable, affordable energy supply,” Bosse said. “Twenty years later, we have extinctions and blackouts.”nThe energy produced by the four Lower Snake River dams could be replaced by conservation measures and alternative energy sources such as wind solar and geothermal power, conservation groups say.

“When we had abundant cheap power there is less incentive to develop alternative sources of power, ” Bosse said. “Now that we face scarce electricity supplies and much higher prices, that is changing.”

As the price of cheap power goes up, green energy sources become economically and ecologically attractive, he adds.

Several groups are responding to the energy crisis by making sure these alternatives become available.

“This is the worst energy deficit we have seen since 1979,” said Sara Patton, director of the Northwest Energy Coalition. “There’s going to be a lot of public policy effort to get new energy sources going. Our mission is to make sure that this frenzy to get new energy sources on board is met with as much energy conservation and clean renewable energy as possible.”

NWHA Newsgroup
January 16, 2001

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HYPA Official Urges Reform Of Hydropower Relicencing

Business Wire

With the warning that the federal relicensing process is slowly, butnsteadily, turning off the tap on America’s hydropower resources,” a NewnYork Power Authority (NYPA) official urged the Federal Energy RegulatorynCommission (FERC) to significantly reform the process.

Two-thirds of all hydropower projects relicensed since 1986 lost generation as a result of relicensing,” said Daniel P. Berical, vice president for Policy and Government Affairs for the Power Authority at a public meeting conducted in Albany by FERC to review hydroelectric licensing policies, procedures and regulations.

He noted that the federal government is predicting the trend willncontinue: “The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual EnergynOutlook 2000 projects that hydropower generation will decline throughn2020, ‘as regulatory actions limit capacity at existing sites.”‘

The New York Power Authority operates eight hydroelectric generating facllities in New York State, including the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, the St. Lawrence-Franklin P. Roosevelt Power Project in Hassena and the Blenheim-Gilbos Pumped Storage Power Project in the northern Catskills.

In the next 15 years, over half of all federally regulated hydropower capacity must be relicensed. Some 284 projects with nearly 29,000 megawatts of capacity will be undergoing the relicensing process. The Power Authority’s St. Lawrence-FOR Project license expires in 2003. The Niagara Project license expires In 2007.

Berical said reform is needed to preserve hydropower’s benefits to the nation’s “environmental quality, energy security and economic prosperity.”

“Hydropower serves as the nation’s largest, emissions-free, renewable energy resource. It is a predominantly domestic resource, largely free from foreign disruption,” the NYPA official noted.

“Reform of the hydropower relicensing process certainly should neither dilute nor diminish the thorough analysis of environmental impacts. However,” Berical said, “the relicensing process reguires a renewed sense of balance. As our nation seeks to address an array of environmental, economic and energy challenges, we must act to assure that the benefits offered by hydropower in all those areas are not sacrificednfor the sake of any single one of those interests. Meaningful reform of the hydropower relicensing process is essential to achieving that balance.”

Business Wire
Albany, NY
January 12, 2001

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Hydro Biop Held Up Over Dam Breaching Language

By Bill Rudolph
NWHA newsgroups

The long-awaited final version of the Columbia/Snake hydro BiOp will likely be postponed for at least a week, according to NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman. Originally scheduled to he released Dec. 15., Gorman said the delay is to change language that recommends Action Agencies (BuRec, Corps of Engineers, BPA) breach lower Snake dams if performance standards aren’t met.

You can’t require an agency to do something it’s not authorized to do,” Gorman said last Friday, referring especially to the Corps of Engineers, which operates the federal dams in question. He said the language in the BiOp has to be “doable,” though he wasn’t sure what policymakers will finally decide is appropriate. “It’s an issue that was seriously debated in the middle of the year,” Gorman added.

Last Friday, George Frampton, acting chair of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, told federal agencies to cease all activity associated with the scheduled Dec. 15 rollout of the BiOp “immediately.”

Sources indicated that the Administration wants to hardwire language in the new BiOp that calls for breaching lower Snake dams if improvements to Snake River stocks do not meet performance standards at 3-, 5- and 8-year check points. They speculated that the draconian language about breaching dams will be included to appease environmental groups who fear that a Bush presidency will try to soften salmon recovery standards. Frampton told other federal agencies that the re-write should take about a week.

One Senate staffer called the announcement a “bombshell” and promised a hearing on the final document, but NMFS Gorman said his agency wasn’t even planning on issuing a press release announcing the postponement. Meanwhile, other federal policymakers headed east to meet this week in Mashington DC to work on the changes. They included Doug Arndt, of the Corps’ Northwestern District Fish Management Division, and Laurie Bodi of BPA.

NWHA newsgroups
December 11, 2000

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Salmon Concerns Could Sink Plan For Lake Tapps

Pact Threatened: State agencies want enough water in river to protect fish runs

By Rob Tucker
The News Tribune

Growing pressures to save salmon could blow big holes in the negotiations to save Lake Tapps.

Lakeside homeowners, government agents and Puget Sound Energy; the private utility that owns Lake Tapps, are scheduled to sign a preliminary agreement Dec. 14 that lists options for saving the lake. PSE has threatened to let the lake dry up, saying new federal regulations will prevent it from making a profit.

But two state agencies say they probably won’t sign the lake-saving agreement because it doesn’t guarantee enough water in the White River to protect water quality and salmon, including a run of Chinooks listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The City of Auburn says it won’t sign because the agreement contains a PSE plan to sell Lake Tapps water for drinking, which competes with the city’s application to withdraw more ground water for drinking.

Two Indian tribes, the Muckleshoots and Puyallups, also don’t like the water sales plan because it takes away more water from salmon runs.

And PSE is concerned that keeping river levels high enough for salmon will reduce the amount diverted to its power plant, causing the company to lose money. PSE is appealing a license order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that requires much higher river levels.

Without the signatures of key parties, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may hesitate to approve a final lake-saving agreement due in July. If that happens, a long court fight is likely, and the lake’s future would remain uncertain.

Jim Clifford, whose father developed residential areas along Lake Tapps, said changes in government regulations caused the lake crisis.

Homeowners shouldn’t have to be in this situation,” he told the Pierce County Council during a discussion about the lake. “They didn’t create the Endangered Species Act or licensing problems from FERC.”

The PSE hydroelectric project at the center of this controversy operates when White River water is diverted at a Buckley dam and sent eight miles to Lake Tapps, the holding reservoir for the project. The lake water is spilled downhill into the PSE power plant in Sumner to produce enough electricity for 35,000 homes. Then the water is returned to the river, 14 miles downstream from the dam.

The lake crisis occurred early last year when PSE said it couldn’t accept the costly requirements of a federal power license and the additional costs of protecting endangered White River chinook salmon and bull trout. PSE said it might have to retire the 89-year-old White River Hydroelectric Project, which would stop water flows into the lake and cause it to revert to the original four small lakes.

Federal, state, county and city agents, as well as PSE, business people and homeowners, hastily formed a 38-member task force to try to save the lake, which is ringed by 2,000 homes in Pierce County and Bonney Lake. For 18 months, the members have met and talked. They have worked out a preliminary agreement that lacks details but formalizes the remaining lake-saving options. They say this early agreement points the way to a final solution.

The way, however, is likely to be rough and bumpy.

The state departments of Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife insist on higher water levels in the White River to better protect river salmon and water quality. That means diverting less for power uses.

“We want more in-stream flows, sooner rather than later,” said Sue Maurermann, Southwest regional director for the state Department of Ecology.

Her department wants to nearly triple the river flows below the diversion dam.

Gary Sprague, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife representative on the task force, said: “In-stream flows are the biggest issue for us. We’re trying to get something a bit better for fish.” His department proposes more than doubling the river flows below the dam.

The City of Auburn is concerned about PSE’s new plan to withdraw and sell lake water to keep the hydro project profitable. Auburn fears that its own water right application in the White River Basin for more ground water for drinking will be pushed aside by PSE’s more regionwide request. Still, Auburn Mayor Chuck Booth said, the city doesn’t want to lose Lake Tapps.

“We don’t want to harm PSE or the lake,” he said.

The Puyailup and Muckleshoot Indian tribes, which have federal fishing rights on the White-Puyallup river system, also are upset about a PSE task force plan to withdraw and sell Lake Tapps water. The lake water comes from the White River, the main tributary of the Puyallup River. The tribes are concerned about PSE taking more water from river salmon and have registered those concerns with Gov. Gary Locke.

“…The proposed withdrawal will adversely affect fisheries resources, wrote Muckleshoot Tribal Chairman John Daniels Jr. to Locke on Sept.29.

PSE is another obvious key to a lakesaving settlement. PSE officials have warned that settlement terms that subtract water from power production will hinder continued operations and threaten the lake instead of save it. The utility estimated it would run a deficit of up to $3 million annually over 20 years on its White River hydroelectric project under new federal requirements.

“PSE wants to make the project whole economically feasible,” said Gary Nomenson, corporate relations manager for PSE.

Finally, a recent Gallup Poll on Lake Tapps issues shows residents support task force efforts. But the poll reveals less concern among people not living on the lakefront.

“There was a lot of (task force) hopefulness because so many people outside the community use the lake,” said task force member Bernie Hargrave of the Army Corps of Engineers. “The hope was that it would translate into enough concern to help. It didn’t materialize.”

Lanette Knobel, a Lake Tapps homeowner and member of the Save Lake Tapps Coalition, said poll results frustrated her because they showed people who didn’t live on the lakefront lacked knowledge about lake-saving issues.

“Education needs to be more widespread,” she said. “I don’t know if we even have the time now.”

There is evidence that people not residing near the lake have a stake in saving it. County records show that the county’s North Lake Tapps Park, one of two public parks on the lake, had more than 7,500 users in 10 days between July 28 and Aug. 6. Nearly all those users – more than 6,500 came from Seattle, Tacoma, Auburn, Puyallup, Sumner, Buckley, Edgewood, Enumclaw, Kent, Federal Way, South Hill and other areas not on the lakefront.

If the lake disappears, lakeside homeowners’ property values would drop, perhaps up to a third, according to early county estimates. That would impact not only lakeside homeowners, but others in the Lake Tapps community because it would mean less property tax revenue for local schools and emergency fire and medical services.

Despite the competing interests and concerns, most task force members remain optimistic.

Dennis Brown is a lakeside homeowner, head of the Save Lake Tapps Coalition and a task force member. He said there are positive trends emerging from the task force effort and from economic forces.

For instance, he said, PSE’s estimated deficit should be lowered by thenadditional income from rising electricity prices. That could make a settlement less expensive and more likely. And strong state support has emerged for PSE’s plan to withdraw and sell lake water to private and public water companies in the King-Pierce region.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission remains neutral as the competing interests work toward a settlement. A FERC official wouldn’t speculate on what the commission would do if key players don’t sign a final settlement or if there is significant public opposition to settlement terms.

“If there is a contested settlement, we must look at it,” said FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller. “There is still time. We can’t speculate on what we would do.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
December 2, 2000

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New NMFS Research

By Bill Rudolph
NWHA Mailing List

New research federal scientists reported last week has thrown more cold water on the notion that augmented spring flows improve fish survival in the Snake River.

A report by NMFS scientists at last week’s four-day marathon research review in Portland actually found an inverse relationship between spring flows and fish survival, said Doug Marsh, from EMES’ Seattle Fish Ecology division. The results clash with proposed flow augmentation strategies in the agency’s draft BiOp for hydropower, which is scheduled to be finished by the middle of December.

Marsh exhibited a graph indicating that smolt-to-adult return rates (SARs) for 1998 inriver migrating juvenile spring chinook were both the highest and lowest when flows averaged only 60 kcfs.

Another graph that tracked inriver SARs from the 1995 outmigration showed survivals declined as fiows increased; the research showed lower Columbia River flows correlated with transported SARs in 1995, but not in 1998.

The latest results also indicate that fish transported early in the season do poorly, but after May 1, survivals increase drastically. We’re assuming something is happening in the ocean, ” Marsh told researchers Nov. 15. He said two possible explanations for the phenomenon are that predators may be munching on early fish, or that a lack of ocean upwelling in April may affect survival of the early transported chinook from the Snake River. Inriver migrating fish take about two weeks to reach the estuary; barged fish only a few days.

With three-ocean returns (fish that spend three years at sea) from the 1998 outmigration not due back until next year, the NNFS scientists found that two-ocean transported fish of hatchery origin have survived 30 percent better than two-ocean inriver migrants overall, but wild inriver migrants are surviving at a rate 60 percent better than their transported brethren. Since many wild fish usually return after three years at sea, that rate could easily flip-flop next year. Wild SARs from both 1995 and 1996 were 50 percent higher for transported fish, according to the NMFS data.

This information was sent to EMES policymakers in an Oct. 26 memo. “The preliminary results suggest that little or no benefit accrued from transportation early in the spring migrations,” it said. “Further, flows did not influence smolt-to-adult return rates (SAR) of inriver migrants in either year, but correlated with transport SARs in 1995.”

The memo pointed out that in the new study, NMFS only used inriver fish that were not detected in bypass systems at collector dans below Lower Granite Dam, which means they passed Little Goose or Lower Monumental dams via spillways or turbines. Critics of earlier NMFS research had questioned results that included fish that went through the bypass systems. They claimed that bypassing fish, especially those bypassed more than once, were subject to greater stress than inriver migrating fish that went over spillways.

The NMFS memo pointed out that lower than expected ratios of returning transported to inriver fish were “primarily explained” by the low survivals of fish transported in April of 1995 and 1998. Researchers said the difference in survivals was abrupt–about eight days. After that, the fish did remarkably better. “However, during the second halves of the migrations in both years, transport OARs were nearly always at least twice as high as inriver-migrant OARs.”

The memo suggested that predators, such as extremely mobile Pacific jack mackerel, might be responsible for the high April mortalities. It also pointed out that no relationship was found between Snake River flows and inriver migrants in 1995 and 1998.

“This follows the same trend documented for juveniles over the past several years,” the memo said.

The results seem to fly in the face of the proposed hydro BiOp, which calls for augmenting spring flows in both the lower Snake and upper Columbia rivers to aid the survival of ESA-listed fish during their juvenile migration.

NMFS policymaker Brian Brown–from the agency’s Portland office, where the new BiOp is being written–recently told other Columbia Basin policymakers that regional input had not changed UMES’ mind about the direction of the new document.

“There’s nothing in the comments yet to suggest we’ve got it wrong,” Brown said at a Nov. 1 Implementation Team meeting in Portland. He said state, tribal and other agency comments revealed big disagreements over the value of dam breaching and flow augmentation, but evidently he did not see fit to share his own agency’s latest memo with the rest of the group.

The HMFS White Paper on flow management, a document written to show the “best available science” on the issue, also admitted the agency had not detected a flow/survival relationship for the spring fish. But responding to criticism of the White Paper from Idaho water users, NMFS hedged its bets. The water users had taken issue with NMFS’ qualitative remarks about the “likely” benefits of flow, when the agency had failed to quantify a relationship between added flow and improved fish survival.

“In ecological studies,” NMFS said in response, “it is rare that one can be certain beyond a doubt about any conclusion. Scientific judgment involves accumulating information through time and determining which conclusions are supported by the preponderance of evidence. It would be unfair to characterize something as certain when it is not.

“At the same time, lack of 100 percent certainty does not indicate that relationships do not exist it is clear that salmon migrating downstream through the hydropower system do so under flow oonditions that are different than those under which they evolved. This is particularly true once the fish get below Bonneville Dam. Suggesting more natural flows are better for fish is not inconsistent. It is not the role of science to make the management decision of when the costs of flows are too high to outweigh presumed benefits for the fish.”

NWHA Mailing List
November, 27, 2000

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MDU Executive DIscusses Concerns About Restructuring

By Jan Falstad
The Gazette

There is no chance neighboring states will soon follow Montana’s leap into restructuring its electrical industry, the top Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. executive said Wednesday.

Ronald Tipton said North Dakota is still studying the issue and the study group has no intention of recommending restructuring any time soon. South Dakota is even more adamant.

South Dakota says, ‘We will see deregulation in this state over our dead body,’ ” Tipton told a group of; business people and students during Montana State University-Billings’ Executive in Residence luncheon. “Their congressman and senators are fighting deregulation at every turn in Washington.”

Wyoming has more of an open mind and might try eliminating state control over electric generation if some utility offered a plan, said Tipton, who is chief executive officer for the utilities division of MDU Resources Group Inc. in Bismarck, ND

Questions about MPC

After his speech, Tipton was peppered with questions about Montana’s 1997 decision to end regulation of electric generation. He emphasized he does not speak for Montana Power Co., a competitor that successtlllly lobbied for restructuring, but Tipton took the questions in good humor.

At one point Wednesday, he climbed onto a nearby chair saying, “I need some more height I’m getting in too deep here.”

He said deregulation of e1ectricity is the last step in changing the way American corporations do business.

“This is a big deal, folks, because electricity is a $200 billion industry nationally,” he said. ‘This is bigger than natural gas, railroads, trucking and the airline industries combined.”

As part of the 1997 legislation, MDU also must deregulate in Montana in 2006. Montana Power must complete deregulation by 2002, unless there is a two-year extension.

But MDU bought more time in the 1997 bill to convince the other three states it serves – South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming – to follow suit. That way, MDU could change its system one time for its entire service area, not just for Montana.

But surrounding states aren’t likely to deregulate for five years or more, Tipton said.

“We’re going to have to do dereg in Montana,” he said “It’ means that we’ll have to break our system apart and rearrange the way we do things.”

Montana to pay costs

He said that means MDU will have to break out costs of transmitting and delivering power in Montana and charge those rates in Montana, rather than spreading them across four states.

Unlike MPC, Tipton said his company will not seek rate increases for transmitting or distributing electricity in Montana between now and 2006. But, he cautioned, that doesn’t mean the cost of electricity itself won’t rise.

“I cannot control the cost of the commodity. That will be supply and demand. All I can talk about is the delivery cost,” he said. MDU also won’t try to collect whare are called stranded costs, or costs for investments made in a regulated worl that become uneconomical in a competitive world.

Tipton said he doesn’t know what will happen to deregulation in Montana, especially given sharp price increases in electricity last summer.

“Right now there’s a lot of concern about what’s going on,” he said. “Our rate is $13 per megawatt hour and it’s $7,000 in California.”

He said media attention to problems in two states that are restructuring, Montana and California, are affecting national attitudes. In San Diego, residential rates under deregulation have almost tripled.

“It’s stopped. Everything has come to a dead stop,” Tipton said.

Other factors influenced the high prices, he said, including low snow levels in the mountains during the past few winters, causing low runoff and less generation ~

“Dereg will be the right thing long-term, but there will be somenshort-term pain,” he said.

“My biggest concern is the disruption in the marketplace,” Tipton said, about his business in these four states. “If an unstable environment is created on the energy side, it will make growth even harder.”

Finally, Tipton used the university forum to talk about his company’s rapid and profitable expansion, buying 78 companies over the past eight years.

Unlike Montana Power, which is finishing the sale of its energy properties and will become a pure telecommunications player, Tipton said MDU is staying in the utility business, while expanding into other areas it has expertise in, such as highway construction. Without expanding out of the utility business, he said, MDU would only grow at the low rate of population growth in this area.

So far this year, he said, MDU has shown 52 percent return in shareholder value, which includes the appreciation in stock plus dividends.

Over the past two decades, MDU has returned 17 percent in shareholder value.

The Gazette
Billings, MT
November 11, 2000

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Demand For Power Driving Up Prices

Bonneville seeking 15 percent increase in wholesale rates

By Thomas Ryll
Columbian

Northwest utilifies and industries want more power than the Bonneville Power Administration has to sell, and prices are going up.

The federal agency is proposing a 15 percent charge onto wholesale rates that go into effect in October 2001. Some 130 customers, including Clark Public Utilifies, would pay more for their electricity.

What effect the increase will have in turn on the rates paid by Clark County residents is uncertain. The utility signed its contract with the BPA a few days ago. Rates are not specified at this point, only approximated.

We’ve known for a long dine that power prices were going to be higher than what we were hearing,” said Mick Shutt, Clark Public Utilities spokesman. “We just didn’t think they could match the numbers they were suggesting.”

The utility wlll buy about half its power from the BPA, with most of the remainder coming from the River Road Generating Plant. The proposed BPA rate of about 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour was roughly what Clark is paying for non-BPA contracts that expire next year.

Even with the increase, to about 2.6 cents, “They’re still the cheapest thing around,” said Shutt.

Clark residential customers pay about 4.7 cents a kilowatt-hour the: electricity consumed in an hour by a 1,000 watt appliance or the equivalent, such as 10 1O0-watt light bulbs.

The average residential customer bill is about $80 a month.

Clark’s problem in setting rates for 2001 is the naturaI gas that fuels the generating plant. “We are struggling with the power cost portion of our budget,” said Shutt “Gas prices have been fluctuating crazily in the last few weeks, and we haven’t been able to get a handle on what our costs will be.”

Utility officials have been looking at several ways of minimizing what appears to be an increasingly likely rate increase for 2001. Options include refinancing the power-plant debt to reduce the cost of the facility’s electricity, and entering a hedging agreement. Through hedging, investment houses that expect longterm gas prices to fall agree to cover the cost of any price increases – and reap a profit when costs go down.

Meanwhlk, BPA officials say the region’s power demands for “firm” power – electricity the federal agency must supply – now total 11,000 megawatts. That’s 3,000 megawatts more than the federal Columbia River dam system can generate. That means the BPA must buy power in the volatile open market.

Utilities like Clark have turned to other suppliers in recent years as their power prices fell below those of the BPA Price hikes in recent months, due to factors that indude California’s market and a slowdown in the construction of new power plants in the Northwest, have prompted customers to return to BPA deals.

Some 135 public utilities have signed BPA deals, 127 of them for 10 years and the remainder for eight years. BPA officials say the proposed 15 percent hike is due solely to the higher cost of electricity it must buy to make up the difference between customer demand and the agency’s supply.

The proposed increase must be reviewed by an administrative law judge before submission in spring to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Columbian
Vancouver, WA
November 10, 2000

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County Anticipates PGE, Tribes Agreement

By David McMechan
Pioneer

County officials are confident that an agreement is imminent that will end their concerns regarding a possible loss of property tax revenue from the Pelton-Round Butte hydroelectric facilities.

The agreement will be between the county, Portland General Electric, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Under the Pelton-Round Butte relicensing agreement, PGE and the tribes will share ownership and operation of the hydro project.

Historically, PGE has owned and operated the dam facilities, and annually has paid the tribes a percentage of revenue. The dams, and lakes Billy Chinook and Pelton, are located partly on tribal property.

PGE’s original 50-year license for operating the facilities came up for renewal in recent years, prompting a competition between the tribes and PGE for the relicense. Eventually, PGE and the tribes reached an agreement whereby the tribes share ownership and revenue directly with PGE.

A possible consequence of this arrangement was a substantial loss of property tax revenue to the county, as well as other local districts, including Mountain View Hospital, Central Oregon Community College, and the Jefferson County Library District.

The county took the lead in negotiating with PGE and the tribes toward maintenance of the tax base.

The negotiation process has taken several months, but an agreement seems to be close at hand, said Janet Brown, Jefferson County commissioner.

The negotiations at times have been less than amicable, such as earlier this year when the county was forced to object to the PGE-tribal ownership agreement during a hearing before the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

The county has taken the possible consequence of the dam co-ownership agreement very seriously, and for obvious reason:

For years, PGE has been the single largest property taxpayer in Jefferson County, due to its ownership of the hydro facilities, which have an assessed value of nearly $180 million.

For tile tax year 1999-2000, PGE paid a property tax on Pelton-Round Butte of $2,123,874, or more than 16 percent of the total county property tax.

Among Oregon counties, Jefferson is the most reliant on utilities for property tax revenue.

Pioneer
Madras, OR
November 8, 2000

 

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Dam Needs To Go, Conservationists Say

Chamber talk: Groups urge removaI of PacifiCorp’s Soda

Springs Dam on North Umpqua
By Garret Jaros
The News-Revtew

The removal of Soda Springs Dam is the best option for restoring historic fish runs and bringing long-term health to the North Umpqua River, say conservationists who recently withdrew from negotiations to relicense the 50-year-old North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project.

Penny Lind, executive director of the Roseburg-based environmental group Umpqua Watersheds Inc., and Stan Vejtasa, a representative of the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, spoke on behalf of five conservation groups at the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday. Representatives from P acifiCoip presented their side of the issue to the chamber earlier this year.

Environmentalists say their opinion is supported by the 1997 North Umpqua Cooperative Watershed Analysis developed by PacifiCorp with contributions from scientists – both agency and private – policy makers, conservationists and oral histories from longtime river residents.

I want to talk to you about a dilemma and that’s Fish Creek, a 40-mile stretch of habitat for fish and wildlife that begins in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness,” said Lind, who has been involved in settlement talks since they began in 1997.

“Fish Creek historically was home to fish that are now listed as endangered and are unable to access their legendary spawning home,” Lind said. “Those dwindling species are cut off from eight miles of this guaranteed, prime habitat – Fish Creek. Let’s return the power to this mighty river.”

Soda Springs Dam is the farthest downstream in the system of eight dams connected by about 44 miles of canals, flumes and fore bays that compose the NorthnUmpqua Hydroelectric Prolect. The project occupies approximately 270,000 acres in the million-acre Umpqua National Forest.

Soda Springs is the only dam holding back anadromous fish from Fish Creek the fish conservationists claim would benefit from the dam’s removal.

The conservation groups, which include Umpqua Watersheds, the Audubon Society, Oregon Natural Resources Council and the Steamboaters, have made a formal request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin the required environmental review process to avoid further delays and damage to the river, Lind said.

The process was delayed by FERC, the agency that issues hydro licenses, as long as settlement talks between interested parties moved forward in shaping an agreement. The only nongovernmental group involved in the talks were the conservation groups.

A third round of negotiations, without the conservation groups, started on Oct. 11 in Portland and are expected to finish by Dec.15.

The first round of negotiations collapsed after 18 months in November 1999 when PacifiCoip officials walked out over what they say was the Forest Service’s insistence that Soda Springs Dam be removed.

The second round of settlement talks ended after 120 days in September because a comprehensive agreement could not be reached. It was then that conservation groups decided to withdraw, saying any. further delays only benefit the company not the public or the river.

Conservationists also appealed to PacifiCorp officials in Portland to provide interim actions such as enlarging and improving canal covers that allow animal passage, increasing in-stream flows to the river and stopping Soda Spring’s reservoir fluctuations, which strand fish during spawning season.

Vejtasa, who has 25 years of experience in process engineering and in the economic and technical evaluation of power generation systems, highlighted the economics of the hydro project. The project, he said, produces less than 1.5 percent of annual PacifiCorp sales with Soda Springs producing only 7 percent of that output, or one-tenth of 1 percent of sales.

Replacing the power generated from removing Soda Springs could increase all of PacifiCorp’s customers’ bills by an estimated 9 cents for a $100 utility bill. With an economic value of $19 million a year, the project can easily accommodate the removal of the dam and operate by letting the river flow naturally, Vejtasa said.

“All PacifiCoip’s customers have benefited from the projects low-cost power for the last 50 years,” Vejtasa, said. “However, the environmental effects of the project, such as reduced water quality, loss of fish habitat and stranding and killing of fish have been borne by Douglas County.”

The News-Review
Roseburg, OR
November 7, 2000

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Vanalco May Close Doors

One of first aluminum smelters in Northwest plans to lay off 600 workers by end of year

By Mike Rogoway
Columbian staff wnter

Vanalco’s anticipated electricity deal has gone sour; so the company says it will part permanently with most of its 600 workers and may shut down by the end of the year.

This could be the end for the Vancouver aluminum smelter; one of Vancouver’s biggest employers and most prominent corporate citizens for the past 60 years.

Nearly all of Vanalco’s employees were laid off last summer after a sudden sharp rise in Northwest electricity prices. In September, Vanalco announced it had a tentative deal for cheaper power, but the company now says its unnamed supplier has raised prices.

We have to give you the unhappy news that this means termination of employment for most Vanalcans,” the company wrote in a letter to employees dated Tuesday. It said most workers will receive notices by the end of December.

Vanalco continues to operate at a low level and is seeking a new power deal, but says it’s still losing money. Chuck Reali, Vanalco general manager, said Wednesday that chances are high the plant will shut down for good at the end of this year.

“That’s what I think,” he said. “That’s not a for-sure situation.”

Vanalco shut down most of its production in June after Northwest electricity prices skyrocketed. The higher prices were triggered by growing demand for electricity throughout the West and deregulation of the California power market, which competes with the Northwest for regional power.

Aluminum is an extremely power-intensive industry. Vanalco, for example, consumes about 230 megawatts – roughly half the average power consumption of all the rest of Clark County.

Unlike some other Northwest aluminum smelters, which had fixed-price power contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration, Vanalco bought almost all its electricity on the wholesale power market to take advantage of then-lower prices. That left the company fully exposed when power prices shot up last spring.

“It’s an unfortunate situation because, you know, the plant has been running magnificently,” Reali said. “There were these outside forces that one has no control over.”

Vanalco’s troubles reflect a crisis facing the aluminum industry throughout the Northwest, said Whidbey Island metals analyst Robin Adams, adding that demand for electricity is rising, but few new generators have been built.

“Obviously the people who were running Vanalco simply didn’t see this happening and they’ve been caught short by it,” Adams said. “They’re not alone in this deal.”

Since last spring’s surge in electricity prices, six Northwest aluminum smelters have cut back or ceased production. About 1,500 workers have been laid off.

Opened by Alcoa in 1940, the Vancouver aluminum smelter was the first of 10 built in the Northwest to take advantage of the cheap power generated by the region’s hydroelectric dams. The Vancouver smelter closed once before in 1986, when Alcoa failed to reach a contract agreement with its union.

Alcoa called that closure a “permanent shutdown,” but a private group of investors bought the smelter and reopened it the next year as Vanalco. Adams said the plant might reopen in the future, possibly under a new owner.

“I think it could, but not until power prices return to reasonable values,” he said. “I think it could be two or more years, because you’ve got to build more power stations.”

Vanalco general manager Reali said he doesn’t know what the smelter’s owners plan to do with the plant if it does close. He said high power prices would deter prospective buyers.

“If they try to make aluminum, they’re going to have the same problem.”

The Columbian
Vancouver, WA
November 2, 2000

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DJ Congress Directs US FERC To Study Hydropower Licensing

Nan Nalder, Acres International
Dow Jones Newswires

WASHINGTON – Congress directed the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of its hydropower licensing procedures as part of legislation adopted Tuesday reauthorizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The brief section 603 of the Energy Act of 2000 calls for FERC to conduct the review in consultation with other regulatory agencies and to report back in six months, including any recommendations for legislative changes. FERC oversees a collaborative licensing program that involves extensive authority to impose operating conditions by state and federal environmental and natural resources agencies. The licensing process also involves input from affected parties, such as Native American tribes, and fishing and recreations interests.

The often cumbersome licensing process has increasingly come under fire from the hydropower industry and its allies in Congress.

Obtaining a license renewal often takes years of administrative procedure, and in one contentious case took two decades and resulted in the imposition of operating restrictions that the hydropower project owner complained rendered its facility uneconomical to continue operations.

As the criticism of the process has grown louder, FERC regulators have increasingly expressed frustration with the mandatory conditioning authority given federal resources agencies. The report language Congress approved Tuesday is a compromise after lawmakers first proposed legislation to reguire FEEC to more effectively balance the adverse environmental effects of hydropower with the economic benefits.

We’re very satisfied that in its closing hours, Congress recognizednhydropower’s significance to our nation’s energy supply,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. Hydropower represents between 10% and 12% of U.S. electricity supply, according to NHA.

“With half of the nation’s (hydropower) capacity scheduled to he relicensed over the next decade, licensing reform is a critical first step to assuring the viability of clean, renewable and reliable hydropower generation, Ciocci said. “By fast-tracking this study, we are optimistic that a legislative fix will occur early in the next Congress.” The petroleum reserve reauthorization bill also included a provision exempting small hydropower projects in Alaska from FERO licensing review.

The bill exempts projects of less than 5 megawatts capacity, which will be subject to state regulation.

After the House approved the Senate-passed version of the bill Tuesday, the measure will now be forwarded to president Clinton, who is expected to sign it into law.

Dow Jones Newswires
October 26, 2000

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It’s Unanimous! Power Council Approves New F&W Program

NWPPC members put the icing on the cake of their new fish and wildlife program last week, and then cut a real cake to celebrate the end of a long line-by-line march through the new program that began two weeks ago at their regular meeting in Portland.

The one-day Oct. 19 session in Seattle ended in a unanimous vote to OR the new plan, a major overhaul of previous programs that began in 1982. In response to criticism that the old program was a piecemeal affair that lacked goals and scientific grounding, the new program boasts goals, objectives and a scientific foundation–and an optimistic set of interim targets.

These interim goals include halting declining trends in salmon and steelbead populations above Bonneville Dam by 2005, restoring the widest possible set of healthy naturally reproducing populations of salmon and steelhead” by 2012, and increasing runs above Bonneville to an average of five million annually by 2025.

The new program calls for planning efforts for each of the 53 sub-basins in the Colembia Basin, but pays little notice to the fact that NMFS has asked the Council to shoulder the responsibility for a huge offsite mitigation effort designed to keep lower Snake River dams in place.

However, draft language supported by Washington’s Council members asked for preferential treatment for ESA stocks in future funding for water and habitat acguisitions. Washington Council member Tom Rarier said ESA is “the crucial issue, ” and that the region must resolve the jeopardy finding of Basin stocks “to insure a reliable power supply.”

John Etchart wasn’t so happy about wedding the ESA to the Council’s program. “We have a perfectly good law [the NW Power Act],” Etchart said. “Why we want to subordinate our goals to the ESA is beyond me. I wonder what we’re doing in the middle of it.”

But Rarier said it’s the Council’s role to recognize that enforcement of the ESA could effect the reliability of the region’s power supply. One problem, however, is that NMFS has never said how much it wants BPA to spend on fish, he added.

Oregon member Erich Bloch said he didn’t want dollars directly targeted to ESA stocks. “Our mandate is broader than that.”

In the end, members supported language that gives ESA stocks preference over others when it comes to buying up habitat or paying for water rights. Karier said he felt that such language didn’t subordinate the Council’s program to the ESA, but Etchart thought that elements of the program would end up competing for funds with other proposals aimed at ESA stocks.

The Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee last week recommended a minimun boost of 519 million in direct program spending in BY 2001, along with $5 million to begin sub-basin planning, $10 million to fund land and water acguisitions, and another $10 million to $15 million to pay for “high priority” projects. It was noted that BPA was interested in reducing those costs, but Council members have opened the funding guestion up for public comment. If passed as is, BPA would be on the hook for almost a 40 percent boost over this year’s direct program costs.

Though the Council’s new program is based on efforts to mimic natural hydrographic processes, members approved an editorial substitution that would replace the word “normative” with “other appropriate wording.”

One significant new wrinkle is calling for an annual accounting of hydro operation costs and BPA’s fish and wildlife costs, which includes “the overall cost and impact to the hydro and transmission system of operations for fish and wildlife and other non-power needs,” along with an annual report un flow augmentation from BPA, NMFS and USF&WS that docunents the benefits of flow augmentation for fish survival, “and the precise attributes of flow that may make it beneficial.”

As members, staffers, and the handful in the audience filed out to catch their planes, some acknowledged how pleased they were at how well the Council has worked together. But others recognized the heavy lifting won’t start until sub-basin planning efforts begin in earnest.

Though language to support states’ water rights was included in the new program, there’s sure to be e spate of lawsuits over water and fish issues. Idaho environnentalists have recently sent out 60 letters to ranchers, state agencies and the federal governnent, notifying of their intention to sue them to boost instream flows in the Salmon River Basin. And word was that another 200 letters are about to be mailed.

Meanwhile, in northeast Washington, Okanogan County authorities were mulling over whether to sue federal and state agencies over what the county considers to be draconian and scientifically unsupportable interim flow targets set for Methow Basin streams.

NWHA-Members Mailing List
October 25, 2000

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Southeast Towns Close To Winning OK For Power Intertie

By Kristan Hutchison
The Juneau Empire

An electrical power grid for Southeast Alaska is on the verge of congressional approval.

Due to deal-making by U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Don Young, the measure made it through both chambers of Congress last Wednesday. Now the versions of the bill have to be coordinated. Final approval is expected sometime this week.

The champagne cork is still in the bottle, but it’s poised,” said Loren Gerhard, executive director of Southeast Conference, an organization of business and government leaders that has been lobbying for the intertie for two years. The power grid eventually could include Juneau and the Greens Creek mine on Admiralty Island.

The congressional authorization allows for the construction of a grid of power lines connecting almost all the towns in Southeast to existing hydroelectric projects. Congress didn’t appropriate the $460 million needed for the 20-year project, but did make up to $384 million available.

“This just kind of is the federal blessing on the concept and allows us to proceed with the necessary steps to get something on the ground,” Gerhard said. “This is largely going to be under, around or over the Tongass Forest, so it’s important to get the federal agencies on board with it.”

The first step is to create a regional intertie authority to oversee the project. The authority will determine which pieces of the grid should be built in what order. Each piece will have to be taken back to Congress for approval and up to 80 percent funding.

“Each component will have to stand on its merits in terms of environmental impacts,” Gerhard said.

The environmental impacts of power lines through the Tongass National Forest initally blocked approval of the project, which the Clinton administration opposed last spring. But Murkowski and Young, both Maska Republicans, were able to attach it to legislation Democrats wanted – a five-year, $75 million electrification project for the Navajo Indians in New Mexico, $291 million to compensate Sioux Indians in South Dakota for land taken 50 years ago and revising the boundaries around a Civil War battlefield park in Virginia.

Because the Clinton admimstration supports the Indian provisions in the fast-growing package, administration concerns about the Maska project no longer stand in the way of the president signing the now-$750 million deal.

Environmental and taxpayer groups still object to the bill.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club sent House members letters urging them to oppose the legislation, which they say will damage the Tongass. The Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Conservation Council also has been lobbying against the intertie.

While SEACC sees the need for power in the small communities, there are better ways to get it there, said SEACC organizer Aurah Landau in Washington, D.C. The intertie cuts through protected wilderness areas valued for their subsistence hunting and recreation, including Cleveland Peninsula, Eagle Lake near Wrangell and Baranof Warm Springs, Landau said.

“It’s the way it’s being done. There are other alternatives,” Landau said. “We can certainly do underwater cable in these areas, wendon’t have to sacrifice these incredible wildiands to get power to these areas.

But Gerhard said the intertie is more environmentally sound than burning 2 million gallons of diesel each year to power rural Southeast communities, as happens now. The intertie will allow areas with surplus hydropower, such as the Swan Lake dam near Ketchikan, to sell the power to other communities.

“It’s the cleanest power there is. These are lake-tap dams. They have no impact on fish habitat,” Gerhard said. “We consider it to be a fairly environmentally responsible thing to do.”

The intertie also will bring down the cost of power significantly in smaller communities, which may help them develop new industries. In Kake, efforts to create value-added salmon products have struggled because the cost of power, at 38 cents per kilowatt hour, is four times higher than their competitors outside the state.

“We think that affordable energy is going to prime the pump for the region as far as being able to develop other economies,” Gerhard said.

Even towns with sufficient power such as Juneau will benefit, Gerhard said. Being connected to the grid will give Juneau an alternate power source in case anything goes wrong with the existing supply.

“It makes electrical distribution more stable for the entire region,” Geiliard said.

The first line on the grid – connecting hydroelectric projects at Swan Lake, 30 miles northeast of Ketchikan, and Tyee Lake, almost 40 miles southeast of Wrangell – has been permitted and has most of its funding.

From there the lines could be extended to Kake and Hoonah. Greens Creek mine west of Juneau will be tied into the grid, Gerhard said.

Juneau Empire
Juneau, AK
October 22, 2000

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Wired ‘Salmon’ Records How Fish Handle Rough Ride Through Dams

Scientists will use data to help lower mortality rate on the migratory journey

By Amy E. Nevala
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

This month 601 salmon will take a survival test, plunging 40 feet down a spillway at Washington’s Rock Island Dam. Most will live. A few will perish. And one is going to have a lot to say about it.

Called a sensor fish, the plastic device resembles a high-tech toilet paper tube stuffed with $5,000 worth of computer chips, batteries and wires. Its mission is to record pressure changes and acceleration as it tumbles through the dam, providing scientists a new view of dams as experienced by hundreds of thousands of migrating chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead salmon.

Ultimately, scientists hope to use the data to create more fish-friendly dams in Washington. Before, we either had dead fish or we had live fish and that didn’t tell us much,” said Robert McDonald, a fisheries biologist for Chelan County’s Public Utility District. “This way really paints a picture of what happens to them in the dam.”nBiologists with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland will conduct tests over several days later this month near Wenatchee at Rock Island Dam, the oldest and smallest of 15 dams on the main stem of the Columbia River.

“We want to find an operating point that minimizes injury to the fish,” said biologist Tom Carlson, manager of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s sensor fish project. In the past two decades modifications to dam turbines, which pass most fish through safely but still rip, bruise and kill others in the process, have reduced fish mortality to about 5 percent. The death rate is even lower for fish passing over waterfall-like dam spillways, about 2 percent. Still, Carlson sees room for improvement.

Sensor fish do not swim. Placed in the water, they just go with the how, their tiny internal computers measuring and collecting data in the minutes it takes to pass through the dam. Halfway through the ride two airbag-type balloons pop open, floating the sensor Fish to the surface so scientists waiting in boats downriver can find them.

Once on board the vessel, a scientist with a computer can attach a cable to the sensor fish and download the data. Acceleration and pressure recordings tell the scientists how fast the fish are moving and what forces, such as turbulence, they experience.

Then they’ll compare the data with lab tests and tweak dam designs in a way that reduces injury to the fish, as they are already doing in Oregon.

Sensor fish runs through the Bonneville Dam showed that fish that slipped through the deepest part of the dam experienced less turbulence, limiting dizziness and subsequent exposure to predators.

“Now that we have information about their routes we can modify the way the water exits in a way that helps the most fish,” Carlson said.

Engineers have developed about 25 sensor fish since Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists dreamed up the idea three years ago. The first prototypes, 6-inch-long gummy fellows with tails, have been redesigned into today’s more durable sensor fish tubes.

Scientists say they want to return to the original fish design, since the idea behind the sensor is to mimic the twists and turns that live, pliable salmon make as they tumble through dams.

About $750,000 has been spent on their development so far. A dozen have been lost and, at $5,000 a head, “every one hurts,” Carlson said when describing those demolished in turbines or lost to the Columbia.

On the drawing board are plans to create even higher-tech versions of the sensor fish, including an adult-size version (current models resemble juveniles) with better sensor placement to collect data in way that is most like that experienced by real fish.

“We’ve got a chance now,” said Carlson, “to really see into the salmon world.”

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle, WA
October 19, 2000

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Bonneville: California Lawmakers Want Priority For Electricity; State Needs To Fix Its Deregulation Mess, BPA Says

By Les Blumenthal
The News Tribune

WASHINGTON – With electricity rates rising all along the West Coast, California’s senators have taken aim at the Bonneville Power Administration’s cheap power and asked Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to bar the federal marketing agency from signing new contracts with Northwest utilities.

BPA officials and lawmakers from Washington and Oregon say any delay in the contracts would have serious financial repercussions for Bonneville, which supplies nearly half of the region’s wholesale electricity at prices by far the lowest in the nation.

It could be extremely disruptive and lead to the unraveling of the federal system,” Ed Mosey, a BPA spokesman in Portland, said Wednesday.

Mosey and other Northwesterners contend California’s decision to deregulate its utilities caused the turmoil in West Coast energy markets. They said California should fix its own mess before trying to raid Bonneville.

SPA has been working on the long-term contracts with utilities and other customers for more than three years, and they are expected to be finalized by the end of the month. Existing contracts expire next fall.

Bonneville is under increasing scrutiny on Capitol Hill. The reguest to Richardson from Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. George Miller could represent the opening skirmish in a new battle between California and the Northwest over the low-cost electricity.

“They are looking right at us,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Shoreline).

Rep. Brian Bilbray (5-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would overturn current federal laws that reguire BPA to sell first to Northwest public utilities. Bonneville is then allowed to sell any remaining power to other utilities, including those in California.

Rep. Bob Franks (R-N.J.) and Rep. Marty Meehan (S-Mass.) have asked Congress’ General Accounting Office to investigate whether BPA was involved in price gouging when it recently sold electricity to California utilities.

The two are co-chairmen of the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, made up of representatives from states with the highest electric rates in the nation who have long believed Northwest residents and businesses enjoy a sweetheart deal when it comes to electric rates.

“The Californians are making a political statement right before an election,” said Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) “But we are not taking this lightly.”

Richardson spokesman Tom Welch said the letter from Boxer, Feinstein and Miller was under review.

Bonneville markets electricity generated at federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers – about 9,000 megawatts, or enough power to supply nine cities the size of Seattle. The low-cost power has helped fuel the Northwest economy since the Depression.

Before power shortages cropped up this summer, wholesale electric rates in the Northwest averaged between $30 and $40 a megawatt hour. But as a heat wave spread along the West Coast, prices spiked in the Northwest at more than $1,000 a megawatt hour. They now average slightly under $200 a megawatt hour, Mosey said.

California also experienced soaring electric rates this suemer as utilities scrambled to avoid brownouts.

With the threat of even greater shortages in the Northwest looming, BPA has notified its California customers it no longer will be able to supply them with electricity.

In their letter to Richardson, Feinstein, Boxer and Miller said BPA’s new contracts with Northwest utilities should be blocked until Congress has had time to review them.

“The loss of BPA power could have a significant impact on the availability and price of reliable power for our constituents, ” the three wrote, in part.

“BPA should not take actions within the next few weeks, in the absence of adequate congressional review, which could have significant implications on the power needs of 30 million Californians and other potential customers for BPA low-cost rates.”

Mosey, however, said federal preference laws reguire BPA to serve its Northwest customers first. He also denied that SPA engaged in gouging this suemer when it sold power to California, adding that it was the California Power Exchange, created to help ease the move toward deregulation, which set the price.

“We don’t drive the price in California,” he said.

In their own letter to Richardson, Murray and other Northwest senators said any delay in signing the new contracts would throw the agency into “financial chaos.”

“Rather than seeking scapegoats beyond the borders of their state, Californians would do well to at least attempt to fix their failed electricity restructuring plan,” Murray wrote.

The News Tribune
October 19, 2000

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Western Utilities Band Together To Form Transmission Concern

American City Business Journals, Inc.

Six western utilities have taken an additional step toward formation of an independent transmission company, TransConnect, which would serve six states.nnTransConnect would be a member of the planned regional transmission organization, ETC West.

TransConnect, a for-profit company, would own or lease the high voltage transmission facilities currently held by Avista Corp., Montana Power Company, Portland General Electric, Puget Sound Energy, Nevada Power Company, and Sierra Pacific Power Company.

Combining transmission resources into one independent company would benefit customers hy improving the reliability and efficiency of the transmission grid, and would create new opportunities to add value for the companies shareholders.

The six companies filed their proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FEEC) today. If a final proposal emerges, it must he approved by FEEC, the boards of directors of the filing companies and regulators in various states. The companies’ decision to move forward with the formation of TransConnect will ultimately depend on the economics and conditions that may be imposed during the regulatory approval process.

The companies currently have extensive transmission facilities in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Montana, and in parts of Idaho and California. Those facilities are within the proposed territory for ETC West, which would be the single provider of transmission services, and controller of transmission operations, in an eight-state region.

ETC West would be dealing with one company in TransConnect, instead of six, which would speed decisions to improve reliability. That streanlining of communication would also increase the overall efficiency of ETC West, helping keep down the price of electricity. TransConnect’s size would allow it to readily raise capital for system improvements, helping ease transmission congestion — a major problem during peak demand periods in the West.

To assure independent operation, TransConnect would be managed separately from the six utilities. TransConnect directors, executives and employees will agree not to hold any financial interest in the filing companies, or any other power market participant, after a six-month transition period. The filing asks FERC for a ruling that TransConnect, as proposed, passes FERC’s independence and passive ownership tests.

American City Business Journals, Inc.
October 17, 2000

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Energizing The Next Century

I.F Power celebrates 100 years, prepares for the next 100

By Kortny Rolston
Post Register

Page through the annals of Idaho Fails history and it’s impossible not to come across a mention of its hydroelectric system.

It’s played a major part in shaping Idaho Falls since 1900, when the first plant was erected at what is now 10th Street and South Boulevard.

Without hydroelectric power, there would be no falls for the town to be named after. And citizens would not be able to brag about their notoriously low power rates. Residents pay 4 cents per kilowatthour, the same rate residents paid in 1912.

This month Idaho Falls Power, the city’s utility, celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

As the utility enters the new millennium, it faces a wealth of challenges. The city is growing and so is customers’ demand for electricity. It must find new energy sources to meet those demands and to keep the city’s rates low.

And the day the industry is deregulated and competition comes to town may not be far away. Both presidential candidates have suggested they’d support the move.

City officials have been preparing for the changes.

They say they’re doing everything they can to ensure Idaho Falls Power stays viable and a municipal utility well into the next century.

I think we have laid a ground-work over the past 100 years that has built a stable and well-run utility owned by the residents of Idaho Falls,” Mayor Linda Milam said. “We are in the position now to have a fair amount of control over our destiny. We’ll be able to manage our power needs.”

The city of Idaho Falls recognized early on if it wanted a reliable source of power for its residents it would have to provide it itself.

The city built its first hydroelectric plant in 1900 to light its streets. That plant, which was built on a canal and fed by Crow Creek, was quickly updated when residents began demanding power be supplied to their homes.

Almost immediately, demand began outpacing supply. From the 1910s through the 1920s, the city beefed up its hydropower system. It eventually abandoned the first plant because it couldn’t produce enough power.”

Instead, the city relocated its system to the more powerful Snake River. It built a plant just south of the Broadway Bridge, then another four miles north of the city and then bought another south of Idaho Falls from Utah Power & Light Company.

For years, those three plants produced enough power for Idaho Falls residents.

But as the town grew, demand for electricity eventually outstripped the supply. In the early 1940s, the three plants could no longer meet all of the town’s power needs.

The city bought what it couldn’t produce from Utah Power. Twenty years later, it dropped that contract and purchased the extra power it needed from the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal hydropower system fueled by the Columbia and Snake rivers. Idaho Falls Power still contracts with BPA today.

During the early 1970s, city officials began contemplating the town’s future in hydropower. The three plants were deteriorating and needed to be replaced.

Replacing them became a necessity in 1976 when the Teton Dam broke, flooding the valley and damaging the plants almost beyond repair.

“There were some real questions about whether they were going to rebuild,” said Van Ashton of Idaho Falls Power. “But in the end they decided to.”\

With a voter-approved $48 million bond and a $7.3 million Department of Energy grant, the city installed three new bulb turbine plants. In the mid-1980s, voters passed another $48 million bond to build the Gem State Project, down river from the Lower Plant.

When Gem State was completed, the city was able to produce 43 percent of the power it consumed each year.

Today the four plants still generate about 40 percent of the city’s power. Another 50 percent comes from a contract Idaho Falls Power has with BPA. The city buys the remaining 10 percent from either the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a consortium of municipal utilities, or on the open, deregulated market.

The city has spent much of this decade preparing for what officials believe is the eventual deregulation of the power industry. Twenty-six states have already deregulated their industries. Idaho has not.

The preparations began in 1996 when BPA allowed some of its customers to alter their long-term contracts. Until that point, Idaho Falls Power had relied heavily on the federal system to manage and supply its power.

After watching the industry city officials decided it would be best to diversify. They changed their contract with BPA, realizing BPA wouldn’t always be able to meet their needs because of increasing demand on the federal system. They also wanted to take control of their operations so they’d be ready for deregulation.

Instead of buying whatever they needed when they needed it from BPA, officials started purchasing a set amount of power. If they were short, they turned to other suppliers. Later in 1996, they joined UAMPS.

“We really decided to operate as a fully integrated electrical utility,” said Mark Gendron, Idaho Falls Power manager, who took over the division in 1995 from longtime director Steve Harrison, who retired. “We started managing our own power supply and acquiring power to fill our power needs on the short-and medium-term.  We became a lot less dependent on BPA Before, they’d done a lot of that for us.”

The contract change was the first step the city took to get ready for the changes officials foresaw down the road – namely deregulation.

Deregulation would essentially introduce competition into the industry. With it, customers would choose a company to supply their power. The government would not decide which companies serve which areas. Utilities would compete for customers, with fewer regulations than were imposed in the past. Investor-owned utilities are currently regulated by the state. Municipal utilities like Idaho Falls Power are not.

City officials wanted Idaho Falls Power to be ready when – or if deregulation occurs.

In the last few years, they’ve made strides in that direction.

They’ve established a rate stabilization fund, made up of any excess revenues Idaho Falls Power generates. The utility pays for its expenses and contributes nearly $2.5 million a year to the city’s general fund. Any extra money goes into the rate stabilization fund.

The fund was created to offset prices if they spiked in the open market like they did this summer rates climbed from $20 to $600 per megawatt hour. It could also be used to help pay down bond debt on the plants or to invest in new power sources.

There is currently about $11 million in the fund, although city officials have proposed using $8.5 million of it to buy a share in a coal-fired generator in Nevada. UAMPS is brokering that deal.

“There are those in the industry without enough in reserve and they’ve been forced to raise rates,” Gendron said. “We want to protect our customers and keep rates stable.”

In March of this year, the city took another step to ensure Idaho Falls Power would be ready to compete.

After conducting a study, they found few of their customers knew who provided them with their power. No one knew the exact name, The City of Idaho Falls Electric Division, and some confused the city utility with Idaho Power, an investor-owned utility.

On March 1, the city changed the utility’s name to Idaho Falls Power and launched an ad campaign to create brand awareness with its customers. There are billboards all over town with the utility’s logo and the slogan “A Community With Its Own Kind of Energy.”

“What’s really going to help us when there’s competition is that our customers are happy with our service and our rates,” Gendron said. “That will give us an edge. We have access to federal hydropower and that’s just cheaper.”

The city has also established a risk-management policy so Idaho Falls Power can make snap decisions when needed without going through the lengthy City Council process.

It also recently signed a new contract with BPA that gives Idaho Falls a percentage of the power the federal system produces each hour. And city officials are also hoping to invest in the Nevada generator so they can diversify Idaho Falls’ power supply.

Jim Burr, a Salt Lake City attorney who works with municipal utilities across the country, said utilities are preparing for the day the industry deregulates. He believes few are as prepared as Idaho Falls Power.

He thinks the rate stabilization fund and its cheap power will enable the utility to compete.

“They’ve really run it like a business,” he said. “They’ve really acted with a lot of foresight. That fund is a tremendous accomplishment for a municipal utility that’s always under pressure to keep property taxes low.”

City officials believe they’ll be able to retain control over Idaho Falls’ power supply in the future and keep rates low because of how well the utility has been run over the – years. But as the utility prepares to enter the next century and millennium, they feel lucky the city has its own plants. They say it will ensure Idaho Falls always has a stable, inexpensive power source even as demand for electricity grows.

“Those guys really had a lot of foresight when they put this (hydroelectric system) in 100 years ago,” Councilman Brad Eldredge said. “It’s given us a lot of options we wouldn’t have had and it’s shielded us from high power rates.”

Post-Register
Idaho Falls, ID
October 15, 2000

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Tribes Question Water Plan

Lake Tapps: Leaders of 2 tribes criticize governor’s support of water withdrawal they say could hurt salmon

By Rob Tucker
The News Tribune

Gov. Gary Locke said Monday that he had to exercise some restraint last week when he publicly supported a solution to save Lake Tapps.

Locke announced on Oct. 2 that his office would support a single solution to save Lake Tapps without assessing nearby property owners millions of dollars. Lake owner Puget Sound Energy wants to sell lake water, instead of retiring its hydroelectric project there and allowing the lake to dry up.

Locke couldn’t unconditionally embrace the solution because on that day he had received a warning from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians about withdrawing water, which the tribe said could endanger salmon and trout. Several days earlier, the Muckleshoot Tribe of Indians had raised similar concerns.

Locke said Monday that he still supports beginning a preliminary permit process that might give Puget Sound Energy, the lake’s owner, the right to withdraw and sell Lake Tapps water for drinking. The lake water comes from the White River.

He said there is no certain outcome to the permit process and that tribal concerns can be indicated during the legal comment period.

We’ll meet with the tribes and deal with their concerns,” Locke said Monday.

Both tribes said Monday that the concerns they raised in letters to the governor stand. They said the waters of both the Puyallup and White rivers are over-allocated to users. And now PSE wants to withdraw more water, which has heightened tribal concerns about protecting fish. Both tribes have federal treaty rights to fisheries on the rivers.

Still, neither tribe wants Lake Tapps to dry up.

“We understand where the (Lake Tapps) property owners are coming from,” said Kari-Lynn Frank, spokeswoman for the Puyallups. “But you can’t do it and have a sustainable fish run.”

She said the tribe hasn’t ruled out working through state processes to a lake-saving solution. However, she said, the tribe is concerned that PSE might try to circumvent state water permit processes “to get what it wants because the tribes don’t agree.”

Bill Sterud, a tribal councilman writing for tribal chairman Herman Dillon, said in an Oct. 2 letter to Locke that the PSE water right application is incomplete and “appears to pose a direct threat to endangered salmon fisheries….”

He said the tribe needs time to fully review the PSE application so it can address it in an informed way.

John Daniels Jr., chairman of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, said in a Sept. 29 letter that the tribe is concerned about PSE’s proposed water withdrawal threatening fisheries in the basin, which include an endangered run of spring Chinook salmon.

He said, among other things, that the governor’s public support for PSE’S proposal is going too far.

Locke told more than 450 applauding people at the Oct. 2 meeting that the PSE plan served the needs ofthe region, but he didn’t assure PSE the right to withdraw water.

He said the water plan, if approved, would help save the lake without forcing 7,000 nearby homeowners to pay, and would provide more drinking water for the growing King-Pierce region.

And, he said, the plan would put additional water in the White and Puyallup rivers during periods of low flows to help salmon recovery.

He said it was up to PSE to submit the necessary information and financial analysis to show the state that the water plan will work in all proposed ways and address all concerns, including those of the tribes.

Roger Thompson, spokesman for PSE, said tribal concerns continue to be important in the water right application process. He said PSE is appreciative of Locke’s interest in helping all parties seek a resolution that will benefit everyone, including the tribes.

But the tribes are questioning why the governor has intervened in a permitting process that the state Department of Ecology normally handles under the state water laws.

The crisis over Lake Tapps occurred after PSE considered not accepting a federal power license for its White River Hydroelectric Project that includes the lake because licensing requirements are too expensive. Without a license, PSE will retire the project and Lake Tapps will dry up. However, if PSE can generate enough from water sales, it likely will continue to operate the project.

Jan Shabro, a Pierce County Councilwoman and chairwoman of the task force formed to try to save Lake Tapps, said Monday she remains optimistic that the PSE drinking water solution will work out.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
October 10, 2000

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Conservationists Leave Dam Talks

Relicensing: Groups want negotiations to become public, but mediated talks continue

By Garret Jaros
The News-Review

Conservation groups will not continue with negotiations to relicense the North Umpqua Hydroelectric project, but settlement talks will go forward.

Federal and state agencies along with PacifiCorp have agreed to return to mediated talks to relicense the project. The talks will start Wednesday in Portland and finish Dec.15, said mediator Alice Shorett.

Speaking on behalf of the five conservation groups was Penny Lind of Umpqua Watersheds Inc., a Roseburg group.

We have decided no, we are not going to be participating in formal settlement talks,” Lind said. “Today’s laws require that public lands, including the rivers that run through them, are protected or restored to m’eet the habitat needs of fish and wildlife.

“Our laws also demand water quality standards be met to ensure clean, cool water will be provided today and into the future to meet community needs. It’s time these laws were upheld, not avoided at the expense of the natural resource.”

The North Umpqua Hydroelectric project is a system of eight dams and generating plants connected by 44 miles of canals and flumes located at Toketee, about 50 miles east of Roseburg.

The project has been operating on one-year extensions based on the original 50-year license that expired in 1997. Issues with relicensing center around the environmental impacts on fish, wildlife and water. The project, which is entirely within the Umpqua National Forest, doesn’t meet the guidelines of the Northwest Forest Plan. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had agreed to delay making a decision as long as the parties moved forward in shaping an agreement.

Conservationists were pleased with the watershed analysis paid for by PacifiCorp, but they plan to submit an alternative to FERC.

The environmental and fishing groups are sending a letter to FERC, the agency which issues hydro licenses, requesting that it continue with the formal licensing process which would require federal and state agencies to turn in recommendations sooner rather than later.

“What it really means is federal agencies wotild have to do a review or list mandatory conditions and submit them to FERC,” Lind said. “Then it’s public and no longernconfidential negotiations.”

FERC representatives were present during the last round of negotiations in Portland and they will probably continue to be, Shorett said. The agency is acting in a nondecisional role,” she said.

U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Don Ostby had said before the last round of negotiations, which was the second round, that he would continue only if all of the original settlement team continued to take part.

Ostby could not be reached for comment on Friday, but he issued a release to Forest Service employees before finding out conservation groups would not continue.

“Real progress has been made,” Ostby said in the release. “We are in active discussions regarding how to proceed from here, and there is no doubt that discussions will be ongoing over coming weeks.”

The original settlement talks collapsed after 18 months in November 1999 when PacifiCorp officials walked out over what they say was the Forest Service’s insistence that Soda Springs Dam, the farthest downstream dam, be removed. The last round of talks ended more than a week ago after 120 days because a comprehensive agreement could not be reached.

The News-Review
Roseburg, OR
October 8, 2000

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Seattle City Council Blew It On Snake River Dams

Francois X. Forgette
Post-Intelligencer

I was disappointed to learn that the Seattle City Council recently passed a resolution favoring the breaching of the four dams on the lower Snake River here in Eastern Washington. I am well familiar with Seattle, having grown up on Queen Anne Hill in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s before moving in 1977 to the Tri-Cities, located at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

It is difficult over here to understand the council’s decision. The removal of these dams is far from being a good solution for our state. First, a recent artide in the Seattle papers by former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Haffield confirms that the salmon stocks listed as threatened or endangered on the Snake River are only three of the twelve stocks so listed in the Columbia Basin.

What about the rest? The removal of these four dams would only get at a very small part of the problem, a problem that can be better addressed by a broad-based approach dealing with issues of habitat quality, hatchery operations, harvest allowances, and improved hydroelectric operations. These so-called 4 H’s” will require tremendous effort and expense to be successfully addressed, but success will only come if the focus is on the entire Columbia River system, induding the Snake and other tributaries, as well as the ocean itself.

Second, there would be tremendous losses and liabilities if these four dams were breached here in Eastern Washington. Irrigated agriculture would be significantly impacted by the outright loss of irrigation water or extensive modifications to re-engineer and relocate irrigation withdrawal points. Furthermore, our region would lose the water highway which handles tremendous barge traffic of grain and other commodities from the Tri-Cities all the way to lewiston, Idaho and back. This would place thousands of additional semi-trucks on our rural highways, which are not designed for such increased traffic. This would create significant road safety issues, to say nothing of increased air pollution.

The railroads are no alternative either as they are presently operating at capacity. According to at least one Corps of Engineers’ economist who spoke at a heaving in Richland, it was their best estimate it would take the railroad industry 100 years (yes, a century) to add sufficient capacity to be able to handle the shipping needs orphaned by the loss of barge transport on the Snake River. So much for “next day” delivery.

Lastly, the Emerald City Council should note the often-cited fact that the four dams in question produce sufficient clean hydro power to handle all of the electricity needs for all of Seattle! In light of the brewing power shortage in the Western states this is no time for an electrical consumer the size of Seattle to be lobbying for the dismemberment of our state’s hydropower system. Perhaps the City Council would prefer that these hydro facilities be replaced by either coal-fired plants or nuclear ones. In either case, its’ safe to say that they won’t want it in their back yard.

The City Council in my former home town needs to understand just how important these dams really are to the Tri-City area, the Columbia Basin, Eastern Washington, and even the west side of the state. The suggestion by the City Council that these darns be summarily removed is as stinging to us here as it would be to Seattleites if the City Councils in the Tri-Cities resolved that the Hiram locks be removed, the Montlake Cut refilled, the downtown waterfront redredged, the Denny Regrade ungraded, and the shore of Lake Washington condemned and replanted as a national monument.

Instead of focusing on such draconian measures on either side of the mountains, our state should be concentrating on the many other meaningful courses of action where we could build a consensus and get on with the important goal of saving our salmon. Through good science and engineering, we can have salmon and dams. We just need to work together and we need to start soon. Let’s not forget that there are two halves to this great state and we need to start thinking of it as a whole!

By the way, I have a solution to the transportation problems plaguing my old home town: just move your homes and businesses over here to the Tri-City area! We have a vibrant economy, a higlily educated and high-tech work force, business-friendly municipalities, great golf courses, world-dass wineries, and freeways we haven’t even used yet. The sunny climate here is also a marvelous alternative to Seattle and provides a life style free of umbrellas, raincoats and wet shoes. We’ll leave the light on!

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle, WA
October 7, 2000

Posted in Dam Removal, Hydropower, News | Leave a comment

Electric Costs Likely To Stay Up

Experts testify that there is too little power to meet the demand

By Mike Madden
Statesman Journal

WASHINGTON – High electricity prices that outraged residents and businesses across the Pacific Northwest this summer are not likely to come down any time soon because not enough power is available to meet the region’s demand, experts told a Senate panel Thursday.

This past summer, electricity cost more than 10 times the average price from the past few years. Soaring prices may be only the first sign of a burgeoning crisis as the region tries to deal with the turbulent power market in the Western United States, witnesses told a subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

This summer, extreme temperatures, major plant outages, reduced output from the system and natural-gas prices at an all-time high combined to expose the gap between electricity demand and supply in the Pacific Northwest,” said Steve Oliver, a Bonneville Power Administration vice president. “These factors will converge more and more frequently if the Pacific Northwest does not address them soon.”

With the region’s economy growing – with more businesses and homes needing power – demand for electricity has steadily outstripped supply, witnesses said.

At the same time, moves to deregulate the power industry left most utilities with little incentive to push conservation because they wanted to make sure they sold enough energy to pay for their existing plants before the marketplace shifted, said Tom Karier, a Washington state representative on the Northwest Power Planning Council.

The council is a joint agency of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Also, in the past few years, the Northwest power market has become tightly linked with the rest of the West, including California, Chairan James Hoecker of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said. So when supplies run short in the Northwest and utilities need to buy power from other sources, they wind up competing with buyers in California, where prices are higher forcing them to pay more for energy, too.

Combine that with unusual problems that hit the region over the summer extreme heat, high natural-gas prices and low rainfall for hydropower production and a price crunch is inevitable, officials said. Until utilities can build new generating plants, prices are likely to stay high.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for utilities to find more sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, which several witnesses also said would make sense.

“It seems that almost every day Northwest residents wake up to the dubious pleasure of skyrocketing energy prices,” he said.

To make it easier to find cheap, renewable energy sources, Congress should push the government to relax some regulations, said Kelly Norwood, general manager of Avista Utilities, a northern California firm that is trying to build a geothermal power station not far from the Oregon border.

So far the company has been waiting 4 1/2 years, and Norwood said he sees more waiting ahead.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., both reiterated their opposition to breaching dams on the Snake River to help the area’s salmon, saying that move would only worsen the power crunch.

“You have to understand that the predicate for breaching has always been a fish shortage,” Smith said. “But we have so many salmon coming back in my state that we’re clubbing them to death before they can spawn.”

An administration plan for helping the saimon is expected within the next couple of months. It will recommend leaving the dams intact for several years to see if less drastic measures work according to drafts of the proposal.

Statesman Journal
Salem, OR
October 6, 2000

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In Lieu Of Breaching, Council Looks At Salmon Recovery Options

By Bill Stewart
Vancouver Business Journal

It seems we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t when it comes to one of the most volatile issues facing Northwest residents.

That Catch-22 situation centers around a proposal to breach four federal dams on the lower Snake River, which is deemed a key component to the region’s salmon recovery efforts. But removing those dams would wipe out approximately 5 percent of the Northwest’s hydroelectric output. it also would make it nearly impossible to irrigate many of the farms in eastern Washington.

Because of those potential economic pitfalls, U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton is using every resource at his disposal to head off any attempt to breach those four dams. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush also has empathically stated his opposition to dam breaching.

That doesn’t sit well with a number of environmental groups that are primed to sue the federal government if it doesn’t take sufficient steps to save the 12 species of salmon and steelhead that are listed as threatened or endangered.

The best data for supporting dam breaching is probably contained in the Return to the River” document that was compiled by a group of independent scientists. It states, if the four dams are removed, there is an 80 percent chance that the salmon runs would return completely in the next 40 to 70 years. If the dams remain, the chance for recovery falls to 35 percent, the report said.

“Those time periods are way longer than a guy like me will be around,” said Larry Cassidy, chairman of the Northwest Power Planning Council, which has the task of balancing the region’s need for power with the government’s attempt to save the salmon.

“I think we need a more action-oriented document that looks at what we’re going to do now and also has one eye cocked on the future, to make sure we make the right moves as policy changes come down the line.

“Right now, I think the bottom line is we ought to do everything we can to try to save these fish without breaching the dams. Let’s see if we can do it,” Cassidy said.

While the chairman is deeply concerned about being able to provide an adequate power supply to Northwest residents and businesses, he makes no bones about “saving the salmon” being his main priority.

Gov. Gary Locke may have stated that position most succinctly with a statement he made in “The Year of Decision,” a brochure that addresses the council’s alternatives to preserving fish and wildlife.

“We simply must find a way to save our wild salmon. This is not just about fish. 1t’s about saving the quality of life that makes the Northwest unique,” the governor said.

But breaching dams won’t be part of the solution, at least for now. Cassidy made that perfectly clear when he testifled last month before a congressional subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife and water.

“With Snake River dam breaching off the table for at least five years, which coincidently is the council’s statutory planning horizon, fish and wildlife recovery efforts in the Columbia River Basin will require undertakings and efforts with the dams in place,” he told the lawmakers.

In lieu of breaching, Cassidy said the council and various government agencies will have to depend on a host of other restoration projects, including some that have already been in use for several years. The list includes set-back zones along streams and rivers, plus cooperative agreements with farmers and ranchers that would fence livestock and equipment away from creek beds.

The recovery effort also will take into account the need to keep water temperatures and filtration under control, and address a way to meet clean water standards. To deal with the problems that fish encounter above and below dams, the mitigating efforts will include: barging fish from one side to the other, installing screen diversions so the fish won’t get chewed up in the turbines, and spilling water to improve river flows.

Emphasis also is being placed on hatcheries producing a better quality of fish.

“In the Yakima River in ’99, they were down to 200 total spring Chinook. This year they’re at 27,000,” Cassidy said. “A good portion of them are wild fish, and some of that can be attributed to the techniques of the Yakima nation hatchery.”

The key was a process known as supplementation, which takes wild fish from the river and bleeds their eggs to make hatchery fish, which are replaced into the river.

Another key to the recovery effort has focused on bringing water back into some of the Northwest streams, which dry up for periods of the year because people with senior water rights are using the resource for economic purposes.

The power council solved the problem on one of the Yakima tributaries by convincing a legal water rights owner to give up those rights in exchange for wells the council paid for and drilled.

“He didn’t lose any water. But he stopped taking water out of the creek and we regained water flows there for the first time in 78 years,” Cassidy said.

“Even if you tear out the Snake River dams and make that area more receptivento fish, you still have to solve these tributary problems. They have to be part of the equation.

If the restoration efforts prove fruitful, it will be a big relief to Northwest businesses that rely on cheap power to operate their plants. But Cassidy said businesses cannot stand idly by and wait for a solution. He wants to see them become part of the process.

“We’ve got pretty significant economic growth and we’ve probably got the best environment in North America to work in. What then should a businessman in the Northwest worry about?” Cassidy asked while playing the devil’s advocate.

I think today, if you want to attract quality employees, you’ve got to worry about the environment that those employees enjoy when they’re not working. And the salmon and steelhead resource is a key component of that.

“It ought to bother every businessman that we’ve got a resource that has been around for a million years, but in the list 70 years we’ve had a serious decline in those resources.

“If salmon can be titled an early-warning messenger, then we ought to listen to them because they’re telling us we’re doing something wrong.

Vancouver Business Journal
Vancouver, WA
October 6, 2000

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Irrigators Win Court Battle With Utility

East Idaho group seeks to get power at lower cost – if any is available

By Bob Fick
The Associated Press

Eastern Idaho irrigators, aggravated by the retail price they must pay for electricity, have won a major victory in their search for cheaper rates.

The only question is whether their court battle has dragged on so long that the low-cost power the association of about 900 irrigators hoped to buy more than four years ago can still be found in the new atmosphere of escalating electricity costs.

We still believe there is wholesale power available at a better price,” said Charles Wheatley, the Maryland attorney who represented the Snake River Valley Electric Association.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that Utah Power & Light Co., now PacifiCorp, was immune from the anti-trust allegations lodged by the association in 1996.

Judge Donald Lay, writing for the unanimous appellate court, said the Idaho law that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill cited in protecting the utility from the lawsuit does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court standards for providing that kind of immunity.

Winmill originally had reached the same conclusion but reversed that decision 2 years ago when the state attorney general’s office stepped in to defend the quarter-centuryold law.

PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Eskelsen said the utility’s attorneys were still reviewing the decision.

“We’re certainly going to consider all the company’s legal options,” Eskelsen said, adding that for some time the issue has essentially been what the delivery point would be for power the association ships in.

Wheatley said he hoped the appellate ruling would prompt the utility to negotiate transmission of other power to association members, especially since he said Winmill seemed favorably inclined to the irrigators’ antitsist claims, had the immunity issue not surfaced.

The so-called anti-piracy law was intended to prevent one utility from moving in to serve the traditional customers of another utility unless that utility agreed in writing.

But Lay concluded that the process for creating antitrust immunity under that law does not include active state supervision. Winmill had acknowledged that but held that the law was precise enough to essentially be self-policing which would make active state oversight unnecessary.

The appellate panel, however, found that PaficiCorp had sweeping power under the state statute that allowed it to “give up its customers, acquire new customers and swap territory – all without approval by any state agency whose duty it is to ensure that PaciflCorp’s actions are in the public interest.”

The 10-page opinion said it was that kind of private rugulatory power that the Supreme Court intended to prevent.

“It is clear the statute is not self-policing, but in addition we fail to find any state recognition as to any state supervision whatsoever,” Lay wrote.

The association of Upper Snake River Valley farmers sued the utility after it refused to recognize the association as an electric cooperative qualified to negotiate to use PacifiCorp transmission lines to deliver power bought more cheaply from some other generator.

The utility contended the association was simply trying to use the cheaper wholesale transaction to supply legitimately retail customers.

At the time, the irrigators had a deal with Enron Power Marketing in Houston for power at about 40 percent less than PacifiCorp was charging. Wheatley said that deal no longer is in effect because of the lengthy litigation.

But he also expressed optimism that the association will be able to find cheaper power than PacifiCorp is offering.

Vancouver Business Journal
Vancouver, WA
October 5, 2000

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Locke Backs Drinking Water Option

Lake Tapps: Governor’s plan would avoid taxing property owners millions

By Rob Tucker
The News Tribune

Gov. Gary Locke announced Monday night that his office will push a single solution to save Lake Tapps without assessing property owners millions of dollars.

Locke said the state will initiate a preliminary permit process that eventually could give Puget Sound Energy, the lake’s owner, the right to withdraw and sell Lake Tapps water drinking.

While there is still no certain outcome to the permit process, Locke told more than 450 people at a meeting at Dieringer Heights Elementary School at Lake Tapps that the plan serves the needs of the region.

“I believe a real solution is in sight,” be said.

The governor thinks the water plan:

  • Helps save the lake without forcing homeowners to pay.
  • Puts additional water in the White and Puyallup rivers to help salmon recovery.
  • Provides more drinking water to the growing but water-short Puget Sound region.

However, he said, it’s up to Puget Sound Energy to submit the necessary information and financial analysis to show the state that the water plan will work in all proposed ways and address all concerns.

For instance, Locke said, Indian tribes have raised concerns about treaty rights. Two tribes have fishing and other treaty rights in the area: the Muckleshoots and Puyallups. The utility will have three years to show that the plan is environmentally sound and that there is a need for the water. PSE was optimistic Monday night.

“This could be the foundation for a durable solution,” said Bill Gaines, PSE’s vice president for energy supply.

“You should be very optimistic,” he told the crowd that included many Lake Tapps homeowners.

People attending the meeting were excited and hopeful. Many of them stood up to applaud the governor before he spoke. Afterward, some said they were relieved.

“It’s the first real positive news we’ve had in 18 months of worrying whether the lake will exist,” said Bob Scott, a 23-year resident of Deer Island on the lake. “It looks like we have a commitment from the state.”

“I think the lake will be saved,” added Larry Schmick, another Lake Tapps resident. “I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Starting the preliminary permit process launches procedures that could take years. A final permit from the state Department of Ecology likely would allow PSE to sell water to make up its estimated $60 million deficit on the White River Hydroelectric Project that includes Lake Tapps.

The losses, projected over the next 20 years, caused the company to talk last year about abandoning the project and allowing the 89-year-old lake to dry up.

If successful, the water plan means that 7,000 property owners living on or near Lake Tapps won’t have to pay PSE to keep the lake.

PSE talked about retiring the project because federal permitting conditions, along with increased river water flow requirements to save endangered fish, threaten to cost more money than the hydroelectric project makes annually.

A task force including PSE, government agencies and homeowners formed in April 1999 to attempt to save the lake. The task force came up with the idea of selling drinking water from the lake.

PSE already has a large water claim on the White River, 2,000 cubic feet per second, but the claim isn’t for drinking water. The claim allows PSE’s White River Hydroelectric Project to divert river water into the lake and then through its power plant in Sumner to generate electricity. The utility built the project, including the lake, in 1911.

PSE applied to the state Department of Ecology in June for permits to withdraw some of the diverted water for human consumption.

The company wants to sell lake water to water companies, public or private, with the understanding the companies would spend $50 million to build a treatment plant and the pipes needed to connect to the regional water system.

PSE has applied for permission to withdraw 100 cubic feet per second from the lake, as large as Tacoma 5 withdrawal from the Green River, which serves most of that city’s water needs.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses power projects, has agreed to delay PSE’s licensing requirements until July to see if the lake can be saved.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
October 3, 2000

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Salmon Are The Truly Priceless Asset

By Tracy Warner
Wenatchee World

How much is gravel worth? A lot, If salmon can lay their eggs it in it. A consortium of fisheries agencies believes the ratepayers of the Chelan County PUD should pay about $100 million over 50 years to make two acres of it. That comes to about $1,147 per square foot, for a nice little place for salmon to perform their reproductive duties.

But even at that price, it might not do salmon any good. The agencies want the PUD to release water from Lake Chelan into the Chelan River, to manufacture more salmon habitat. The fisheries agencies say this is just an experiment, a tryout. They want the PUD to do it as a condition for receiving a new federal license to operate the Chelan Dam. The PHD says that the expense of this experiment might he enough to make the Chelan Dam a money-loser, which would make the dam useless for its intended purpose, producing electricity.

This comes about because the federal license for the Chelan Dam expires in 2004. The PUD is seeking a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but it isn’t easy. The process gives nearly anyone, or any agency that wants to make the effort, a chance to propose conditions on the license. Powerful agencies like the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have the power to dictate the terms.

Create a system where you can ask for anything, and you aren’t encouraging practicalIy. The fisheries agencies told the PHD that they want ahout 650 cubic feet per second of water diverted away from the Chelan Dam powerhouse for the purpose of improving the salmon spawning hahitat. Since the Chelan River Is mostly a series of impassable waterfalls, the spill would add only a hit of spawning ground at the outlet of the river, perhaps a few hundred yards.

That’s not all. The agencies want the PUD to install cameras at Chelan Dam to find out if any endangered salmon or steelhead might he mighty enough to swim up the Columbia, into the Chelan River, and then leap all those cascades and make It up to the Chelan Dam. They also want the PUD to throw 100,000 chinook and 40,000 steelhead smelts into the Chelan River each year as a test, to see if any might make it hack.

This will go on for 15 years. If it doesn’t work, the fisheries agencies are willing to give it up. They then promise to return to their true desire, which is to take water from Lake Chelan to increase the flow of the Columbia, supposedly to aid fish downstrean. This Is not a small reguest. They want 6,000 cubic feet per second for the entire month of April, a flow big enough to drain Lake Chelan down to its minimum level, where it may not fill up again.

Flow augmentation of the Columbia River in April is a highly desirahie potential use of the Chelan Project,” wrote Rodney Woodin, Columbia River policy coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

For the PUD and the citizens of Chelan County, the real desirable use for the Chelan Dam is to produce electricity. It is where we get 25 percent of our yearly supply.

That will be a relatively trivial point to the fisheries agencies, which manipulate power production In the Northwest for a living. They don’t consider this demand at all out of line.

Thinking in impractical terms, it very well may come to pass that the agencies will want so much that they will put the Chelan Dam out of business. They are asking the PUD to give up about a quarter of the dam’s value for a few square yards of spawning habitat and the chance to see if salmon can go where the studies say no salmon have gone before. This should strike reasonable people as idiotic, but these are salmon we’re talking about. Nothing is too outrageous.

The Wenatchee World
Wenatchee, WA
October 3, 2000

Posted in Biologic Opinion, Environment, Hydropower, News | Leave a comment

GOP Drops Snake River Restriction On Interior Bill

The Seattle Times

WASHINGTON – The House approved a $23.6 billion measure for water and energy programs yesterday, steering lawmakers toward a veto fight with President Clinton that each party thinks may help it win the White House.nnRepublicans, meanwhile, also agreed to drop language in a $19 billion bill funding the Interior Department that would have prohibited studying the removal of four dams on the Snake River in Washington state. Passage of that measure is expected next week.

Federal officials said they have no immediate intention to recommend breaching the dams to revive struggling salmon stocks, but they want a detailed study in case it becomes an option in five years. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., who opposes dam removal and has made it a central issue in his campaign for re-election, had attached the language to the Interior spending bill. It would have ensured that no federal moneynwould be spent on dam removal during fiscal 2001.

Gorton issued a statement saying Clinton had refused to sign the bill if the wording on the Snake River dams were included.

I’m amazed by this administration’s insistence to keep dam removal on the table,” he said.

Drawn by its hundreds of projects for every corner of the country; the House adopted the energy-water legislation by 301-118, backed by solid majorities of both parties.

The energy-water measure was just one example of how the late-session rush to complete budget bills was resulting in a bipartisan spending bazaar. The measure was $2.4 billion higher than last year’s bill and $890 million larger than Clinton had requested.

It included dozens of projects that were neither requested by Clinton nor approved by the House and Senate in earlier versions. These included $25 million to clean ground water in the San Gabriel basin near Los Angeles; $4.5 million to deepen the Columbia River channel between Oregon and Washington state; and nearly $2 million for the Fox Point hurricane barrier in Rhode Island.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee’s Interior subcommittee, said a major land-conservation program would provide $1.6 billion next year for land acquisition and conservation, with that figure growing over the next five years to $2.4 billion. “This is the largest increase in conservation programs funding ever approved by Congress,” he said.

The Seattle Times
Seattle, WA
September 29, 2000

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City 10-Year Pact With BPA

By R.J. Cohn
Herald

With the volatility of the deregulated energy market a growing concern, the Bonners Ferry City Council decided to solidify its electrical needs for the next decade by signing a 1-year contract with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Sept.19.

Beginning October 1, 2001, the city of Bonners Ferry has agreed to a locked-in rate of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour with BPA which will run through Sept.30, 2011.

Although the rates are subject to change within the life of the 1-year contract, city administrator Mike Woodward said he expects the rate would only marginally increase.

Currently, the city pays 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour.

BPA, a federal agency that produces and markets power from dams along the Columbia River system, sets rates and offers contracts to utility customers like Snohomish PUD., Northern Lights, Kootenai County as well as the city of Bonners Ferry.

The city first contracted with BPA, which was originally established to give preference to public utilities, in December of 1953.

Since Bonners Ferry is considered a public utility it receives the best rate being offered for the power it purchases, unlike investor-owned utility companies like Puget Energy which operates for a profit and pays investors dividends.

“One of the biggest advantages of this contract with BPA is that it gets us in the preferred public utility category which basically means we get first choice to receive its cost-based rate,” Woodward said.

Like most municipalities, Bonners Ferry purchases power in a wholesale market–similar to a service station buying bulk gasoline–before distributing it its customers via substations and transmission lines on a direct cost pass-through basis.

Woodward said the city currently purchases approximately 70 percent of its power from BPA.  Hydroelectric power from the Moyie Dam provides roughly the remainder of the city’s energy supply.

After the first couple years of the contract, Woodward indicated BPA will probably readjust its rates if their expenses increase.  Since it isn’t always able to meet its customers’ demands, BPA must comply with federal lay by purchasing more power on the open market.

BPA also has an agreement with Congress to repay them cost plus interest for construction and maintenance of dams on the Columbia River.

The Herald
Bonners Ferry, ID
September 27, 2000

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Assessing Kaiser Strike Misses Bigger Question

Bill Virgin
Post-Intelligencer

The Bruising 23-Month strike at Kaiser Aluminum’s three Washihgton plants is over, and the natural – but erroneous – temptation is to assess who won.

Slightly more accurate, but still off the mark, would be to assess who lost more,nthe union for being out so long and getting so little in the settlement, or the company for generating ill-will among its workers that may never disappear.

The most accurate assessment of who won or lost the strike: It may not matter.

The labor battle at Kaiser is akin to two men who battle each other to exhaustion for control of a boat – only to discover that the boat is poised bow-first to navigate Niagara Falls.

The water hazard is, appropriately enough in this matter, electricity generated from the Pacific Northwest’s hydro system. And a lot of people, not just Kaiser workers, are in that beat.

The Pacific Northwest is a center of aluminum production precisely because of the federal hydro system and the preferential rates and access to federal power that the industry has enjoyed.

But less of that power is likely to be available to aluminum smelters – and what is available is going to cost more.

The Bonneville Power Administration is negotiating rates for the 2001-2006 contract period. While it will offer power at the same rate as the existing contract – about $24 per megawatt hour, according to BPA spokesman Ed Mosey – it will offer less total electricity. BPA plans to allocate 1,440 megawatts for electricity in the 2001-2006 contract period, down from the 2,000 megawatts sold under the 1996-2001 contracts.

For the balance of the electricity they need, aluminum producers will have to go to the open market, and they won’t like what they find there. Some are already finding it painful. Kaiser, which elected in 1996 to move some of its load off BPA to the open market (at the time, a less expensive option), has shut down its Tacoma smelter and has curtailed production at a facility near Spokane because of spotmarket power rates. Vanalco in Vancouver, which elected to go entirely to the open market, is shut down entirely. Those moves meant layoffs for 850 workers.

Meanwhile, even though the aluminum industry is getting a smaller slice of the BPA power pie, Bonneville will have to go to buy electricity to fulfill its commitments to all of its customers. Because of what’s happening in the power markets, Bonneville wants a provision that will allow it to raise rates mid-contract if necessary. Hence the result: less power higher prices. That’s not good, says Kaiser’s vice president of Nortbwest regional affairs Peter Forsytli, since the Northwest is already at a disadvantage compared with aluminum-producing regions like Canada.

Without some stark change in the power markets or the worldwide price of aluminum, “The industry is looking at more curtailments next October,” Forsyth says.

The aluminum companies are not alone in this pickle. “My members are feeling the same thing,” says Kenneth Canon, executive director of the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, citing such  electricity-intensive businesses as newsprint production, chlor-alkali chemicals, industrial gases and steelmaking.

Unpalatable as the situation is now, it’s unlikely to get much better. BPA is in this squeeze because the long-running regional surplus of electricity is finally running out, and little new generating capacity is being built. Growth has eaten away at the surplus, and that’s not going to change. The Columbia Biver system is now managed as much for fish migration as for power generation, inrigation, navigation, recreation and flood control. “We’ve lost a lot of megawatts, we spill a lot of water,” Forsyth says.

And that’s not going to change either. The environmental community has long chafed at the preferential treatment given the aluminum companies, and has argued that the jobs generated by aluminum smelters (about 7,000 in Washington) aren’t worth the financial and environmental cost.

As if those pressures weren’t enough, there is always the specter of California, which has long eyed the Northwest’s low-cost electricity as an affordable solution to its own energy crunch.

Compounding the unpleasantness is that the industry has few options. It’s at the mercy of world metal prices that in the last decade have ricocheted from more than a $1 a pound to just above 50 cents. Aluminum making may be a capital intensive process, hut it’s not a technologically intensive  one, which is why aluminum is made in such places as Ghana and Russia. All it takes is a producing country hungry for some hard currency to dump metal on the market, and the bottom falls out of the price.

The aluminum smelters could try shifting their load onto the public utilities and get access to BPA preference power that way, although there are limitations on how much they can move.

They could try building their own generating facilities. That’s a serious possibility for pulp and paper mills, Canon says, which can use the steam heat as well as the electricity that a combustion turbine can produce. Brett Wilcox, owner of Northwest Aluminum in Oregon and Goldendale Aluminum in Washington, is proposing to build a combustion turbine, sell the power to BPA and buy it back at a discount, thus recognizing the benefits to the transmission system of having another generating source.

Kaiser estimates that new gasfired combustion turbines would provide power at about $35 per megawatt hour. “You’re really depending on a high price for aluminum to make a profit,” Forsyth says. And who knows what will happen with natural gas prices – maybe they’ll keep climbing with more demand, maybe they’ll go down once those higher prices spur more exploration.

Conservation? The industry cut power consumption per pound of aluminum by 10 percent from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, but the easy gains are gone. Or smelters could hope for some technological breakthrough that would reduce the power-thirsty industry’s gulping of electricity.

Or maybe the region should just let the industry fare for itself. A slow death by attrition might well be what happens to the industry if nothing is done, although  Canon notes  that the Northwest’s industries endured a spike in electricity prices once before, in the form of the WPPSS debacle, and survived.

It’s easy enough to write off the aluminum companies, and other industries, as long as it’s not your job that’s affected.

Or your town, since many of these family wage jobs are in communities that don’t have a lot of employment to spare. Or your region, since the aluminum industry may provide some benefits to everyone in terms of stability for the regional grid.

BPA has commissioned a report to figure out the long-term viability of the aluminum industry, and whether that  industry delivers enough net regional benefit to make that viability worth fighting for.

Given the increasing number and volume of voices being heard on this issue, that report is not likely to settle it. Given that power prices are not going down soon, and with the boat poised over the brink, it’s likely the industry itself will have to decide itself whether to go along with its seemingly inevitable fate – or start backpaddling like mad.

Post-Intelligencer
Seattle, WA
September 25, 2000

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Green Power: Is it ripe for Eastern Oregon?

Solar, wind power too costly for major use

By Craig Scott
East Oregonian

With nearly 200 days of sunny weather a year and lots of wind in Eastern Oregon, solar and wind power might seem like obvious sources of electricity.

However, with the extremely low costs of hydropower, the large-scale propagation of green power” doesn’t seem to be in the region’s near future.

John Harrison, spokesman for the Northwest Power Planning Council in Portland, said cost is the main detriment for both solar and wind power. Even though windpower is relatively cheap, power generated by dams and natural-gas-fired plants is cheaper. “In the current competitive energy marketplace, deregulated at the wholesale level, power-plant developers will focus first on those sources that have the lowest cost and, therefore, the maximum profit potential,” Harrison said.

Paul Hesse of the Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy Clearinghouse of Virginia said that, for comparison, solar energy would cost about 25 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) if connected to a power grid. But if those solar panels were independent of a grid, thus requiring a storage battery and other equipment, that cost could rise to between 30 and 50 cents per kWh, he said.

Wind farms can produce electricity for a much lower price. Where wind resources are “good,” Hesse said, modern wind turbines are estimated to be able to produce power at 3 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour. However, the power is sold at a higher rate, he added.

When compared with a national average price of about 8 cents per kWh for residential customers, that’s not much incentive, Hesse notes.

Defuse sources of energy

So, why are solar and wind so expensive?

Jeff King, a senior resource analyst with the Northwest Power Planning Council, explained that solar power comes from a very defuse source of energy. Several solar panels are needed to pull enough solar energy to be useful. Pulling in enough sunlight can be tough in the Northwest, especially when the sun is low in the sky during the short winter days.

Similarly, wind also is a rather unreliable energy source. To be effective, an area needs an annual average wind speed of about 15-16 mph, he said.

“That wind has to average that speed, during the calm times and during the stormy times, so a really good site is hard to come by,” King said.

Another problem is the amount of time the source of energy is producing. A gas-fired plant can be used 90 to 95 percent of the time, with production stopping only when equipment needs servicing.

Windfarms, meanwhile, are only in use about 35 percent of the time, because the winds aren’t blowing at a sufficient speed during the remaining periods. And solar is used even less, only producing at about 15 to 20 percent of its capability.

“The level of equipment utilization is lower, and that makes the power more expensive,” King said of both renewable types.

Likewise, the transmission lines that must be built to take power from the productionnplants to customers can only be used as much as the plants are used. So if a gas plant operates 90 percent of the time, the lines will be used 90 percent of the time. But if a wind plant is only producing electricity 30 percent of the time, there’s a larger cost involved because the lines are inactive 70 percent of the time, he explained.

Capacity issues

The capacity of the power generator also contributes to high cost. Solar and wind production sites simply can’t respond quickly to additional needs. Whereas at gas-fired plants or dams, staff can add additional fuel to gas-fired turbines, or adjust the flow of water through dam turbines.

“But you can’t make the wind blow harder or the sun shine brighter,” Harrison said. “So renewables are good for baseload power production, but lousy for capacity the ability to increase production in a hurry in response to extreme weather conditions, unplanned outages of other plants and so on.”

There are ways around this. Because wind isn’t constant, the 38 wind turbines north of Helix are backed up by hydropower to keep the flow steady.

Adding to the cost of renewable sources is their distance from large cities.

“Another problem with wind and solar… is that the windiest and sunniest sites are, for the most part, a long way from the places of high demand for power,” he said. “So transmission line losses – which occur with any power plant and transmission system – are exacerbated with renewables as a result of the distance from load,” he said.

Harrison instead recommended a mix of renewable-energy production sites and other types of power facilities.

Outlook for the future

King, the resource analyst with the Power Planning Council, said hydropower, long the savior of low electric rates for the Northwest, is about maxed out. That said, the future of electrical production in the Northwest lies in three main areas: gas-fired plants, wind farms and solar power. But of those three, gas-fired plants are by far the cheapest option.

Production costs for one kilowatt-hour of power via gasfired plant can be as low as 3 cents, compared with 5 cents from wind farms or 15 to 25 cents for solar.

But that’s not to say solar and wind are out of the picture. In fact, with so little undeveloped hydropower in the region, alternative energies will be a growing part of the area’s make-up, he said.

This potential will increase as long as the federal government maintains incentive programs that bring down the costs of renewable energy, King added. Companies that produce wind power, for example, can take advantage of a program that gives 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour against the companies’ income taxes. With this program, the costs of windpower are on par with gas-fired power.

The program lasts for 10 years, as long as projects are started before December 2001, King said.

The area may see some minor increases in solar usage during the next decade, especially in rural areas, King predicted, but the future of renewable energy in this region lies with large propeller-like turbines standing more than 100 feet above the ground.

“I think wind will be the much larger player in the near term,” King said. However, an increase isn’t hard to make: Windpower accounts for less than 1 percent of power production in the Northwest. Hydropower, however, dominates at about 65 percent.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a couple percent (in 10 years), which is actually a lot of power because we’re talking about a large system,” King said.

Other sources of renewable energy may also come into the picture in the next 10 years, King said. Things like geothermal energy – harvesting the heat from beneath volcanic regions – and biomass reduction, where methane from microbes digesting landfill waste powers turbines. However, these options won’t be used much in Eastern Oregon. King said geothermal energy will be used more in northern California or Newberry Caldera south of Bend, and biomass reduction might be used more on the west side of Oregon.

East Oregonian
Pendleton, OR
September 24, 2000

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Northeasterners Suffer From ‘Power Envy’

By Richard Hensley
East Oregonian

Northwesterners are so uncool compared to our Northeastern counterparts. We don’t dress in black as much, we don’t whine as much and we, well, we’re just completely out of the loop as far as they’re concerned. But we do have one thing those Northeasterners don’t have – besides safe streets, low population and incredible scenery we have affordable electric power.

Now let’s just pretend millions of salmon are happily leaping from waterfall to waterfall to their pristine spawning grounds before we get into this subject much further. Otherwise the question of fish will keep hanging us up. And I don’t want to get into fish for the time being. I’m more interested in electricity.

Us dumb Northwesterners haven’t progressed as much as our brethren in the Northeast when it comes to power generation. While we’re toying with low-cost, clean hydropower, they’ve moved on. In fact, they’ve moved so far past us that they want to back up a bit. Because that can’t be done, they want us jerked forward to where they’re at; paying a lot more for electricity.

A few decades ago, many areas of the Northeast generated cheap, clean hydropower. Upstate New York, for example, did a fine job tapping flowing rivers to generate electricity. They didn’t have the mighty Columbia and Snake river systems, but anyone who’s visited the Northeast can attest to the region’s beautiful flowing rivers. However, the lure of the atom just couldn’t be resisted. It didn’t take long before hydro was out and nuclear was in. And just about as fast was the rate in which their electric bills soared above ours. Meanwhile, in between whittling logs into toothpicks and checking our stills, we kept on using our hydropower. Now those wacky Northeasterners are suffering from power envy.

We’ve heard the rumblings the past few years. Northeasterners don’t like the fact we pay so little and that the Bonneville Power Administration is a federally operated entity. Never mind that if it weren’t for the BPA, electricity would be a relatively modern marvel to some of the most remote areas in the Northwest.

Then came the fish situation. OK, so I brought it up. But only to point out that this is the one thing those Northeasterners use to try and trip us up. Ah ha!” they say with delight. “We must save the fish.” It doesn’t really matter what scientific proof, or lack thereof, that is provided, it’s those darn dams. “Yank ‘em out,” they cry, just dying to see us paying the same per-kilowatt as some guy in Schenectady.

Now we could stand back in awe of the environmental compassion these folks show towards our salmon. Or we could remind them the reason they don’t have salmon problems is because they killed all of theirs off decades ago with dams that fish couldn’t navigate. But this argument only clouds the real issue. And that is the knowledge that we are paying less and loving every minute of it. If the truth was known, we better be enjoying every minute of it because there’s little doubt that our cheap power will change over the coming decades. Sooner or later, we’ll all be paying a lot more for energy.

But for now, dig in your pocket for that whittling knife. We’ll kick back a spell and watch the turbines spin and even try to save a few salmon. Meanwhile, somewhere on the other side of the country, people are digging in their pockets to pay for their electric bill and shaking their fists our way.

Perhaps ’80s pop singer Huey Lewis said it best when he once sang, “It’s hip to be square.”

East Oregonian
Pendleton, OR
September 24, 2000

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Dam Removal Isn’t Your Concern, Eastern Washington Tells Seattle

By Phuong Le
Post-Intelligencer

Eastern Washington to Seattle: Mind your own dam business.

After the Seattle City Council last month unanimously passed a resolution supporting the partial removal of four lower Snake River dams, authorities east of the mountains responded with resolutions of their own.

The Seattle motion was an effort to aid salmon populations along the river.

The Moses Lake City Council passed a resolution last week, mocking Seattle for sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong and calling for the removal of the Ballard Locks and eight small dams used by Seattle City light.

The Seattle City Council has no direct say regarding dam removal, and Moses Lake’s response was aimed to remind them to keep it that way.

The resolution states: The Ballard Locks in the City of Seattle allegedly kill a higher percentage of salmon migrating past them than the four lower Snake River dams combined.

“Removal of the locks will result in a significant lowering of Lake Union and LakenWashington that will create substantial quantities of pristine riparian habitat for salmon.”

On Monday, the Whitman County commissioners voted to ask the Seattle City Council to abandon its previous resolution.

Tongue in cheek?

Maybe so, but Moses lake City Manager Joe Gavinski said it wasn’t entirely a laughing matter.

“There were a lot of people who were unhappy ahout that (Seattle) resolution,” Gaviaski said.

“Suggestions were made that the (Seattle) council should look in its own back yard before looking elsewhere.”

Indeed it has, said Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlln, who co-sponsored the legislation with Councilwoman Heidi Wills. Conlin defended the resolution, and said Seattle has clearly taken responsibility for its share of mitigating problems at its dams.

“I’m sorry that people take offense,” Conlin said. “We’re one Washington, and we have to take care of our problem together.”

Post-Intelligencer
Seattle, WA
September 20, 2000

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Army Engineers Say Reservoir Drawdown Deserves No More Study

By Erik Robinson
Columbian

Calling it too expensive with too littie to be gained for salmon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday recommended no further study of drawing down the largest reservoir on the Columbia River.

The corps’ conclusion will be sent to Congress, which authorized the $3.7 mlllion study in 1998.

Dam breaching is a hot topic in the Northwest, as the corps continues to study the possibility of breaching four dams on the lower Snake River to boost imperiled stocks of salmon and steelhead. Earlier this summer, the Clinton administration announced a salmon recovery strategy that delayed a decision on dam breaching until other less drastic measures were given a chance to work.

The John Day Dam near Goldendale hasn’t received nearly as much attention, but the stakes are just as high.

The dam, completed in 1971, by itself generates more than two-thirds as much electricity as the four Snake River dams combined. It is capable of generating 2.2 million kilowatts of energy – enough to light 1 million homes. The John Day Dam also creates a 76-mile reservoir navigable for modern barge traffic and provides irrigation for farmland across a wide swath of eastern Oregon and Washington.

In contrast to the Snake River dams, the John Day Dam includes substantial benefits for flood control.

Bruce lovelin, executive director of the Columbia River Alliance, representing ports, agriculture, aluminum and electric utilities in the Columbia Basin, welcomed the corps’ decision to end study of the drawdown.

A drawdown or dam removal would be another catastrophe for the Pacific Northwest,” he said.

The corps had released a draft of the report earlier this year, so the conclusion wasn’t a surprise.

Representatives of conservation groups said the drawdown idea deserves more study, although the head of one leading conservation and fishing coalition stopped short of saying the dam should be drawn down or breached.

Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, said the study should explore the effect on river users, but it also should include alternatives to make up for that loss. Irrigators, for instance, may have to retool their equipment to draw out river water to which they’re entitled.

“We think it does not make sense to close the book on the John Day drawdown,” Ford said. “But I’m not in a position to say it should be done.”

An independent scientific group suggested in a 1996 report that drawing down the John Day pool, known as the Umatilia, has the potential of restoring a highly productive river reach for salmon.

“Return to the River,” a 1996 report done for the Northwest Power Planning Council, scientists theorized the area may have stabilized chinook salmon throughout the Columbia Basin by providing plentiful shallow gravel beds for the fish to spawn. The scientists compared the stretch to the Hanford Reach, a highly productive stretch of free flowing river through the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Twelve stocks of salmon and steelhead have dwindled nearly to the point of extinction, with four of those in the Snake River.

Stuart Stanget, project manager for the corps’ drawdown study, said the corps considered the economic costs and biological benefits of two proposals: drawing down the reservoir to the height of the dam’s spill-way, and breaching the dam altogether. The former would cost $403 million a year, and the latter would cost $564 million annually Stanger said. Those figures, averaged over the 100-year duration of the study, included the cost of physically removing the dam, plus estimated annual losses from flood damage, navigation and hydropower.

By drawing down the reservoir, Stanger said, the corps found that juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean could cut their three-week trip by one or two days.

“We think the costs far outweigh any biological benefit,” he said.

He said the study assumes a low effectiveness of barging juvenile salmon, primarily by loading them onto barges at lower Granite Dam on the Snake River and dropping them off 286 miles downstream, below Bonneville Dam. Even if scientists assume a high mortality rate after the juveniles are released from barges, Stanger said, “the drawdown would contribute little to the survival of fish.”

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
September 19, 2000

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Lake Tapps’ Importance Questioned

Task force, officials join forces to study lake’s role in area water supplies, cost of preserving lake

By Rob Tucker
The News Tribune

Sumner officials are questioning whether the city would suffer if Lake Tapps disappeared.

The Lake Tapps Task Force, formed last year to try to save the man-made lake, says if the lake disappears, it would reduce the supply for the nearby cities of Auburn, Bonney Lake and Sumner.

The point the task force is trying to make is that all three cities have a stake in saving the lake. Most Bonney Lake and Auburn officials agree, but some Sumner officials aren’t sure.

For instance, the Sumner City Council wonders if the lake does recharge SumnernSprings, the city’s main source of drinking water.

We can’t say that unless we know for sure,” City Councilman Stuart Scheuerman said at an Aug. 28 council meeting.

The springs are located on a hillside in East Sumner just below the plateau where the large lake is located.

Bill Shoemaker, Sumner’s public works director, said the water volume in the springs doesn’t drop when Lake Tapps is nearly empty for ninemonths of the year. He said, however, that might not be long enough to prove there is no recharge from lake water.

Councilman Mike Connor said it might not be wise for Sumner to sign any lake-saving agreement that the task force develops. The agreement might cost Sumner too much.

He said some people are worried that the federal and state governments have shifted too much of the costs of saving the lake up to $80 million over 20 years – to local governments.

“The big fish are going to be sliding slowly out the back door,” he warned. “Why aren’t they the biggest players when it comes to paying bills?”

But Mayor Barbara Skinner, who represents Sumner on the Lake Tapps Task Force, said, “The last option this community wants to see is the lake going away.”

She said Lake Tapps is a regional facility, and people living around the lake shouldn’t have to pay all of the costs to save it.

“There’s got to be a way to share the costs,” she said. “All of us who enjoy the lake must contribute.”

Shawn Bunney, a Pierce County official who is a research analyst for the task force, told council members that the task force is looking to the federal and state governments for financial help. For instance, task force members are hoping the state will purchase the lake. They also hope the federal Army Corps of Engineers will help pay for a new White River dam that diverts part of the river into the lake. Those commitments, if approved, would cost millions of dollars, Bunney said.

He said if the task force fails, and the fate of the lake is decided in the courts, it could take 15 to 20 years.

The crisis over the lake occurred when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission required Puget Sound Energy to accept a license for the White River Hydroelectric Project that includes the lake. PSE estimated that the new licensing requirements and new federal demands to save endangered White River fish would cost more than the revenue the project could generate. The company considered closing the project and allowing the lake to evaporate.

Instead, PSE joined a task force of homeowners and local, state and federal government officials to see if the lake could be saved.

Sumner City Council members ended the Aug. 28 discussion by asking the city public works director to find out whether Sumner Springs would be harmed if Lake Tapps disappeared.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
September 6, 2000

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Energy Costs May Have Delayed Effect

Supply hasn’t kept with rapid population growth

By Ed Merriman
Capital Press Staff Writer

SALEM – Irrigators and rural residential customers in Oregon were mostly insulated from this summer’s spikes in wholesale energy costs.

“There’s no way those wholesale price fluctuations get passed down to retail customers like the irrigators,” said Lee Sparling, administrator of the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s electricity and natural gas division.

Deregulation has gotten some of the blame for surges in wholesale power rates this summer. Sparling said, however, that Oregon is taking a slow approach to deregulation allowed on a trial basis under legislation passed in 1999.

In fact, rules implementing a legislatively approved deregulation program are still on the drawing board and aren’t expected to be completed and approved until October of next year, Sparling said. Those rules are intended to allow more freedom for large wholesale power customers to purchase electricity and natural gas on the open market.

A handful of very large industrial customers in Oregon eligible to purchase wholesale power on the open market got burned this spring and summer when demand for electricity outstripped production. Some wholesale rates skyrocketed temporarily by as much as 300 percent.

That volatility didn’t affect residential or small retail customers such as irrigators protected by rate restrictions still in effect and enforced by the PUC, Sparling said.

Even under the deregulation rules, for the most part rate-setting regulations will remain in place for residential and commercial customers that use less than 30 kilowatts of electricity per month. Sparling said that would apply to most irrigators and, other farm operations.

No overall change in rates has occurred since 1996 for Oregon’s two largest utilities, Portland Ceneral Electric (owned by Enron) and Pacific Power and Light (owned by Scottish Power).

A 4 percent general rate increase in 1996 was the first for Pacific Power since 1980. Pacific Power also was allowed to boost rates 1 percent in 1998, 1999 and in July of this year to reflect costs of providing power from alternative sources and for conservation measures.

During the 1990s, PGE won PUC approval of general rate increases of 3.4 percent in 1991 and 5.8 percent in 1995, but dropped rates by 4.5 percent in 1996.

Officials with Umatilla Electric Cooperative Association headquartered in Hermiston, Ore., said Columbia Basin irrigators and other farm and rural residential customers in their service area weren’t affected by this summer’s price spikes because none of them buy power on the open wholesale market and the co-op didn’t raise its rates this year.

Publicly owned coops like Umatilla Electric buy most of their power from Bonneville Power Administration, which adjusts its wholesale power rates at five-year intervals. Current BPA wholesale rates set in 1997 apply through 2001.

About 40 percent of all electricity generated in the Northwest comes from 28 federally owned dams on the Columbia and Snake River system operated by the BPA. Under federal law utilities and industrial customers in the region have priority access to that power.

Terms of the current five-year BPA contract set the wholesale rate for that power at $25 per megawatt hour. That compares with a nationwide average cost of $60 for power produced by other sources elsewhere in the country.

Some concerns have been raised at PUC meetings about whether customers in Oregon and other Northwest states will see higher electricity costs due the buyouts of Northwest utilities like PGE and Pacific Power. Sparling said that won’t happen to residential or small retail customers such as irrigators as long as regulations remain in place requiring rates set by the PUC to be based on local power generation costs.

However, Mark Steele, an engineer and energy analyst at Norpac food prcessing co-op headquartered in Stayton, Ore., said he’s concerned that this summer’s surge in wholesale power rates may only be a symptom of a pending energy crisis.

Environmental regulations and uncertainty about the fliture of deregulation are responsible for the shutdown of nuclear power plants like Trojan and have also nearly frozen conrtruction of hydroelectric, natural gas or coal-fired plants, Steele said.

As a result, supply hasn’t kept pace with rapid population growth and increasing industrial power needs in the Northwest, Califoraia and other areas, he said. Unless that changes, competition for available power will likely increase – pressure to raise wholesale and retail rates, Steele said.

Capital Press
Salem, OR
September 15, 2000

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Differing Viewpoints About Bear Lake Told Before Regional Commission

Jim Kimbal, Rolf Esche and Bryce Nielson represented differing interests in the management of Bear Lake at the Bear Lake Regional Commission meeting August 30.

Kimbal, who attended FERC hearings in Soda Springs, said the federal agency needs to be involved in licensing Camp Lifton and that Bear Lake needs to be part of the relicensing process of the four dams now involved in the licensing process. Kimbal argued that the social, economic and environmental interests of the Bear Lake area and its residents require Bear Lake to be included in the relicensing.

He urged the Bear Lake Regional Commission to take a strong stand favoring the Lake and its management be induded in the licensing process of the power plants.

Bryce Nielson, took a differing point of view. He said that he felt that many of those who wished the Bear Lake induded in the relicensing process actually had other agendas and that their agendas should be addressed on their own merits, rather than induded in the relicensing of the dams.

RoIf Asche, the newest member of the regional commission, representing recreational interests, questioned the need of irrigators to use the amount of water they do, drawing strongly on the water of Bear Lake. He objected to the top portion of water in the lake being referred to as storage.

Esche also said he strongly questions the statements by Utah Power when they say they only pump water at Camp Lifton to satisfy contracts of the irrigators. He said Utah Power makes money from generating power and believes they pump water from the lake solely for that purpose.

Kimbal added that Utah Power, using flood control as an excuse, pumped water into February of this year, when snow pack in the mountains had not materialized.

Allen Harrison later told Esche that there are more opinions, induding those who prefer water not be very high in the lake, because they like to use the beaches. He said the beaches have also become an economic issue around the lake.

Several members of the regional commission expressed concern about federal government agendes becoming involved in management of Bear Lake. They pointed to additional expenses and the endangered species act being used as a tool for particular agendas.

Bryce Nielson said the fishery at the lake is in better shape than for many years and said that fluctuations in the lake level seem to be good for the fish.

He said he hated to see the threatened listing of Bonneville cutthroat used for management of Bear Lake when the fishery is in good shape.

The differing viewpoints seem to come from a number of concerns. There are those who wish lake levels to not fluctuate as much because of their homes and property around the lake shore. Some have more concern for the water quality of Bear Lake and believe the Bear River water causes water quality problems as it flows in and is pumped out of the lake.

The irrigators are largely concerned with their water rights and retaining Bear Lake as a storage facility where water can be stored during runoff periods and released later in the year.

Some look at Bear Lake as a haven for boating and wish to make sure they can have access to the water. Others wish to sunbathe and use of the beaches.

The Wildlife refuge and how Bear Lake water is involved is a concern for others.

There are many of the local people who do not wish the federal government to become more involved in the management and those who feel that the federal government must step in to insure the best management.

Some feel that Utah Power is manipulating the lake for its own purposes and resent the company making money from generation of power from water stored in the lake.

Besides those interests, primarily concerned with Bear Lake, are those primarily interested in Bear River. They also have very differing interests, including those who wish to see the river as totally free flowing, those who want to use the river for white water rafting and those who view the river as a fishery.

The regional commission agreed to restate their official position that Bear River from Stewart Dam down be included in the studies for relicensing.

Allen Harrison also alerted the Regional Commission about public meetings concerning a South Shore Sewer District and about an upcoming tour of the Scenic Byway.

News-Examiner
Montpelier, ID
September 13, 2000

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Salmon Protection Issue Heats Up

Politicians and environmentalists lock horns over how to save endangered fish.

By Laurence M. Cruz and Mike Madden
Statesman Journal

Debate flared Thesday in Oregon, Seattle and Washington, D.C. over the future of endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

While Clinton administration officials in Washington used to rule out dam breaching along the lower Snake River to protect salmon, environmentalists and fishing groups in Seattle sued the federal government in a bid to strengthen salmon protection rules.

And several members of Congress proposed legislation to restore salmon habitat in Oregon.

Administration officials told a Senate panel that removing the earthen portions of four dams may be necessary to protect endangered salmon, even though the Democratic administration is searching for other ways to save fish.

The best science still makes it clear that these wild salmon are in grave peril,” said George Frampton, Jr., chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality and President Clinton’s top environmental adviser. “Extinction is not an option.”

Erampton and Will Stelle, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s administrator for the Northwest, argued they must plan for the possibility of breaching the dams in case less-drastic recovery efforts fail.

That did not go down well with Republicans on the Senate Water and PowernSubcommittee, who accused the administration of jumping to condusions without scientific support and ignoring the potentially enormous costs of breaching the four dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – to farmers, businesses and others.

The panel’s chairman, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Pendleton, said the NMFS’s biological opinion and an administration salmon-recovery plan fail to provide Congress with “a well defined set of priorities, costs, or specific timelines for implementation.”

“The people of Oregon deserve a strategy that amounts to more than just ‘Spill ‘em on the way out, club ‘em on the way back,”‘ Smith said, referring to the government’s practice of increasing water flows so more salmon can pass downstream but then destroying non-native fish that return so they don’t overwhelm wild salmon.

“How easy it is to ask the taxpayers to spend a few dollars to placate what has always been a radical element who favors dam breaching,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

Senators said breaching the four dams might not actually help salmon, yet could cost more than $1 billion in new infrastructure, power plants and lost farmland.

In July, the administration released its draft plan, which called for improving the water quality and habitat for salmon; cutting hatchery fish production; limiting salmon fishing; and trying to make Snake River dams safer for fish.

Environmentalists reacted positively to the administration’s position Tuesday, but said it didn’t go far enough.

“Basically (they) have some broad objectives and some laudable goals that we agree with, but we need some specific objectives that need action now,” said David Moryc of American Rivers. “The timeline is just too long.”

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle targets salmon-protection rules issued by the fisheries service in June, after 14 salmon and steelhead species were listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The rules tell people, companies and governments what not to do if they want to avoid being sued under the Endangered Species Act for harming salmon and steelhead. They’re called the 4(d) rules, named for the authorizing section of the Endangered Species Act, and apply to nearly 160,000 square miles in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.

The rules do something new by giving local and state governments more flexibility. If local and state governments approve their own plans to regulate activities such as logging, road-building and urban development in a way that protects salmon, the federal government will let them be “exempt” from the 4(d) regulations.

The fisheries service hastentatively approved one such exemption in Washington: the Forest and Fish Agreement. The agreement, passed by the Washington Legislature last year, limits logging on hillsides and near streams on 8 million acres of private land. By following the agreement, loggers on private land won’t have to worry about being sued under the Endangered Species Act for harming salmon.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the timber exemption, which they say is a sweetheart deal for the timber industry.

“Salmon are in serious trouble, yet the federal government is not doing what the law requires to ensure salmon survive and recover,” said Patti Goldman, lead attorney on the case from Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

“Instead they propose to continue to allow the harm and claim to have recovery at the same time. That won’t work, and it’s illegal.”

Tryg Sletteland, chief executive officer of Eugene-based Pacific Rivers Council, said his organization joined in the lawsuit partly because in approving the Forest and Fish Agreement, the fisheries service effectively agreed to the taking of salmon pending development of the specifics of the conservation plan.

“Our belief is that the plan specifics should be issued up front before the take permit is issued,” Tryg said.

Brain Gorman, the agency’s regional spokesman in Seattle, said NMFS decided to allow exemptions to the 4(d) rules to encourage local planning and to avoid the kind of top-down, federal management which often draws public complaints.

“Whenever you do something new and different under an existing law, you’re bound to run into lawsuits,” he said. “We’ll see what the courts think. We think this is good for salmon.”

The lawsuit won’t affect the salmon rules when they take effect in January, Gorman said.

Government officials said they are prepared to defend the rules in court.

Meanwhile, in other salmon-related news Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, introduced legislation to restore critical wildiife habitat in the Columbia and Tillamook estuaries.

The Save the Estuaries Act – co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, David Wu, D-Portland, and Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn – would earmark $175 million for a multi-year habitat restoration program to help salmon and other wildlife.

The legislation, which calls for appropriations over a 10-year period, would authorize and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out habitat restoration portions of management plans recently completed by the Lower Columbia River Estuary Program and the Tillamook Bay Estuary Project.

“To restore healthy and harvestable populations of salmon to the Columbia and Snake basins, we’ll have to take other aggressive measures, including removal of the four lower Snake River dams, but restoration of the Columbia River estuary is an essential step,” Richard Penny, Northwest regional director for American Rivers, said.

Statesman Journal
Salem, OR
September 13, 2000

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Seattle Council Favors Dam Breaching

By Cookson Beecher
Capital Press Staff Writer

SEATTLE – Citing a legal and moral obligation” to help restore salmon, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution in favor of breaching the four Snake River dams.

“We need to have the courage and the will to do what’s right,” said Heidi Wills, one of the Seattle City Council members who sponsored the resolution.

Although the council has no direct say about the dams, the resolution noted that Seattle is one of the Bonneville Power Administration’s largest customers and therefore a key stakeholder in the operation of the Columbia Snake River power system.

Council member Richard Conlin, also one of the resolution’s sponsors, said economic evaluations show that the impact of breaching the dams on Seattle ratepayers would be “quite moderate.”

“Our customers are generally very comfortable about paying increased rates for things important from an environmental perspective,” he said.

According to estimates from several sources, rates for Seattle customers would go up from $3 to $5 per month if the dams were breached – although the recent energy shortage in the Northwest spawns questions on whether those estimates are high enough.

Conlin said several studies have shown that breaching the dams would have a relatively minor economic impact on the state. Rail could be used for hauling goods now being barged, he said, and there could be mitigation and compensation for “the few corporate farms” that would be left without irrigation.

Calling the resolution irresponsible, Clarkston Port Commissioner Dick Sherwin said he’d like to see the money on the table for compensation and mitigation before anyone starts proposing dam breaching.

“If they really want to breach the dams, they need to get the money to build a world-class rail system from Seattle to Lewiston and funding for a top-of-the-line industrial park,” he said. “If they’re really serious about mitigation, let’s see the money now.”

Sherwin also questions the council members’ assertions that city ratepayers would be willing to pay the price that would come with dam removal.

“I wonder if their constituents know what the price really is,” he said, pointing to possible brownouts in the Pacific Northwest and even a grid failure that could leave people in the region without power for weeks at a time. He also warned of the curtailing of water use for fish migration due to power shortages.

“There’s a lack of knowledge on the subject,” he said. “They don’t comprehend what the real price will be.”

When Sherwin makes his predictions, he’s basing them on the important role the Snake River dams play in the power supply system of the entire Pacific Northwest.

Although each of the four dams usually operates at 33 percent capacity, the oversized turbines at those dams can almost instantaneously increase power production by 300 percent.

“When the grid is in danger of going down, they kick in,” said Sherwin. “It’s the system that absorbs the swings of electrical shortages on the grid.”

Todd Maddock of the Northwest Power Planning Council agrees that the Snake River dam system has become increasingly important.

A four-state compact established by Congress in 1980, the council plans for adequate and reliable power for the region. It is also required to develop plans for the mitigation and enhancement of fish and wildlife affected by the construction of the federal Columbia River Power System.

A report released by the council last December forecast a one-in-four chance of power disruptions occurring in the region during the next five years. It also said the region needed an additional 3,000 megawatts of new generating capacity in order to assure acceptable reliability.

Maddock said this summer’s heat wave in California, coupled with other power-related events, showed that the report was probably conservative.

“As a result of this summer’s experience, we have learned that the demand for electricity is relatively inelastic to price,” he said. “When there is not enough excess generating capacity to meet peak demands, the price of power goes through the roof.”

Because BPA is reevaluating the rates it plans to include in its 2002-2006 contract rate period, Maddock doubts that earlier predictions of rate hikes of $3 to $5 per month are valid.

He also said natural gas prices are up sharply and expected to stay high for some time, possibly settling at about twice the rate they have been over the past 5 years.

“This all suggests that electricity is going to be more expensive, and thus the Lower Snake River dams are increasing in value to the region,” said Maddock.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, hailed the city council’s resolution as a step forward.

“The council’s call for dam bypass is a far-sighted action that will both restore Snake River salmon and save money,” said Bill Arthur of the Sierra Club.

Capital Press
Salem, OR
September 12, 2000

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90 Years Later, Early Bear River Projects Still Work

By Staff
Citizen

Many projects built along the Bear River 90 years ago are still functioning – even as the demand for a continuous irrigation water supply continues.

The modern-day history of the Bear River and its interconnection with Bear Lake was recounted, recently, to a group of water users and officials in a seminar at Utah State University. The two-day long event was sponsored by the three-state Bear River Commission which regulates Water issues affecting the river which flows in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.

Area facilities built in those early days include the Grace power plant in 1908, while the nearby Cove plant was completed in 1917. The Oneida plant was completed in 1920, the Soda plant in 1925 and Cutler plant finished in 1927.

The development of the hydroelectric generation and irrigation supply system of the Bear River Basin began in the late 1800s. The U & I Sugar Co. was the first major player, as it constructed a large sugar beet processing plant in Box Elder County, Utah.

That company’s need for a stable, continuous water sup, for irrigation of all sugar beets and as an electricity supply to operate the plant led to construction of the Wheelon Hydroelectric Plant. No longer in existence, the plant was located near where the Cutler project is today.

About that same time, L. L. and P. N. Nunn from the Telluride Power Co. in Colorado noted that the river had great hydroelectric potential, Prause said. From an elevation of 5,923 feet at Bear Lake to the tailrace elevation of 4,300 feet at Cutler Plant, the total head of the lower river system is over 1,600 feet.

They received the license to build and operate Bear Lake under two public acts in 1891 and 1898, with the first act providing for rights-of-way through public lands for ditches, canals and reservations for irrigation. The second stipulated that rights-of-way may be used for development of power, etc. The U.S. Department of the Interior granted the right to build and operate the lake system with a right-of-way system in 1908.

As early as 1903, a Utah State Geological Survey publication by Professor George L. Swendsen from Logan, Utah, reported on the importance of the full utilization of the waters of Bear River.” At that time, some canals in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah were using the river’s water for irrigation.

But thousands of acres in Southeastern Idaho as well as Salt Lake, Weber, Davis and Box Elder’ ounties in Utah were in need of more water, Prause said. The development of individual storage reservoirs for mountain stream runoff would be very costly. The Bear River was looked at as the natural, most cost-effective supply source.

However, conversion of the lake to a storage reservoir had to be completed, she noted. In 1902, the Bear River did not flow into Bear Lake but there was a channel that drained the lake into the river. A diversion of the river into Mud Lake and then to Bear Lake and a wider outlet channel were needed.

At that time, the outlet followed a “very windy path” from the lake to the river, meaning a straighter, wider channel was needed. Control gates and a pumphouse between the Bear and Mud Lakes were needed, and were started in 1909.

As construction of Bear Lake facilities continued, Utah Power and Light Company was formed in 1912 from more than 130 small power companies in the region. Utah Power completed contracts with the major irrigation companies, and with other companies such as Last Chance, West Cache, and Cub River irrigation companies for delivery of supplemental storage water.

Many Bear Lake diversion and canal projects saw completion in 1918. Meanwhile, the increased ability to regulate the flow of the river by using Bear Lake storage water brought additional plants. Those included Oneida, completed in 1920 with limited regulating ability from Oneida reservoir. Soda was completed in 1925 and Cutler was completed in 1927. The Last Chance hydro project, built in 1979, was purchased from Last Chance Canal Co. by Utah Power in 1983.

During the early years of operation, the Bear Lake related capacity constituted the major electric resource in Utah Power’s service territory, Prause said. It was operated to maximum generation subject to constraints of irrigation contracts.

However, as the demand for energy has grown in Idaho and Utah, Bear River project generation fulfills a much smaller percentage of electricity needs than coal plants in Utah and Wyoming, she said.

Beyond new plant and diversion construction, water rights and operational issues took center stage. Controversy between storage and natural-flow rights brought the Deitrich Decree in 1920.

The decree granted a diversion right from Bear River to storage of 3,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) and diversion of storage of 2,500 cfs. The stored water could be withdrawn as needed for power generation and irrigation. This decree didn’t place limits on maximum storage or operating levels at the lake.

The drought of the 1930s saw the lake reach its lowest historical elevation of 5,902 feet, Prause said. That meant the Lifton pumps did no good. Water was released from Bear Lake for power generation before the drought but from 1931-35 it was used solely for irrigation.

Inflows saw sharp reductions, causing the elevation to plummet. The lake elevation recovered in the 1940s and the Bear River Compact looked at elevation operation issues for the future.

In 1958, two modifications to storage rights were approved. A diversion to storage above Bear Lake of 36,500 acre feet annually and an irrigation storage water reserve at elevation 5,914.7 feet was declared, below which storage water cannot be released for power production. The compact was revised in 1980.

A decade ago, Utah Power signed an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for additional elevation operations constraints by maintaining the elevation of Mud Lake within on hall foot of 5,920.5 ft. Even more recently, Prause said, the Bear Lake Settlement Agreement set new guidelines for future uses of lake water for irrigation and the Bear Lake Storage Allocation and Recovery Plan. It reduced allocations for irrigation proportionate to dimmishing levels in Bear Lake.

“The hydrology of the Bear River Basin is extremely variable from year to year resulting in very wet or very dry conditions,” she said. “The most recent drought occurred between 1987 and 1994.. Fortunately, this dry spell was followed by consecutive years of above-average runoff, which helped the lake elevation to recover.

But Water Year 2000 ended the five-year streak of healthy spring flows, which fill the lake for the irrigation system, Prause continued. “This year, runoff estimates are less than 50 percent of average.”

Citizen
Preston, ID
September 6, 2000

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Law Caps PSE’s Profits From Lake Tapps Water Plan

By Doug Sutherland and Jad Shabro
The New’s Tribune

The proposal by Puget Sound Energy to divert a portion of the Lake Tapps-White River Project water currently used for hydroelectric generation to a potable water supply is both creative and complex.

The July 16 Perspectives article by Jeff O. Johnson, a graduate student in environmental studies at The Evergreen State College, illustrates how misunderstandings can result because of the complexities of the issue.

Johnson’s main point is that issuing a water right to PSE would translate to immense profits for PSE and its shareholders. This concern is reasonable but does not consider the fact that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission strictly regulates PSE.

The commission sets rates that allow private utilities to earn approximately 9 percent return. Any revenue from the White River project exceeding operating costs plus a 9 percent return on capital assets would benefit PSE ratepayers through lower electrical rates. PSE electricity customers, not PSE, would be the beneficiaries of water sales.

Future water supplies are very limited and expensive. Cost estimates for the City of Tacoma’s Pipeline 5 to provide 64.6 million gallons of water daily to Seattle and South King County are estimated at $240 million. This proposal would deliver a like amount of water per day close to the urban growth centers of Tacoma and Seattle, where it’s needed. Because of the evergrowing need for water, Seattle and Tacoma are not considering this new potential water source as a competitor.

Johnson expresses understandable concern about impacts on salmon. Puget Sound chinook salmon would actually benefit from PSE’s proposal.

The Lake Tapps Task Force, made up of Lake Tapps area homeowners, PSE and local, state and federal officials, is developing a plan that would increase the amount of water allowed to flow freely down the White River, rather than being diverted into Lake Tapps for power generation. Fisheries biologists believe the increased flow would help enhance the river’s fish populations.

The use of Lake Tapps as a reservoir for potable water complements other existing and future uses of the resource. Lake Tapps would remain viable as the state’s fourth largest regional recreational resource and as a significant wildlife and fresh water fisheries habitat.

And finally, if PSE and the Lake Tapps Task Force cannot find a way to make the Lake Tapps White River project economically viable PSE can refuse to accept the license terms proffered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission These terms would cost PSE an estimated $35 million to $80 million over 20 years.

It would be reasonable to assume that PSE would retire the project and purchase lower-priced electricity elsewhere. The lake would go away, homeowners throughout the area could see increased property taxes to compensate for lakefront home devaluations, PSE and federal fish-enhancement efforts would be compromised and this wonderful regional recreational resource would be lost to Pacific Northwest families.

These are among the reasons that the Lake Tapps Task Force prioritized the PSE potable water application as the most potentially beneficial of 34 options reviewed tonhelp resolve the Lake Tapps situation.

Jeff Johnson is right on target in advocating that the Northwest’s finite water supplies balance the needs of both people and fish. It is toward this end that Lake Tapps area homeowners, PSE and government officials are working collaboratively to resolve this very complex matter.

The News-Tribune
Tacoma, WA
September 3, 2000

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New Small Hydropower Facility Below Dworshak Dedicated

Governor Dirk Kempthorne, along with state, federal and local officials, gathered last Friday to officially dedicate the new small hydropower facility below Dworshak Reservoir.

Idaho Department of Water Resources owns the facility that harnesses the power of the water in the pipeline from Dworshak Dam to Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and the state’s Clearwater fish Hatchery. No water is lost in the process, Kempthorne said.nnThe plant can produce 23 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to supply 2,000 homes. That is roughly one of every two homes in Clearwater County.

Because of hydropower, Idaho enjoys some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation. The power produced in the state also supplies the Northwest energy grid with vitally needed electricity. At a time when the region’s ability to produce electricity is beginning to fall behind the demand, new power generation systems like the one at Dworshak will help to meet the evergrowing need, added.

Kempthorne sald completion of the project took a lot of people’s vision and tenacity.

After costs, funds from sale of the power produced will be used to assist local governments across the state to fund water system infrastructure projects.

Clearwater Tribune
Orofino, ID
August 31, 2000

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Competition, Dam Breaching Among PUD License Issues

By Joe Dennis
The Journal

MOSES LAKE – Concerns over the threat of dam breaching and competition from other entities were the major topic addressed by speakers during a Grant PUD relicensing meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Moses Lake Convention Center.

The meeting was one of two held Wednesday to report on the district’s progress in preparing an application for relicensing of its Priest Rapids Hydorelectric Project.

Following the afternoon session, an evening meeting was held covering the same information.

In addition to offering an opportunity to submit formal testimony on relicensing, the session provided the public and representatives of interested governmental agencies and tribes a chance to meet informally with the district relicensing staff.

Although the district’s 50-year Iicense to operate Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams is not up for renewal until 2005, the PUD is already in the second year of a lengthy relicensing process, PUD commission chairman Dean Hagerty said in opening reinarks.

We are well into the second year of the process and we view relicensing as an opportunity to work with all interested parties. Hopefully we will satisfy the most important concerns about continued operation of the project,” he said, terming Hydroelectric power a clean, nonpolluting renewable enrgy source.

“The water of the Columbia River is a natural resource that represents the past, present and future of this area,” Hagerty said.

Linda Jones, the district’s relicensing manager, noted that while the PUD will not formally file it’s relicense application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) until October of 2003 public comment is an important part of the process

The public process leading upto filing is required by FERC, and this meeting allows you the opportunity to speak,” she explained.

In addition to hearing verbal testimony, Jones said written comments on studies and resource issues will be accepted by the district through Oct. 30.

Areas covered by solution groups formed to recommend solutions to concerns expressed about operation of the project cover the areas of dam operations, fish and water quality, wildlife and botanical issues, cultural resources, land use.

But iather than addressing specific issues addressed by the solution group, public comment focused on concern about dam breaching, power of federal agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the possibility Grant PUD may lose the Iicense to a competitor.

In addition, Mattawa resident Jim Curdy argued that a treaty between the U.S. and Canada concerning Columbia River dams and water storage prohibits dam breeching and guarantees continued operation of Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

Curdy urged the PUD to stress that argument in its relicensing application.

Al Willis, a Grant County resident who grew up in the Methow Valley expressed strong concern about the future of the project in light of agency decisions that have put Methow Valley water rights in peril.

“A precedent is being set and it will have an impact on us in the future,” he said, asking “Who is calling the shots?”

“The people who live in this area should have the most say, not bureaucrats in Washington D.C.,” he said, warning that if the people of Grant County don’t take a stand on relicensing and dam removal they “will be in real trouble.”

In response to a concern expressed by Ann Rogers, who farms with her husband, about competition for the license, Jones stressed the district enjoys an incumbent preferences meaning any competitors must show they can do a better job of operating the project while protecting cultural and natural resources.

Because of this, other entities cannot take the work done by the PUD and file a competing license. they must go to the expense of proving they have a better plan, she explained.

Expressing frustration felt by many members of the public in the audience. Julius Szabo of Moses Lake asked what could be done to bring salmon issues into a more realistic atmosphere.

“The importance of salmon have been blown all out of proportion. What can be done about it?” he asked, warning, “It is only a matter of time until they push to the point where they arrive at a utopia where the Columbia River goes back to a natural state where there is no room for humans.”

Larry Peterson, a former PUD manager now representing the

Port of Moses Lake, praised the foresight of the PUD commissioners who obtained the original Iicense.

“When the project was originally built it did not provide the cheapest power around. It took 20 or 25 years for the project to really become attractive, but it is critical to have if we are going to continue to grow in an orderly and diversified way. That should be strongly stated during the relicensing process,” he said.

Grant Co. Journal
Ephrata, WA
August 31, 2000

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Grant PUD Agrees To Spill More Water To Aid Endangered Salmon

Local power provider cuts deal with National Marine Fisheries Service

By Devin Proctor
The Herald

Grant County PUD finalized an agreement this week with the goal of protecting young salmon and steelhead passing through Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

Effective immediately, Grant PUD agreed to provide spill levels at its two dams that will improve the survival of young salmon and steelhead as they pass through the structures. Grant PUD reached the agreement with federal fish protection agencies and environmental interests. Grant PUD has a tentative agreement with area tribes on the spill levels. The agreement is being touted as a success.

We believe resolving the spill issue is a major milestone in salmon restoration efforts on the river in the Northwest,” Grant PUD manager of Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Doug Ancona said. “… This agreement is another important step in the process to balance the electricity needs of communities throughout the Northwest with the concern we all have for the salmon resource.

Grant PUD said this agreement resolves a conflict that has persisted over salmon passage for more than 20 years.

The National Marine Fisheries Service also said the agreement is a major breakthrough. NMFS is the lead federal agency on salmon recovery efforts.

“The hallmark of this settlement is its focus on science,” Regional Administrator for NMFS Will Stelle, said. “… This is a major achievement and represents real progress for both listed and nonlisted salmon on the mid-Columbia River.”

Upper Columbia River spring chinook and steelhead are receiving protection as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  Grant PUD said other runs of chinook and sockeye salmon, which are not listed, will benefit from this agreement.

“This is a step in the right direction for juvenile migration,” said David Sampson, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

State Agencies are also supporting the agreement.

“Grant PUD’s action is a significant step towards rebuilding Mid-Columba summer and fall chinook salmon stocks,” said Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This means increases in the number of juvenile salmon reaching the sea will translate to more adults returning to the river.”

The formal agreement provides for a portion of the river flow to be dicerted through the spillway rather than pass it through turbines to generate electricity.  The additional water passing over the spillway allows more salmon to survive passage through the dam.

The agreement will be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Grant PUD officials said FERC is expected topprove the agreement and add it to its operating license, which expires in 2005.

Stell told Grand PUD he hopes negotiations in the future will lead to a more comprehensive long-term agreement on salmon recovery.

Columbia Basin Herald
Moses Lake, WA
August 31, 2000

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PUC Approves Transfer Of Dams

By David McMechan
Pioneer

Over the objection of Jefferson County officials, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission recently approved a plan by the Warm Springs tribes and Portland General Electric jointly to own the Pelton-Round Butte.

Representing the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners at a public meeting before the PUC, Commissioner Janet Brown requested that approval of the joint-ownership plan be conditioned on an assurance that the county tax base, and those of other local taxing entities, remain stable under the new ownership arrangement.

I stated that we support the cooperation between PGE and the tribes,” Brown said. “And we are not opposed to their agreement, except for the one issue that has caused the county to intervene.”

County officials are concerned that PGE’s partial transfer of ownership in the dams may result in a decrease of up to 14 percent in tax revenue to the county.

Tribal and PGE officials have commented that this will not occur, but as yet no written assurance has been forthcoming.

Several months ago the county presented a proposed agreement to the tribes and PGE.

The proposal, if finalized, would guarantee that future revenue from the dams to the county not fall below the amount of this year’s revenue.

County officials are still hopeful that PGE and the tribes will endorse the agreement, “but I thought we would have been there by now,” Commissioner Brown commented.

Presently, the tribes and PGE are pursuing an arrangement whereby the tribes will acquire a one-third ownership interest in the Pelton-Round Butte facilities.

The dams currently are wholly owned by PGE, while the tribes own the re-regulating dam downstream from Pelton and Round Butte.

Historically, PGE has paid the tribes a percentage of annual revenue derived from operation of Pelton-Round Butte.

The dams are located half on tribal land, and the annual payment about $10 million in recent years has been to compensate the tribes for use of the land.

In calculating a property tax value for the dams, the Oregon Department of Revenue has relied on the amount of the annual payment from PGE to the tribes.

Following the proposed transfer of one-third ownership in the dams, the annual payment from PGE to the tribes would cease.

At that point, the Revenue Department calculation regarding the property tax from the dams could decline significantly, county officials have commented.

PGE currently is the single largest property taxpayer in Jefferson County, due to its ownership of the hydro facilities, which have an assessed value of nearly $180 million.

For the tax year 1999-2000, PGE paid a property tax on Pelton-Round Butte of $2,123,874, or more than 16 percent of the total county property tax.

Among Oregon counties, Jefferson is the most reliant on utilities for property tax revenue, so the future of the ownership of the dams is of obvious concern to the county.

Other taxing districts that could realize a loss in revenue from the transfer of interest in the dams are: Mountain View Hospital, Central Oregon Community College, 509-J school district, and the new Jefferson County Library District.

The county has taken the lead role in trying to ensure that future tax revenue from the dams remains intact to the local jurisdictions.

The county has hired legal counsel, Tom Nelson, who specializes in legal matters related to utilities.

Nelson, Brown and county assessor Patsy Hurn attended the recent hearing after which the Oregon PUC approved the proposed PGE-tribal joint ownership of Pelton-Round Butte.

The PUC approval does not conclude the transfer, as the agreement between the tribes and PGE must also have the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionn(FERC).

FERC will issue the license for future operation and ownership of the dams. Last year, during the time before they had reached a cooperative agreement, both the tribes and PGE filed separate applications for the licenses. Now, the two are pursuing a single application.

County denied full hearing

At the recent PUC proceeding, county officials wanted the PUC board to conduct a public hearing during which the county could present evidence regarding the impact that the Pelton-Round Butte transfer could have on local taxing districts.

However, PGE argued against such a hearing, and the PUC, determining that it lacked jurisdiction, denied the county’s request.

County officials feel the PUC narrowly construed its jurisdictional authority, but hope that FERC will allow a full hearing.

Pioneer
Madres, OR
August 30, 2000

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FERC Meeting In Soda Draws Many With Interest In Bear Lake

News-Examiner

A meeting held by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in Soda Springs Aug.17 allowed many people from Bear Lake County to voice their desire to have Bear Lake includednin the relicensing of dams along the Bear River.

The comment period for scoping ends Sep. 14. The comment period allows the public to state what they want to be studied and addressed under the environmental impact statement.

The issues involved are expected to be addressed in the draft EIS. The final EIS could come in the summer or fall of next year.

Sue O’Brien, project coordinator said the EIS is for the three dams alone but FERC will look at cumulative impacts from those operations, combined with other impacts from Stewart Dam above Bear Lake to Cutler Dam in Utah.

The impacts to be studied will include hydro, irrigation, farming and livestock uses along with water quality and quantity aquatic issues, recreational use and land management.

FERC has no control over Bear Lake. They (the FERC commissioners) have said it is for irrigation storage and releases. As it stands now, it is not part of this license,” O’Brien is quoted to have said in the Aug. 22 issue of the Caribou County Sun.

Many of the comments made at the meeting were directed towards including Bear Lake, and how it is managed, into the relicensing issue.

O’Brien said comments could and should be addressed to the commission, who previously decided releases from Bear Lake were for irrigation, not hydro generation.

Robert Eliason from Pocatello said PacifiCorp benefitted from water stored at Bear Lake and they should also be responsible for helping clean up the water from Soda Springs to Bear Lake which is very turbid in summer high flows.

Several residents and former business people irom Bear Lake County gave comments that the entire river system along with Bear Lake be looked at.

Other subjects at the FERC hearinginduded the impact of higher releases of water from Grace Dam down through Black Canyon and its effect on the Bonneville cutthroat trout that has been petitioned to be listed for protection.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game and others have asked for 300 cubic feet per second in thensummer and about half that in the winter to make that stretch more like the river it used to be before it was by-passed for power generation.

Brent Price said, “I’m appalled you people… believe UP&L only releases water for irrigation purposes, Brent Price from Montpelier is quoted as saying in the Caribou County Sun. “Water is released to produce power as well as irrigation needs, and multiple use must be considered for all of us.

Whitewater users have also asked that there be increased flows through Black Canyon on weekends in the summer for boaters and rafters.

David Styer of the Bear River Canal Company congratulated Pacificorp for their management of the river for so many different reasons, induding flood prevention, fisheries and power.

He noted priorities have changed from irrigation and power.users who originally developed the river. He said special interests were not “strong-arming the ratepayer” to pay for other uses of the water.

“The pubic changes the rules and expects the power company to pay for more of everything for the public,” he said.

Jerome Hansen from IF&G said hydro generation operations have dewatered eight miles of the river below Grace and the dams have blocked the migration of the Bonneville cutthroat.

Fish and game does not agree with weekend whitewater flows in the summer, but agrees that flows in the spring to mimic a natural river could be increased.

Marv Hoyt of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition said their interest was the ecological restoration of the river. He said Bear River, according to their studies, has a great potential for restoration of native species such as the Bonneville cutthroat.

Hoyt is quoted as saying, “PacifiCorp needs to take the responsibility for the last 70 years ratepayers’ pay. I’m a ratepayer PacifiCorp must pay its own way for a public resource, Hoyt said.

Burke, the power company’s representative at the meeting responded that 5,000 irrigators benefit from the river system and there have already been enough studies done. He noted the $8 million mitigation money they have committed to, and the fact the dams provide low cost renewable power as among the reasons to relicense the projects.

“Until Bonneville cutthroat are found, we don’t feel it is appropriate to build a fish passage,” he said about comments that chastised the company for not being more active in fish reintroduction in the stretches below and between dams.

News-Examiner
Montpelier, ID
August 30, 2000

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Power Struggle

Northwest aluminum industry fears it is being cast aside by electricity suppliers

By Mike Rogoway
Columbian

Vancouver got a Christmas present from the federal government in 1939. On Dec. 24, Alcoa announced it would build a $3 million aluminum smelter in the Vancouver lake lowlands. Alcoa’s news meant hundreds of jobs, welcome relief in Depression-era Vancouver.

Nothing Can Stop Vancouver Now,” civic leaders proclaimed in a Christmas Day headline in The Columbian.

Alcoa’s Vancouver smelter was the first of 10 built in the Northwest to take advantage of cheap hydropower from Bonneville Power Administration. Aluminum became an economic engine in the Northwest, which produces 40 percent of all the aluminum made in the United States.

Now, though, some wonder if time is passing the Northwest aluminum industry by.

“At the end of the day it’s difficult because a lot of these smelters were built in the ’40s,” said Julien Garran, a london aluminum analyst who recenfly authored a report on the Northwest industry’s problems. Garran said many of the region’s smelters are relatively inefficient and expensive to operate.

“It’s difficult to justify the continued existence of high cost capacity,” he said.

The Vancouver smelter, now a private company called Vanalco, closed four of its fivenproduction lines last June after a sudden, dramatic spike in wholesale electricity prices. Three other Northwest smelters followed, either closing or cutting back production. In all, 1,400 workers were laid off.

The power crunch brought to boil a long-simmering dispute over the region’s power needs and the aluminum industry’s power demands. Aluminum and BPA grew up together, but now power demands are rising and pressure is mounting over dams’ effect on salmon.

To cope, BPA wants to take a step away from aluminum. Next year it plans to sharply reduce the amount of cheap hydropower it supplies to aluminum smelters.

Northwest aluminum producers claim their facilities remain vital and competitive. They complain that BPA is turning its back on the industry it spawned 60 years ago, at the expense of the companies and the 6,500 people who work at Northwest smelters.

“There’s nothing wrong with the aluminum industry in the Northwest except power cost,” said Brett Wilcox, who runs independent smelters in Goldendale and The Dalles, Ore. “And if we were treated like another industry … we would have no other problems.”

How We Got Here

After it began damming the Northwest’s rivers in the 1930s, the federal government needed customers for its expensive, expansive system of hydropower projects. The electricity-intensive aluminum industry was a natural fit and the cheap power those dams produced sustained the Northwest aluminum industry for decades.

Electricity is a fundamental ingredient in aluminum, typically accounting for a third of the total production cost Vanalco’s plant capacity is about 230 megawatts, roughly half the power consumption of all the rest of Clark County.

Northwest aluminum was key to aviation in World War II, and today the region’s aluminum is used for everything from airplanes to soda cans to automobiles.

Demand for aluminum continues to grow but two power-related problems confront the industry in the Northwest. The immediate problem is the sudden, dramatic rise in wholesale energy prices triggered by the deregulated power market in California.

Many smelters stopped relying on BPA power in the 1990s, instead buying market power from the, same energy suppliers that provide electricity to California. When prices went up there, the smelters felt it here. For some, including Vanalco, it was too much and they had to cut back or shut down.

The second problem is more fundamental and long term. The aluminum smelters once were the only year-round customers BPA could depend on, but after power cables were built linking the Northwest with California, BPA had other, more lucrative options for its electricity.

The aluminum industry consumes a fifth of BPAs entire power output but demand for that power is growing from other customers. At the same time, BPAs output is being limited by growing concern over the effect of hydropower on endangered salmon in Northwest rivers.

So beginning next year, BPA plans to reduce the power it supplies to the smelters by almost 25 percent. That means that even those aluminum companies that continued to rely on BPA will be exposed to the wholesale market, putting them at risk if this summer’s power crisis repeats itself in the future.

What’s Next?

The aluminum companies charge that BPA is taking advantage of its unique relationship with the aluminum smelters to give its other customers a price break. They say BPA is artificially – and illegally – subsidizing low power rates for other Northwest customers by selling electricity to California.

“They’re clearly forbidden from selling outside the region if there is a market for the power here,” said Paul Murphy, a Portland attorney who has represented various Northwest aluminum companies for 16 years. “They’re not a profit-making entity.”

Vanalco, Alcoa and others have asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to force BPA to set aside more cheap power for Northwest smelters. Bynselling “surplus” power to California, the smelters charge that BPA is violating federal laws that give Northwest customers preference for BPA electricity.

BPA already has offered some Northwest smelters more electricity, but at the high rate it charges to California customers. The power agency acknowledges that Northwest aluminum smelters have first claim to that electricity, but say that preference applies only to supply, not price.

It will be months before the federal court rules, but early indications don’t give the industry much hope. In July, the court summarily rejected an emergency appeal from Vanalco, and even aluminum’s advocates doubt the appeals court has the will to intervene.

“My own sense is that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is more or less unwilling to try and get Bonneville to do anything,” Murphy said.

So the aluminum companies are looking for alternatives. One option is public pressure. last week the smelters released an industry-funded study that pegged aluminum’s total contribution to Washington’s economy at $4.4 billion.

“The aluminum industry has a 60-year commitment to the Northwest and we provide an awful lot of high-wage jobs in rural parts of the state,” said SharonnKanareff of Alcoa.

Responding to the aluminum crisis, BPA convened a study group to assess the smelters’ viability and longterm power needs. The power agency says it would be open to helping the aluminum companies finance construction of new generators, and might also help them buy additional power on the wholesale market.

In setting guidelines for the study group, however, BPA ruled out changing its new rate and power allocation plan that cuts back on smelters’ electricity supply. If BPA undertakes a costly effort to help the smelters, there is concern about how it would affect the agency’s other customers.

“Other industrial, residential and commercial customers would all like to get some extra power right now,” said Dave Warren, assistant director of Washington state’s Office of Trade and Economic Development. “We have a limited source of power. Do we direct it now to the smelters to help the bottom line, or do we get more economic value by directing it to some other customers?”

The BPA study also will look at whether some smelters are too old to make effective use of BPA electricity.

“I think the group wants to look at the efficiency of the various smelters compared to other smelters,” Warren said. “If they’re an older, inefficient smelter, are we kind of throwing away the power?”

When Alcoa closed its Troutdale, Ore., smelter in June, the company said it would not consider reopening it until it could justify the “large capital expenditures” needed for modernization. But aluminum companies maintain that other smelters are extremely competitive.

Vanalco has made continual improvements to keep its plant modem. Brett Wilcox, who runs the smelters in Goldendale and The Dalles said his company has done the same.

“In terms of efficiency, they are not significantly less expensive or more costly (than smelters elsewhere),” he said. “We will do what it takes to continue to be competitive.”

The Outlook

Eventually, aluminum industry leaders and observers believe the Northwest power market will sort itself out.

“I think we’re just in a transition, and some of the (aluminum companies’) management has been caught flat-footed, frankly,” said Robin Adams, an aluminum analyst who recently moved to the Northwest. “What this crisis might do, hopefully, is it might trigger some change here.”

New electric generators will be built. Adams said, and the region will be less vulnerable to wild swings in the cost of electricity. However, he said Northwest electricity will not be the bargain it used to be.

Aluminum companies will likely rely on fixed contracts from Bonneville as a baseline, Adams said, supplemented by wholesale power at times it is affordable. He said smelters will start and stop production based on price swings in the power market

“I think that it could be fairly healthy to have some swing capacity in the aluminum industry,” Adams said.

Unwilling to swing on unpredictable market prices, aluminum companies are taking matters into their own hands and promoting new power generation.

Vanalco told employees last month that it is exploring a number of power deals with energy providers that want to build new generators. Wilcox, who runs the smelters in Goldendale and The Dalles, wants to build a new gas-fired generator in Goldendale dedicated entirely to meeting the power needs of his two smelters.

The generator would give the smelters a measure of independence from both BPA and the fluctuating power market. But Wilcox needs BPA’s help to get it done. He said he needs the federal agency’s assistance financing the project, and wants commitments that BPA will buy any unused power from the Goldendale power plant.

Moving ahead on the generator is the key to keeping the smelters open in Goldendale and The Dalles, according to Wilcox. With a long-term power supply on the horizon he said his company can keep operating until it’s available. Without it, prospects are uncertain.

“There are no assurances, and to some extent it depends on what Bonneville does or doesn’t do,” Wilcox said. “If they assist in our generating project I don’t think it’ll happen to us. If they decline to do that I think we’ll have some real problems.”

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
August 27, 2000

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Power Council Hopes Draft Change Helps Wildlife, People

By Michael Lancaster
Capital Press

SALEM – The Northwest Power Planning Council wants the public in 53 subbasins to help it direct millions of dollars to projects to lessen the effects that the federal hydropower system has on fish and wildlife throughout the Columbia River Basin.

Right now the public has a chance to make input at the local level,” said Larry Cassidy, the council’s Vancouver, Wash.-based chairman. “By far; that’s a better proposal than having the feds come in with (Endangered Species Act) enforcement and require, without compensation, those things which will have to be done anyway.

In a newly released draft revision of the council’s fish and wildlife program, goals and strategies are proposed that would eventually guide efforts in dealing with hatcheries, hydropower; harvest and habitat. The council is seeking comments until Sept. 22 on how to improve the proposal, the first phase of which should be finalized in October.

The council consists of two governor-appointed members from each of the Columbia River Basin states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. It was created in 1980 when the U.S. Congress passed the Northwest Power Act. The act requires the council “to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife … while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.”

As part of its duties, the council makes recommendations to the Bonneville Power Administration on how to spend an average of $127 million dollars a year of electricity ratepayer money through the fish and wildlife program. According to Steve Wright, BPAs vice president of national relations, as much as $720 million in all could be available for BPA’s various programs, depending on the outcome of the 2000 power rate case.

The new proposal, built from feedback from many agencies and interest groups, suggests using hatcheries more to help rebuild naturally spawning populations, improving fish passage at the dams, increasing harvest where appropriate and further studying the effect of ocean conditions on salmonids. It also proposes the creation of a trust or separate fund for habitat and water acquisitions.

Primarily a habitat program, the proposal also 8uggests building habitat plans locally on a subbasin level and holding them up to a single basin-wide, science-based standard, or “vision.” It lists biological objectives needed to obtain the vision and locally implemented strategies to accomplish the objectives.

“It will be a Herculean effort, but once we get it done it will be better organized and ultimately will help us find a better way to spend the ratepayer’s money,” Cassidy said.

“Over the years there’s been a huge amount of money spent and I don’t believe we have much to show for it.”

The new idea will first assess the current conditions and biological potential of each of the 53 subbasins by amassing data already available. A lot of data has already been gathered for other project through a variety of local organizations, Lohn said. The council hopes to complete the assessments by December.

“We know they won’t be perfect, but they will give us a good initial picture of the local conditions,” Lohn said.

Council staff will then run the assessments through a broadly supported scientific program called Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment, Lohn said. EDT evaluates current ecological conditions, changes likely to result from different management actions and how different species will respond to those actions. That process should be done by January, 2001, Lohn said.

The council will then transfer the resulting information to “whomever is interested in developing sub-basin plans” that reflect EDT’s findings, Lohn said.

The plans, hoped to be from 10 to 15 years in duration, would later be presented to the council for finding proposals. The council wants to build from the subbasins’ strengths and “connect up from there, restoring ecosystems, not species,” Lohn said.

Since there may be differences of local opinion about the form of the subbasin plans, the council will decide within a year which one to adopt, Lohn said.

“We think that will encourage action because inaction is really not an option,” he said. “Undoubtedly, what we want is broad local support, but even where there isn’t, the law requires the council to act.”

The idea is to coordinate the council’s funding actions with every other effort taking place in each subbasin. “We don’t want to duplicate efforts,” Cassidy said. The remaining phases of the plan should be implemented by the end of 2001, alter further public scrutiny, Lohn said.

The council’s program was frequently cited in a salmon recovery guide released recently by the governors of the four states. Elements, such as incorporation of a new hatchery strategy and creation of a “water broker,” have also been applauded by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Ric Ilgenfritz, NMFS’ Columbia River Basin coordinator, said NMFS likes how the program looks so far. He added that a goal is to bring it and the individual plans in line with the ESA, but that more work is needed to make that happen.

Lohn and many of the council members expressed optimism that the revised program can bridge the gaps and help everyone better protect fish and wildlife.

Capital Press
Salem, OR
August 25, 2000

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The Northwest Is Crying For Power

BPA, usually a supplier, finds itself buying electricity

By Eric Barker
The Tribune

Last week, the Bonneville Power Administration was making all of its surplus power available to California.

This week the agency is in need of a little help itself and is purchasing surplus electricity from the Golden State.

Low river flows have pushed the Northwest’s energy system, which relies largely on hydropower, to the edge of its capacity. Officials at the power administration have been on the verge of declaring a power emergency that would end fish-friendly spill regimes at Snake and Columbia river dams in favor of power generation.

The agency Monday asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Control Center to draft Dworshak Reservoir, Grand Coulee Dam and Lake Pend Oreille below their minimum summer levels and to reduce spill for fish in the Lower Columbia River.

The corps balked at drawing down further the reservoir and lake levels, but did temporarily reduce the amount of water being spilled at The Dalles and Bonneville dams. If the agency, which markets federal power generated in the Northwest, does declare an emergency it would have greater authority to implement measures aimed at generating more power.

If we do declare an emergency, we will likely interrupt fish spill again and draft the reservoirs harder than we would otherwise,” said Robyn MacKay, BPA manager for operations and planning at Portland.

“We try to minimize it to the extent possible, but obviously our goal is to keep the lights on.”

Michelle DeHart of the Fish Passage Center said if spill ends it will have a negative effect on juvenile fish that are still in the river.

“It means higher mortality in the lower river, of course, because more fish will be going through the powerhouse.”

The corps did stop spilling water at Dworshak Dam in favor of putting as much water through the dam’s turbines as possible. That has reduced outflows there from 14,000 cubic feet per second to 10,600 cfs. That could help some late migrating smolts and Clearwater steelhead anglers by extending the drawdown of Dworshak Reservoir that was on target to reach the cut-off elevation of 1,520 or 80 feet below full pool this week.

Now the dam will continue to operate at full powerhouse capacity until sometime around the end of the month.

The state of Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission had pushed the federal agencies and downriver states to save some of Dworshak’s cool water for late migrants and returning adult steelhead and fall chinook. Those efforts were rejected.

Kyle Martin, a hydrologist with the Intertribal Fish Commission, said the salmon managers from Oregon, Washington and the federal agencies may ask for an additional 20 feet of water from Dworshak at today’s technical management team meeting in Portland. The team is a group of state, federal and tribal biologists that meets weekly to advise the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and BPA on salmon migration issues.

That move is not supported by Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe or the Intertribal Fish Commission.

MacKay said BPA avoided declaring an emergency earlier this week when the agency was able to purchase power from California. If temperatures rise in either the Northwest or California, the system could be pushed to the edge again. But she said the region is not facing the threat of rolling brownouts.

A little over a week ago, BPA officials said outflows from Grand Coulee Dam on the middle Columbia River could not be increased to help fish because of a presidential order to make all surplus power available to California.

Todd Maddock of Lewiston, one of two Idaho representatives on the Northwest Power Planning Council, said the council has directed its staff to prepare a report detailing why the system has been pushed to the edge this summer.

A report released last year predicted a one-in-four chance of future brownouts, but Maddock said those were expected to hit in the winter months instead of the summer.

He said part of the problem stems from the fact no new sources of power generation have been built in the Northwest for the past five years while at the same time populations have increased. And energy-dependent high-tech industries have joined aluminum companies, pulp and paper plants and chemical companies in needing high volumes of power.

“It’s a situation where you have no cushion of additional capacity to meet peak requirements that occur under extreme conditions,” said Maddock.

Fish friendly operation of Snake and Columbia river dams is costing about 1,000 megawatts a year, he said. Breaching the four lower Snake River dams, an unlikely proposition for at least the next 10 years, would cost another 1,200 megawatts.

Deregulation of the power industry has added to the problem, he said, and made some power producers hesitant to invest in new sources of energy. One prospect for a new power source is plants that utilize turbine engines fueled by natural gas.

“They can produce power as efficiently as you can find right now,” he said. “And it’s relatively clean in terms of fossil fuels.”

But the rest of the country is experiencing increasing power needs as well and electric rates are higher in places like New England and the South, according to Maddock. That means prospective investors would likely put their money in those areas first.

In addition to that, Maddock said the companies that manufacture the natural gas turbines are backordered for several years.

“There is no quick way to turn this around by new generation,” he said. “It is a challenging time.”

The Tribune
Lewiston, ID
August 24, 2000

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Prices Push Energy Into Campaign

As electricity and natural gas prices climb in the Northwest candidates may make them top issues

By Dave Hogan
The Oregonian

As vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney makes his first Oregon campaign stop today, the region’s rising electricity and natural gas prices are making energy issues one of the Northwest battlegrounds in this year’s presidential race.

Democrats such as Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon say Republican candidate George Bush and running mate Cheney will be more sympathetic to oil companies than to consumers when it comes to addressing high prices and other energy problems facing the region.

But Sen. Gordon Smith and other Republicans counter that Bush and Cheney’s experience in the oil business has prepared them to manage the nation’s energy policy more effectively than Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who have presided over some of the steepest oil and natural gas price increases in many years.

We’re living under their policy today,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. “The highest gas prices, and soon-to-be record natural gas pnces is not a very consumer friendly approach to energy.”

Neither side disputes that some of the clearest differences between the Bush and Gore camps are on energy policy.

Cheney’s visit to Medford and Portland comes just days after Northwest Natural Gas and Portland General Electric told regrulators they would ask for double-digit rate increases because of rising energy costs. And in the past year, Oregon has had some of the highest gasoline prices in the country.

At the same tirne, Oregonians want to know more about the candidates’ positions on energy issues. In interviews with officials, activists and experts knowledable about Northwest energy, many said they are waiting to hear where the candidates stand on issues such as electricity deregulation and proposals to change how the Bonneville Power Administration and other federal power marketing agencies sell electricity.

“We need to hear a lot more about dam breaching and salmon and (federal power marketing agencies) and what both sides intend to do with those,” said Sandra Flicker, executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “I understand Oregon is going to be sort of a bellwether, and we’re probably going to get a lot of attention, so I think we’ll hear a lot about it.”

Even without this year’s energy price headlines, Democrats probably would have attacked Bush and Cheney’s oil industry careers as part of this year’s campaign.

Bush made his early money in the oil business in Texas. Cheney retired this month after five years as chairman and chief executive officer of Halliburton Co., one of the world’s largest oil engineering and services firm based in Texas.

Democrats say Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, will fight for consumers and against oil companies, but they say the Republicans’ oil backgrounds, plus the high contributions from the oil industry, suggest they will stay on the side of oil companies.

As of late June, the Bush campaign had received $1.5 milllon from major oil companies, and Gore had taken in less than $100,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Smith scoffs at that notion, citing the Gore family’s investements in Occidental Petroleum. “What he does and says are at crosspurposes and hypocritical,” Smith said.

Smith said Gore opposes expanding U.S. oil production even though U.S. dependence on foreign oil has increased during the Clinton-Gore administration. Bush, on the other hand, would increase domestic production while stressing conservation, Smith said.

Bush and Gore have opposite positions on several energy issues.

Generally, in trying to balance the economic and environmental demands of energy production, Gore places more emphasis on environmental protection, while Bush favors using natural resources while looking for ways to minimize environmental damage.

So, in places like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is protected from development, Bush supports opening the reguge to oil drilling. Gore opposes oil exploration there.

Bush strongly opposes breaching four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River to help salmon, citing the importance of the electricity to the Northwest economy. The four dams produce roughly enough power to supply Seattle’s needs.

Gore has said the government should continue studying dam breaching. But the Clinton administration – particularly Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt – has supported dam removal around the country as a way to benefit rivers and wildlife.

But perhaps the biggest energy issue facing the Northwest is the future of BPA, which supplies more than 40 percent of the Northwest’s electricity.

Proposals in Congress would require the BPA and other federal power marketing agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority to sell power at market rates rather than at current rates, which are based on the much lower cost of producing the power. BPA estimates that Northwest electricity prices would increase by at least a third if the legislation were to become law.

Neither Bush nor Gore have spelled out their positions on the proposals, according to their campaigns.

Smith said he hasn’t discussed BPA electricity pricing with Bush, but he will in the future. And although Bush generally has supported market-oriented energy pricing, Smith said he does not expect any problem convincing Bush of the importance of the low-cost BPA power to the Northwest.

Democrats counter that Gore, being from the home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, would be more sympathectic to the Northwest’s position. Even on the issues where Bush and Gore have spelled out there general positions, Oregonians such as Bob Jenks, executive director of the Oregon Citizens Utility Board, say they want to hear more specifics.

While Gore mentioned global warming during his speech at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles last week, for instance, he didn’t say anything more about what he would do about it.

“I’d rather hear proposals than buzzwords,” Jenks said.

Flicker, whose association represents 17 rural electric cooperatives supplying power to about 275,000 Oregonians, said this week’s news that the BPA is struggling to keep up with power demands is alarming.

If the power supply problems worsen, on top of the news of high prices for gasoline, electricity and natural gas, that will only increase the public interest, she said.

“I think it’s going to turn into some pretty heavy duty campaign issues,” Flicker said.

The Oregonian
Portland, OR
August 24, 2000

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A Seller’s Market In Kilowatts

BPA’s deep pockets may help us dodge a power emergency this summer, but more supply is needed soon.

Editorial
Oregonian

The Bonneville Power Administration usually holds most of the trump cards when it comes to wheeling and dealing in the volatile West Coast energy market. But this week, the federal power marketing agency is getting a taste of how the other half lives – buying large blocks of energy in a seller’s market.

It costs a lot of money – a lot more than anyone has been used to paying over the last 20 years – and it drains the agency’s financial reserves.

What we’re seeing throughout the West, especially in Califomia, is a paradigm shift in the energy market. The surplus in supply that has been the rule for 15 years is gone. Spikes in demand have actually exceeded the West’s ability to meet them, resulting in skyrocketing spot prices.

This has caused an unexpected spiral in energy prices of all kinds – natural gas, electricity, oil and gasoline.

Northwest energy planners need to think seriously about building some new power plants and about promoting aggressively energy conservation.

To avoid declaring a power emergency Tuesday, the BPA spent $5.7 million on the open market for 1,350 megawatts of energy. That’s enough energy to serve a city the size of Seattle.

That price was about five times higher than what Northwest utilities were paying for electricity at this time last year. What was most surprising to BPA traders, though, was how much electricity is for sale in the West if you’re willing to pay outrageous prices for it.

Tuesday’s transaction demonstrated the market power of the independent energy producers, many of whom have longed for the day when energy deregulation in California and elsewhere would bring about these kind of supply-demand conditions.

Those kinds of conditions, however, put a lot of pressure on an agency such as BPA that is obligated to finance a variety of public purposes, such as salmon recovery programs, out of its wholesale power sales. During these crunch times, BPA must either pay whatever price the market will bear for electricity, or beg customers to conserve. Failing that, it must abandon its fish-recovery effort.

Had BPA, for instance, not found the 1,350 megawatts Tuesday, it would have had to spill less water over John Day and Bonneville dams to help young salmon migrate to the sea.

This conflict between power demands and fish needs will continue to fester as long as energy demand exceeds supply.

That is not an acceptable outcome for a region that already has spent billions of dollars over the past 10 years in efforts to restore salmon runs.

But continuing to pay five times the normal price for electricity on the open market is not an acceptable alternative either.

We need to go back to the future, to the late 1970s, which is the last time Northwest energy planners were requlred to think seriously about energy supply deficits, about rolling brownouts, about the escalating energy bills – and about increasing energy supply.

The Oregonian
Portland, OR
August 24, 2000

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Rules Underlie Energy Prices

Utility commission’s focus on deregulation misses the mark, Ore. farm leaders say

By Ed Merriman
Capital Press

SALEM – Farm leaders point to rising energy costs and see a cause and effect link between multi-billion dollar salmon recovery programs and environmental regulations limiting water use and power plant construction projects.

Regulators at the Oregon Public Utility Commission this week looked at the phenomenon to determine whether there’s a connection between deregulation of electric utilities and wholesale suppliers like Bonneville Power Administration with power price spikes earlier this summer.

No matter what the cause, higher electricity costs may be the straw that breaks the backs of many farmers, ranchers and food processors, said Lynne Chamberlain-Buchanan, chairman of the Oregon Wheat Growers League environment and energy committee.

If farmers can’t afford to pay for power to run their irrigation pumps, what does that say for the future of agriculture,” said Chamberlain-Buchanan.

Without irrigation water, the diversity of Northwest agricultural production would be lost and few farms could produce anything but wheat and a handful of other grain crops, she said.

Earlier this summer when a power shortage hit California, Northwest companies and residents felt the pain when California utilities bid up the wholesale price charged bygenerators, including the Bonneville Power Administration, from $25 a megawatt hour to $1,000.

When that happened, electricity that would have normally gone to run farm irrigation systems, food processing plants and lumber mills was shipped to the highest bidder instead. That, turned out to be California utilities in some cases, said Chamberlain-Buchanan, whose family farms in the Milton-Freewater area in Eastern Oregon.

“Competition for power in California is definitely affecing Northwest rates. I know our rates have gone up substantially the past year,” she said.

In Washington, a Georgia Pacific lumber mill that’s one of a handful of firms in the Northwest that buys power on the spot market, was forced to shut down and lay off 400 workers because it couldn’t afford to pay the higher rates, Chamberlain-Buchanan said. Ron Eachus, Oregon PUCnchairman, said the Aug. 14 commission meeting was the first step in an effort to get a handle on what’s causing volatile price spikes in electric and natural gas wholesale markets.

“We are entering a period of unusual volatility and higher wholesale energy costs. We need an explanation of what’s been happening and its implications for Oregon consumers,” Eachus said.

Part of the commission’s investigation is focused on the effects of deregulation provisions Senate Bill 1149 passed by the 1999 Oregon Legislature.

However, Mark Steele, an engineer and energy expert at Norpac Foods co-op headquartered in Stayton, Ore., cited a combination of economic growth and rising demand for power, coupled with salmon-related dam modifications that cut electricity output. Another factor is regulatory roadblocks to power plant construction.

“You have to understand the motivation of the power companies. Utilities don’t want deregulation, therefore they are pointing the finger at deregulation. They want to maintain their monopoly,” Steele said.

Capital Press
Salem, OR
August 18, 2000

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Mac Sees Good Thing Washing Away

Years of participation in Columbia River dams likely coming to an end

By Pat Forgey
News-Register

McMinnville has had a good thing going for a long time through its ownership of a sliver of two Columbia River hydropower projects – Priest Rapids and Wanapum in Washington’s Grant County.

In fact, it’s such a good thing it’s unlikely to continue, as McMinnville and its partners in the dam’s construction appear set to go their separate ways.

McMinnville’s decision to participate in Priest Rapids entitles it to a share of the project’s power at the cost of production rather than market rates.

ln today’s world, that’s the lowest cost power out there,” said John Harshman, general manager of McMinnville Water & Light.

The utility’s officials say their surveys tend to show McMinnville’s power rates are the lowest or near-lowest in the state, even compared to those of other utilities benefiting from cheap BPA power.

The city’s BPA power is costing it 22 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour, and other power being sold on the open market is several times that. By contrast, the Grant County power is costing the city only 11 or 12 cents, helping keep rates exceptionally low.

“It’s been a great deal,” Harshman said.

McMinnville’s share of the Pnest Rapids project is small, only 1.2 percent. And the project provides less than 10 percent of McMinnville’s power.

But Harshman said its importance should not be underestimated. “I’m the one percent guy and I’m happy to be there,” he said.

Back in 1955, when tiny Grant County began trying to figure out how to take advantage of its prime location on the Columbia River, it didn’t have the resources to build dams itself. So private providers and five public utilities – McMinnville, Forest Grove, MiltonFreewater and Eugene in Oregon and Cowlitz County in Washington joined in financing the project in exchange for two-thirds of its output.

Grant County got a 50-year federal license to build and operate the project. A few years later, it used the same approach to build nearby Wanapum.

But its licenses for those projects are set to expire in 2005 and 2009, respectively. And the valuable power generation resources they represent are much in demand.

Legal tussling between multiple parties over the right for a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license on the projects has resulted in a federal court ruling in favor of the Grant County PUD.

Water & Light officials say that means the PUD can exclude its former partners and sell the low-cost power they once enjoyed at whatever the market will bear.

“This decision assures us that Grant County residents will receive the full economic benefit of owning and operating these dams into the next licensing period after 2005,” PUD Manager Don Godard told the Grant County Journal.

The PUD still has to go through the relicensing process, an involved and expensive undertaking.

Harshman said it is seeking partners to help it through the process, but the terms it is offering aren’t attractive. “They’re trying to keep more of the resource,” he said.

McMinnville is part of what’s known as the Purchaser’s Group, which has formally organized to represent the interests of Grant County’s partners.

Members of the group have signed confidentiality agreements that prevent them from talking about their negotiating strategy.

However, – Harshman said it is likely McMinnville will be losing its access to Grant County power. “Our current view is that as the licenses expire in 2005 and 2009, our current arrangements will terminate and we’ll no longer be participants,” he said.

Despite the failure of its legal efforts, the Purchaser’s Group is pursuing other options, including submitting its own application to operate the dams and trying to wrest control away from Grant County.

Other competing applications are possible as well, including one from the Yakama tribe. But even if one of them were successful, the new operator would probably have to pay Grant County for the dams, warned Water & Light attorney Dave Haugeberg.

News-Register
McMinville, OR
August 17, 2000

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Bureau Begins Weaning GCD From Diesel Generators

By Brian Gawley
Grand Coulee Star

The Bureau took the first step towards getting Grand Coulee Dam back on its own power last week following the July 28 fire.

Early last week, the Left Powerhouse was taken off one of the bigger diesel generators powering it since the fire, said Craig Sprankle from the Bureau of Reclamation.

It is a step forward to get back on our own power,” Sprankle said.

The switch from diesel generators to regular power means some of the Left Powerhouse’s nine generators could have been back online late last week, Sprankle said.

Sprankle said some 6,900-volt switching gear arrived Wed. Aug. 9. so, hopefully more generators in the Left Powerhouse will be back on line the week of Aug. 14-18.

When the new equipment is installed, the Bureau will restart some of the Left Powerhouse’s generators so they can produce more power.

Getting off some of the diesel generators will help with power generation but not the Banks Lake situation, he said. Banks Lake has dropped 0.2 feet a day since the fire shut off the pumps which fill the lake from the Columbia River.

Banks Lake will be refilled once all the dam’s 24 generators are operating again.

However, the new equipment will be set up in a temporary location and wired into the Left Powerhouse until the damaged equipment is removed at some future date. The Bureau has no estimate when the dam will be fully operational again.

The fire shut down 16 of the dam’s 24 generators. The Left Powerhouse’s nine generators remained out of service last week.

The Right Powerhouse’s nine generators were restored to service the day after the fire. The Third Powerhouse’s six generators remained in service after the fire.

The dam has 15 generators available and operating. Last Wednesday afternoon the dam was producing 4,700 megawatts.

The full capacity with the available generators is about 5,000nmegawatts. The dam’s full operating capacity is 6,800 megawatts.

Grand Coulee Star
Grand Coulee, WA
August 16, 2000

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Gorton: BCS Needs Freedom To Buy Power

Politics: Legislation would let government crack down on price manipulators

By John Stark
The Bellingham Herald

Sen. Slade Gorton praised Gov. Gary Locke’s response to the energy price crunch facing Bellingham Cold Storage Tuesday, but he said the company still needs a longterm source of affordable electric power.

During short visit to Bellingham, Gorton held discussions with BCS President Doug Thomas and officials from seafood processing companies that lease the company’s facilities. Also present were representatives of Georgia-Pacific West Inc. and Mayor Mark Asmundson.

Gorton, a Republican, said Bellingham Cold Storage is now getting a 30-day break on its power costs as the result of what he called highly constructive intervention” from Locke, a Democrat.

Last week, Locke signed an emergency order allowmg Avista Corp. to operate a 60-megawatt gas-fired power plant around the clock. Sales of power from that plant provide Avista with a revenue source to cover any losses resulting from the sale of a hedge policy to Bellingham Cold Storage. The hedge policy insures Bellingham Cold Storage against the surging electricity prices that have afflicted many Northwest industries this summer.

Gorton said the only long term solution is to provide Bellingham Cold Storage with the legal freedom to purchase power from sources besides Puget Sound Energy. And he contended the underlying reason for the power price crunch is insufficient powernproduction in the West situation that makes it “folly” to talk of removing Snake River dams to save salmon.

Gorton said he hoped his Electric Reliability Act which has already passed the Senate, will clear the House and be signed into law by the president by the end of October.

Among other things, the legislation would empower the federal govemment to keep tabs on wholesale energy markets and crack down on price manipulators. Some have argued that price manipalators, as much as genuine shortages, have been to blame for recent power price gyrations.

He also said that Congress is nowhere near passing national legislation to force deregulation of retail electric power sales in states like Washington that have so far kept their regulatory systems in place.

If that day comes, Gorton said, lawmakers. need to make certain that Northwest consumers will have more choices and lower prices for electric power.

In California, the state that is leading the way on deregulation, it hasn’t worked out that way. In recent weeks, san Diego residents paying deregulated prices have seen power bills triple, and some consumer groups are advising homeowners to refuse to pay the bills.

In Washington state, Puget SoundEnergy residential customers still are paying rates controlled by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. But Bellingham Cold Storage and G-P pay a variable rate that reflects market prices.

“I’m not in the business of telling the state of Washington what to do,” Gorton said. But he added that he was “disappointed” that the utilities commission has not acted to help Bellingham Cold Storage and other industries find affordable power sources.

Instead, the three-member commission recently ruled that Bellingharn Cold Storage and G-P were not entitled to immediate relief, because they committed themselves to take the risk of market rates when they signed special power supply contracts with Puget Sound Energy in 1996.

“If I were on the commission, I would be doing evervthing I could do to provide relief,” Gorton said.

Bellingham Cold Storage and G-P are in the final year of their five-year power supply contracts with Puget that commits them to pay a power rate pegged to prices on volatile spot markets. That spot market rate was attractive for the companies until this summer, when California heat waves and unexpected generator shutdowns sent prices into the stratosphere. During the worst of the price surge, G-P ordered a three-day mill shutdown, and curtailments at Bellingham Cold Storage idled hundreds of fish processing workers.

After Tuesday’s meeting and a few questions from reporters, Gorton toured the Squalicum Harbor cold storage plant and watched workers processing sockeye salmon and Alaskan halibut.

Thomas, the plant president, said he is using the 30-day power price hedge to try to negotiate some kind of longer-term deal that would provide the company with stable power costs for the next three to five years.

Bellingham Cold Storage’s facilities provide an essential service to many fish processors and agricultural processors in the region.

Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, WA
August 16, 2000

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Be Ready For A Lake Tapps Poll Call

Task force has hired Gallup Organization to determine what people want done about lake

By Rob Tucker
The News-Tribune

The task force trying to save Lake Tapps has a message for people living around the lake: don’t hang up when the pollster calls.

The Gallup Organization will begin a telephone poll of residents in the Lake Tapps area next week or soon after. The pollsters will ask people’s feelings about the lake; should it be saved and how that should be done.

The Lake Tapps Task Force will use the poll results to help decide what to propose to federal officials to keep the lake.

Task force members and others believe few people want to see the lake disappear.

Nobody wants the plug pulled on their lifestyle and what they worked for,” said Karen Buckley, a representative of Friends of Lake Tapps, a homeowners group that participates on the task force. “Listen and answer the questions honestly~”

The task force formed in April 1999, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placed requirements on a power license for Puget Sound Energy Co.’s White River Hydroelectric Project.

PSE, which owns the lake, said those requirements and new federal demands to save endangered white River fish will cost roughly $60 million over 20 years. PSE talked about not accepting the 50-year federal license. If that occurred, the federal government would force retirement of the hydroelectric project that generates 35 megawatts ofelectricity and serves up to 35,000 homes. The project includes a diversion dam on the White River at Buckley, canals and pipelines to deliver the water about seven miles to Lake Tapps, and a power generation plant in Sumner below the lake.

If the company retired the project, the 89-year-old lake would evaporate.

If that occurred, property values for the 2,000 lakefront homes would drop by about a third, according to county estimates. Property values of another 5,000 homes near thenlake also might drop.

County officials once estimated the loss in property tax revenue at more than $500,000 to the county and other taxing districts, including fire and school districts in the area.

But PSE, a stockholder-owned utility, said it was willing to work with homeowners, government officials and others in the task force to save the lake and operate the hydroelectric project profitably. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed in July 1999 to delay enforcing licensing requirements for two years, pending the task force deliberations.

Since its formation, the task force has been working to save the lake and inform resindents. The group could recommend: forming a taxing district around the lake to help PSE make up losses; having the state purchase the lake; allowing PSE to sell lake water to raise money; or public ownership of the hydroelectric project by the City of Bonney Lake, or some other public entity.

The task force held community meetings last May, made a television program, placed a special information section in some editions of The News Tribune on Tuesday, and now plans to poll residents to meet federal requirements.

“It’s required that we communicate with the stake holders,” said Pierce County Councilwoman Jan Shabro, a Lake Tapps resident and co-chairwoman of the task force.

The poll cost $106,000. The Army Corps of Engineers, Pierce County, PSE and homeowners associations helped finance the poll. Results should be available to the task force in mid-October.

It’s important that people answer the telephone poll questions candidly so the task force knows where the community stands, said Bernie Hargrave of the Army Corps.

Pollsters will question lake residents and others from southeast King County and parts of East Pierce County, officials said. People who don’t live on or near Lake Tapps use it for recreation, county studies show.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
August 23, 2000

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After 92 Years, Hydroelectric Project Nears Completion

By Jon Holland
Cordova Times

Ninety-two years after it was first conceived, the latest reincarnation of the Power Creek hydroelectric project is headed down the home stretch.

Early last week, workers laid 20,000 feet of cable across Eyak Lake and completed two of three splices necessary to feed electricity from the new project into the existing power grid.

It’s 80 percent complete now,” said Clay Koplin, manager of engineering operations for Cordova Electric Cooperative. “We hope to be line before the first of the year.”

Contractors are just waiting for a couple of permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Koplin said, before they lay the final 20,000 feet of cable to finish the project.

The new hydro project will provide the Cordova with supply of electricity at a stable cost. Currently Cordoya is reliant on diesel-fueled generators for the bulk of its powernneeds. That’s an expensive habit with fuel prices such as the are this year, Koplin said. The project was expected to save the cooperative $1 million annually before the recent steep increase in fuel prices.

“Our reliance on diesel generators is our biggest expense,” Koplin said.

But customers who expect to see immediate decreases on their power bills may be disappointed, Koplin said.

“The Power Creek project is going to stabilize rates and levels of service over the long haul,” Koplin said. “It will protect the cooperative from things like the increased price of fuel and require less maintenance than the diesel generators.”

Debt service on the $20 million, 6 megawatt project probably will eat up any immediate savings, Koplin said, but the good news is that building it won’t show up on power bills either. It has been largely financed to date by federal grants.

“Initially, the state agreed to match the federal funds, but the state money hasn’t come through’ yet,” Koplin said.

The plant, which has been under construction for four years, is a run-of-the-river operation with no large reservoir blocking the river, storing water guaranteeing a steady flow to the turbines. As such, power output will be subject to seasonal variation in the seasonal flow to the turbines.

From June through October, planners anticipate that the flow of water will be more than enough to run the turbines at the full 6 megawatt load. In the December through April period, the power plant will operate at only partial capacity. But planners expect the partial load to meet a substantial portion of Cordova’s needs during the winter. During the seasonal transition months of May and November, supplemental power from the diesel generators may be needed.

Cordova’s maximum power requirement to date is less than 5 megawatts. With the additional 1.2 megawatts supplied by the Humpback Creek facility, the new plant should meet the city’s needs with plenty of power left over for any subsequent, seasonal commercial development.

The history of the project goes all the way back to 1908 when the Alaska Electric Consolidated Co. claimed the rights to develop a hydroelectric project on what was known as Glacier Creek in those days.

Cordova pioneer Oscar Obman built a cabin at the proposed mill site and began preliminary work on the property. The creek subsequently was renamed Power Creek.

In 1921, the water and power rights to Power Creek were transferred to Alaska Public Utilities, the company that developed Humpback Creek for power generation. Subsequently studies on the power potential of the creek were conducted in the 1940s and again in the 1960s when the Federal Energy Commission considered building a dam at the site. They decided the geology of the area wouldn’t support the dam and the idea was dropped.

In the mid-1990s, the ball got rolling again based on the normal flow of the creek. The new technology includes diversion of part of the creek’s flow upstream from the plant to a diversion dam consisting of a 10-foot concrete sill with 8-foot inflatable dams mounted on top of it. Once the water is used, it will be returned to the creekbed upstream from any salmon spawning habitat, leaving the flow of the creek unchanged from a spawning salmon’s point of view.

Cordova Times
Cordova, AK
August 10, 2000

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BPA System’s Revenue, Reliability Unaffected By Grand Coulee Dam Fire

By Brian Gawley
Grand Coulee Star

The July 28 fire at Grand Coulee Dam did not impact Bonneville Power Administration revenues because of low power demand and excess generating capacity, said BPA spokesman Ed Mosey.

Power demand was low enough that we made up the loss with system capacity downstream from Grand Coulee Dam,” Mosey said.

The fire did not interrupt any planned spillovers for fish, Mosey said. California had high power demand but the Northwest did not. So BPA was able to do the planned spillover without any problem, he said.

When California prepared to declare a Stage 3 power emergency last week, BPA contemplated declaring its own power emergency to meet that state’s power demands.

The power emergency would have reduced the amount of water spilled to help fish passage at lower Columbia River dams. The emergency never was declared.

“If we had had high demand such as at the end ofjune, then definitely we would have been in a much worse situation. Other power sources were available this time,” Mosey said.

In June, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation shut down due to a mechanical failure and coal plants were out of service in Montana and Wyoming. Hanford produces about the same amount of power as Grand Coulee Dam.

“We were against the edge in June,” Mosey said.

“BPA had no reliability or cost issues as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam fire. The situation has not been that dire the past two weeks,” Mosey said.

The dam was producing 4,600 megawatts of electricity when the fire occurred. The fire knocked out 16 of 24 generators, which were producing 1,560 megawatts. Two generators had already been out of service.

Now the dam has 15 generators available and operating, producing between 2,000 and 4,000 megawatts a day, depending on demand. The full capacity with the currently available generators is 5,000 megawatts.

The dam’s full operating capacity is 6,800 megawatts, enough energy to run six cities the size of Seattle.

Grand Coulee Star
Grand Coulee, WA
August 9, 2000

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PUD Begins Writing Process On Relicense Application

Individual working groups delegated to develop priorities

By Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan Valley Mirror

With the Chelan County PUD beginning to write their license application for relicensing of the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project pressure is beginning to build on the different working groups to work out PME (protection, mitigation and enhancement) measures with potential costs associated with them.

After a morning of listening to updates of on-going studies on July 26, that afternoon was devoted to the PUD’s schedule. Gregg Carringion, PUD relicensing manager, told the core group that the PUD needed to have their license application in draft form by October 14 and distributed to the working groups by February 4, 2001. Asked if tbe working groups would continue to meet during this period, Carrington assured the group that working groups would continue to meet throughout the process.

Bill Humm, PUD facilitator, asked why the PUD couldn’t operate the project on an annual basis without trying to meet their current aggressive schedule. Carrington explained that under federal rules, the PUD was required to submit their license application two years before the current license expires. Once you submit your application, it is no longer our process,” said Carrington. “We will have to work through FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and things become very complicated. In my opinion, it is very important to keep control of our destiny as much as we can.”

Robert Dach, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), said that his agency will work on their needs and are aware of FERC deadlines. Dach received the final fisheries study he and his NMFS counterparts needed to begin their work on NMFS PMEs at the Fisheries Working Group meeting earlier in the week.

That study, Potential Productivity of Anadromous Salmonids in the Lake Chelan Basin was completed in July by BioAnalysts, Inc. Jeff Osborn, the Natural Resources group leader, said that NMFS wanted to look at potential productivity of salmonids in the lake. The consultant found that if habitat was available for sockeye salmon, that an estimated 1,200 to 1,600 would return to spawn and produce an estimated 90,000 juvenile salmon which would possibly return 500 to 600 adults at maturity.

The fisheries group also recommended their lake level proposal No.2 which would help augment flows later in the summer and fall by lowering the lake 1/10 of a foot in July, and one foot each month for August and September. Stella Walcker asked how that proposal would affect dock usage at that time of the year. Forest Service Biologist Phil Archibald replied that the proposal would try to balance everything. “It is just a concept right now,” he said. “On paper it looks like it might work.”

Recreationally, Michelle Smith, PUD Social Sciences working group leader, showed a 15 minute clip from the kayaking study and expressed that liability concerns were the biggest issue. Jennifer Olsen-Fielder commented that while the kayaking was pretty neat, she wondered about the entire recreational component for the general public which includes public trails, beach access, camping, boat launches, upper dock maintenance and trail access.

Smith replied that there were 30 PMEs on the PUD list and that they were looking for cost proposals for the next Social Sciences meeting. Osborn mentioned that the kayaking video helped do justice to the barrier study in the Chelan River Gorge.

The Dinwiddies brought up the issue of log jams in the Stehekin River and asked why no study had been instigated about that problem. “It was high on the priority list,” said Randy Dinwiddie. Archibald stated that the hydraulics model of the Stehekin River was still in the process of being modeled. Carrington also said that while log jams were an issue, they didn’t need an individual study. “We are following the National Park Service plan and FERC agreed that this was the best way to handle that issue… it is not being dismissed.” Dinwiddie replied that he felt it was a real problem and needed addressing. Carrington came back with the fisheries philosophy of leaving large woody debris where it is. Dinwiddie then said that fish seemed to be taking the priority… not people. Carrington answered that the National Park Service was being consistent with all other agencies. Commissioner Jim Wall asked if it was really an issue for relicensing. “We have to act under FERC law and fish are a priority… we have to comply with that,” stated Wall. He recommended the Dinwiddies argue their point in a working group meeting. Humm suggested that the Dinwiddies wait until the Stehekin River hydraulics study is completed.

The PUD will be looking at six criteria to evaluate each PME as it is presented:

1 – Costs to the PUD – Is it too costly, in the middle or low cost. “A PME measure that is DOA (dead on arrival) is an example of one the PUD couldn’t afford.”

2 – Effectiveness of the measure – Does it have a large amount of support from the entire team.

3 – Cost sharing – Is there an opportunity to share costs on the PME measure.

4 – PUD responsibility – Is it an on-going responsibility, project related and are the easements in place.

5 – Conflicts with other resource agencies.

6 – Mandatory conditioning – “We don’t want this to be a controlling factor,” remarked Carrington.

Both Joe Kastenholz, Forest Service, and Dan Moses, National Park Service, stated their respective agencies were always looking at cost sharing and the effectiveness of their proposed measures.

Carrington stated that their were 75 identified PME issues. “We do not anticipated giving everyone their priority list,” said Carrington. Olsen-fielder asked how the PUD’s ranking comes into play? Carrington replied that it will help them make sense of what to put into the license application. Walcker asked if they were taking into account the number of people it will affect? The answer was yes, what will the economic benefits to the community be.

Humm then brought up the issue of a strawman concept where a few people would develop a preferred PME list. Jim Eychaner, IAC, agreed that it would be difficult for the entire group to come up with a preferred list of PMEs. “Not all of us a qualified,” he said. “I don’t know fish,” he added, but did state he would be happy to help develop recommended PMEs for the recreation group.

Mary Murphy, Lake Chelan Bach Fest, stated she felt the working groups had the responsibility to make those decisions. “What is important is that it is a level playing field,” she said. Eychaner replied that in his opinion it was not a level playing field. Olsen-Fielder stated that some working groups have looked at other working group studies, but that hasn’t gone on with some groups. “It would be good to look at common areas,” she remarked. Humm replied that mandatory conditioning authority could come into play, but Kastenholz replied that the Forest Service in not interested in coming to a we/they situation. “We don’t want it to come down to that,” he said. “We want us all to be in agreement.”

Dach, however, stated that NMFS would be submitting their proposals to Chelan County PUD. “I’m going to be arguing with the PUD, not the recreation group,” stated Dach. Asked by Steve Hays, PUD technical consultant who has just joined the PUD core relicensing team, if the entire team wouldn’t end up arriving at consensus, Dach replied, “We have a very acute understanding of the needs of the community.” He added that NMFS was not in a position to argue with the recreation group on the agencies recommended PMEs, but with the PUD and if necessary, FERC. “I’m not going to compromise my agencies needs with the recreation needs. That doesn’t mean we can’t resolve differences.”

Carrington asked if NMFS didn’t care what the recreation needs were. Dach replied, “We do care what the recreation needs are, but we’re not going to pass judgment on them… it is not going to affect my dollars (read – mandatory conditioning).

Archibald felt it was up to the individual working groups to prepare packages to bring to the entire relicensing team. Moses agreed the working groups was the place to start developing the packages. As the argument on how to develop a priority list of PMEs deepened, Olsen-Fielder said, “The Chelan dam is a great benefit and a positive thing for the community… a great asset. This is a consensus building process… we do need to have consensus.” She than brought up the possibility of taking the money available for PMEs and investing it to help fund projects over the 50 year license period.

Tony Eldred, Department of Fish & Wildlife, stated that there has been a good deal of communication in the fisheries working group. “Everybody has an employer and we all have to bring back a certain amount of bacon… it is a matter of credibility… being believable. Money ddesn’t enter into it. We might be able to do it (develop a priority list) without too much trouble,” he said. “I’m here because it (the process;) has been productive,” he added.

Steve Lachowicz, PUD Corporate Communications Specialist, said each group could spend a lot of wasted time if mandatory conditioning and endangered species entered the picture. “Everyone needs to mold their ideas around that possibility.” He also recommended that each working group look at how their PMEs relate and impact the project.

The meeting ended with the full team agreeing to develop their initial priorities in the working group setting.

Chelan Valley Mirror
Chelan, WA
August 9, 2000

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‘Range War’ Over Power Supply?

Puget Sound Energy wants more of BPA output, but Bonneville is standing pat

By Al Gibbs
News-Tribune

Puget Sound Energy, a utility one critic calls that bottomless pit of wants and needs,” is poised to touch off what could become the latest battle in the decades-old war between public and private utilities.

PSE wants more of the electricity the Bonneville Power Administration plans to allocate among public utilities like Tacoma Power, investor-owned or “private” utilities like PSE, and the heavy industries like aluminum plants that buy power directly from Bonneville.

“We hope to” get a larger slice of the power pie than the 700 megawatts PSE is scheduled to receive next year, said Bill Gaines, the utility’s vice president for energy supply.

“We think the region as whole should take a step back and look at the whole allocation process,” Gaines said. “There ought to be a public policy debate in the region. That’s what we think ought to happen.”

Bonneville chief executive Judi Johansen has said she doesn’t intend to revisit decisions made earlier this year that set amounts of power allocated and prices for 2001-2006.

But she has halted contract negotiations with utilities because of the soaring prices electricity has commanded on West Coast power exchanges for the past two months.

Johansen last week asked for suggestions from those utilities, and she has scheduled a hearing in Portland for Aug. 21.

“I can tell you that the framework of subscription and allocation is not going to change,” Bonneville spokesman Ed Mosey said.

And, he added, a regional fight over who gets how much Bonneville power at what price could threaten what he called “the golden goose,” power that is among the cheapest electricity anywhere in the United States.

There already are congressional threats to change the system in the wake of soaring electricity prices in California. Such changes would almost invariably mean higher energy prices in the Northwest, he said.

But the stance of PSE, which always has been the region’s most aggressive seeker of Bonneville benefits, could trigger a power struggle analogous to the l9th-century range wars between cattle ranchers and sheepherders.

“That fight’s already going on,” said Jerry Leone, director of the region’s Public Power Council, who offered the “bottomless pit” description of PSE. “But Judi (Johansen) has told us that reallocation is not on the table.”

PSE in the past two years has used everything from radio ads to visits to newspaper editorial boards to argue it should receive more benefits from Bonneville and the system of federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

It also has argued that even though it doesn’t have a legal right to that power – the Northwest Power Act of 1980 specifically reserves that “preference” to public utilities – it should be treated equally.

But PSE already has been allotted more than its fair share after 2001, contended Tacoma Power Superintendent Steve Klein. “Bonneville gave them more than they legally or morally should have,” Klein said.

PSE doesn’t see it that way.

The company currently buys no Bonneville power. Under the 20-year-old power act, the company gets a cash payment for the difference between the price it pays for power and the price Bonneville charges.

The cash is rebated to its residential customers, and amounts to about a 15 percent reduction in their bills.

Under the new system, PSE will recieve Bonneville power – that 700 megawatts, less than one-third of the company’s load, and an amount about equal to Tacoma’s entire average use. But when the deal kicks in Oct. 1, 2001, PSE will lose the cash payments.

PSE’s Gaines thinks that’s wrong.

“It diminishes our benefit,” he said. “We don’t think that’s the way to do that.”

PSE always has couched the arguments for greater benefits in terms of helping its 1 million or so electric customers, but the public stance has been a bit disingenuous.

In its past attempts to distribute the profits gained from selling some assets, it consistently has attempted to grant the benefits to shareholders, not ratepayers.

Even some of PSE’s occasional allies won’t share a foxhole with the Bellevue-based company in its latest fight.

“It doesn’t surprise me that some people are making a play,” said Pete Forsyth, Northwest vice president of external affairs for Kaiser Aluminum Corp. “But we need to come up with an answer to the issue that doesn’t redistribute things.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
August 8, 2000

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Utilities Watch Skyrocketing Power Costs As They Budget

SEATTLE – Be warned, Washington residents. Your electricity bills are likely to increase.

Public utility companies are working on their budgets for next year, trying to cope with skyrocketing power prices in a region where hydroelectric dams have kept rates low for decades.nnSeattle City Light told the City Council on Thursday that if electricity prices don’t drop significantly, it faces a 2OO1 budget shortfall of $40 million.

We’re in somewhat of a financial predicament,” utility spokesman Dan Williams said yesterday.

City Light said it may raise consumer rates by between 8 percent and 14 percent next year. The public utility buys 15 percent of its power on the open market. That power now consumes 40 percent of its power budget.

The Bonneville Power Administration, the regional federal power-marketing agency, has a set five-year rate increasingly attractive when open-market costs have jumped from less than $30 for one megawatt hour in April to more than $160 in June, Williams said.

It takes about 1,000 megawatts to run the city of Seattle, said Bonnevillenspokesman Perry Gruber.

South County Journal
Kent, WA
August 8, 2000

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Looking Upstream

Effects of salmon plan on Idaho water might be long-term

By N.S. Nokkentved
Times-News

TWIN FALLS – Recently unveiled salmon recovery efforts include continued water from Idaho – but whether that contribution would be permanent is no clear.

Salmon recovery is a long-term effort, and it may have some long-term implications on Idaho water.

“Recovery in any meaningful sense is going to take a long time,” said Brian Gorman spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The recently released salmon recovery documents all refer to improved flow management and increased flow in the Snake and Columbia rivers as one of several steps to bring 12 salmon runs back from the brink of extinction.

Four of those runs are Idaho salmon. And recovery plans include continuing to use watet stored in federal reservoirs in southern Idaho to increase the flow through four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.

The Bureau of Reclamation supplies more than 1.5 million acre-feet of water for so-called “flow augmentation” from Idaho. About 427,000 acre-feet of that comes from southern and eastern Idaho and eastern Oregon, a little more than half of that comes from federal reservoirs upstream from Milner Dam.

The salmon documents call for the Bureau to continue to supply that water and to continue its efforts to secure additional water for flow augmentation in the lower Snake River.

But how long recovery efforts would continue to require flow augmentation, and whether the water would continue to be required after salmon recovery is unclear.

“It’s too soon to tell,” said Brian Brown, assistant regional administrator for hydro with the Fisheries Service. But if the salmon runs recover and are removed from the endangered species list, the agency’s recommendations would no longer have any force.

The study projected that about 60 percent would come from the reservoirs above Milner. That’s about 600,000 acre feet or 15 percent of the 4 million acre-foot capacity of the federal reservoirs on the Snake River upstream of Milner Dam. About 30 percent would come from the Boise and Payette basins and the rest from Oregon.

Some question the benefit of the additional water for salmon, others say studies clearly show the water improves the survival of the fish through the system.

The flow augmentation runs from April through August. The 427,000 acre-feet from southern Idaho combines with flows from Dworshak and Brownlee reservoirs to increase the river flow at Lower Granite Dam by more than 13,000 cubic feet of water per second for 72 days.

The flow can be varied to higher amounts for shorter duration, such as 26,000cfs for 36 days.

The Fisheries Service’s goal for the lower Snake at Lower Granite is 85,000 to 100,000 cfs from April through June 20, and 50,000 to 55,000 cfs from June though August.

“Just because the benefit is marginal doesn’t mean the fish don’t need the water”, said Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United. But the benefit to the salmon pales when compared to the lethal effects of hydroelectric dams.

The Fisheries Service’s assessment of the effects of continued or modified operations on salmon would allow federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers to kill up to 88 percent of juvenile Snake River fall chinook salmon migrating to the ocean.

Those are the fish that benefit dfrectly from the flow augmentation using stored water from Idaho.

The Times-News
Twin Falls, ID
August 6, 2000

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Emergency Power Plan May Sacrifice Fish

Pushing water over dams to generate power for California could kill salmon

By Michael Rose
Statesman Journal

The Bonneville Power Administration’s plan to help supply California with electricity during its power emergency which might send more Northwest fish through dam turbines – has angered environmentalists and worried Oregon’s governor.

The California heat wave eased Thursday, but the threat of power shortages and rolling blackouts in the Golden State isn’t over. Tight energy supplies and air conditioners running full bore have overtaxed the state power grid.

The BPA warned that it might have to sacrifice salmon to generate electricity for California by spilling more water over dams. The agency restricts the water flow through dams this time of year to give migrating juvenile fish a better chance of survival.

So far, the BPA hasn’t needed to suspend its salmon-friendly operations by releasing more water, said Ed Mosey, the agency’s spokesman.

That doesn’t mean it won’t become necessary before the summer is over, he said.

The governor certainly doesn’t have any disagreement in helping a neighbor during a health and safety situation, but he is concerned if it becomes routine,” said Roy Hemmingway, energy adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The Northwest Energy Coalition, a group promoting salmon restoration, denounced any attempt to divert water reserved for migrating fish.

Sara Patton, the group’s dinector, said it is unnecessary to force fish through deadly turbines when voluntary power interruptions and aggressive energy conservation measures could offset the temporary electricity shortage.

Sending electricity produced by Columbia River dams to California is nothing new, although the supply usually is enough to avoid conflicts with salmon preservation measures.

Under a cooperative agreement, BPA supplies electricity to California in the summer. In exchange, surplus electricity from California is sent to the Northwest during the winter.

Unlike most of the nation, the peak demand time for electricity in the Northwest usually is in the winter.

BPA and state energy officials say Oregon, in the short term, probably is safe from the crisis California has experienced in recent days.

But they warn the supply of electricity in Oregon is getting close to the limit.

In late June, hot weather here and several power generation plants out of service caused BPA to take emergency steps. For several hours, it sent water set aside for salmon preservation through dams to boost the electricity supply, agency spokesman Moser said.

Statesman Journal
Salem, OR
August 4, 2000

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California Averts Electricity Blackouts

State was on brink of asking BPA to boost power output to avoid emergency

By Bert Caidwell
Spokesman Review

The Bonneville Power Administration was poised Tuesday afternoon to help California meet critical electricity demand, but transmission bottlenecks would have blocked assistance if it had been called for, spokesman Ed Mosey said.

He said the California Independent System Operator, which manages that state’s electricity grid, notified Bonneville in midmorning that it expected to declare a Stage 3 power emergency at 2 p.m

Stage 3 sets the stage for blackouts if no additional power becomes available. Other measures, such as conservation and interruption of power to some industrial Ed Mosey, and commercial customers, have already been taken.

A California declaration would have allowed Bonneville, with the consent of the National Marine Fisheries Service, to generate power with water that would normally be spilled to assist in stream fish passage, Mosey said.

The same exemption to spill requirements was invoked for a few hours in late June, when heat across West Coast states had millions embracing their air conditioners, he said.

They’re teetering,” Mosey said shortly after 2 p.m. “We’re going by almost a minute-to-minute basis.”

Mosey said Bonneville was selling between 1,200 megawatts and 1,500 megawatts of electricity in California early Tuesday. It had the capacity to generate as much as 800 megawatts more.

But the transmission links below the Oregon border were filled to capacity, he said, all but eliminating the possibility Bonneville could have lent assistance.

By 5 o’clock, however, the crisis had passed.

“California dodged the bullet this time,” Mosey said.

The electricity to respond to the state’s demands would have come from the McNary, John Day, The Dalles and Bonneville dams on the Lower Columbia River.

Mosey said reducing spills would have increased mortality among the fall-run chinook salmon in the river by less than 2 percent.

Most of those fish have already passed downstream in barges or with water that bypassed dam turbines, he said.

Spokesman Review
Spokane, WA
August 2, 2000

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Idaho Falls Seeking New Contract With BPA

Move should help curb rate hikes in deregulated market

By Kortny Rolston
Post Register

As power bills rise and power shortages plague many western towns, Idaho Falls officials are working to ensure the same doesn’t happen here.

They’re negotiating a new 10-year, $150 million contract with the Bonneville Power Administration that they say will help keep the city’s power rates low.

The new contract would change the way Idaho Falls buys power from BPA, giving the city the flexibility to shop for cheap power on the open – and volatile – deregulated market while providing a stable and historically cheap regulated power source to meet most of its needs.

We want to be in the position to have a long-term contract in place so we can provide enough power at stable rates,” Mayor Linda Milam said. “We think this will do that…. It will give us enough flexibility so that when rates are good on the spot market we can get in on that.”

Idaho Falls has bought and sold power to the BPA, a federal hydropower system fed by the Columbia and Snake rivers, for several years. BPA, which generates power for the Pacific Northwest mostly through a series of federal dams, provides Idaho Falls with more than half of its power.

The rest comes from the city’s own sources and entities selling off surplus power. Those factors, city officials say, have allowed Idaho Falls to keep its rates among the lowest levels in the state and the country. On average, after all charges are factored, Idaho Falls residents pay 4 cents per kilowatt-hour for power. Utah Power customers pay 8 cents. Idaho Power residential customers pay about 5 cents. The U.S. average in 1998 was 6.75 cents.

Idaho Falls currently buys its power from BPA by the “block” – a set amount of power for a set rate.

Under the new contract it would buy it by the “slice,” a new product the BPA is offering to its 120 “preference customers” – the cooperatives, municipally-owned systems and public utility districts in the Northwest.

With slice, the city would actually own a percentage of the power the BPA produces every hour. The size of “slice,” or the percentage of power the city will get, is still being worked out with BPA.

“It’s like buying a piece of the rock,” said Mark Gendron, manager of Idaho Falls Power, the city’s electric division. “It’s kind of like being part owners with BPA.”

Slice power is a more risky venture than buying by the block.

There is no guarantee how much power the city would get each hour from the BPA, its main energy source. At times, the city will have a surplus of power and other times it won’t have enough and will have to purchase extra from outside sources.

“If the runoff system is good, they’ll be entitled to a lot of power,” said Rod Aho, a BPA account executive based in Idaho Falls. “If we have a blackout or runoff is low, their entitlement will be reduced.”

But city officials don’t anticipate many problems.

They say Idaho Falls’ peak usage times are opposite of many cities in both Idaho and the region. Idaho Falls requires more power during the winter – when people are heating their homes than in the summer.

Several states including Utah use most of their power during the summer when people are powering air conditioners, Gendron said. Farming areas that rely heavily on irrigation usually peak in the summer as well.

Some Idaho electrical cooperatives, such as Lost River Electric in Mackay, also peak in the summer because farmers are irrigating crops.

He said that usually means Idaho Falls has enough power for its citizens. And under the slice contract, it’s an advantage.

With slice, when Idaho Falls ends up with a surplus of power – most likely during the summer – it can sell off the extra to companies or cities that need more. Cendron said it could also store the surplus to cover periods of heavy usage or trade it to a Utah utility in exchange for more power in the winter. Idaho Falls is a member of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. UAMPS members often buy and sell power to one another.

“We don’t think we’ll have many problems with it,” Gendron said.

But before the city can enter into the new contract it must first clear up some legal issues. The BPA is requiring the city to get a legal opinion that buying slice doesn’t violate any laws before the deal is sealed.

There are also questions about whether the Idaho Constitution will allow them to sign the multiyear deal. A section in it prevents cities from committing to spend money beyond the normal budget year unless it’s for an “ordinary and necessary” expense.

The city must get a judge’s approval that this falls under that category before it can enter into the contract.

Dale Storer, the city’s attorney, is optimistic a judge will rule in their favor.

“I think we meet that criteria,” he said.

Post-Register
Idaho Falls, ID
August 2, 2000

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Deal Concerns Fish Group

Opinion: Subcommittee of Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board not pleased with current deal

By John Henderer
The Chronicle

Tacoma Power may have to look elsewhere for another signature to support its planned settlement agreement for its Cowlitz River hydroelectric dams.

A subcommittee of the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board recommended against signing the agreement that has become controversial among anglers and some Lewis County citizens.

The group met Monday in the Lewis County Courthouse Annex, Chehalis, to discuss provisions in Tacoma’s so-called agreement in principle,” which the utility hopes will guide operation of its Mayfield and Mossyrock dams for the next 40 years.

Tacoma’s existing license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expires next year, and a settlement effectively could become the next license.

Members expressed concerns about the agreement and ultimately decided to recommend submitting a statement outlining their issues to FERC.

Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chairman John Barnett spoke from a tribal perspective, criticizing Tacoma’s reluctance to build fish ladders over the dams for fish to swim upstream and spawn.

“Salmon are part of our culture,” Barnett said. “In our culture, we speak of fish being able to move freely of their own free will. This has not happened in the last 40 years, and in my analysis of this agreement, it’s not going to happen here either.”

Barnett said he would not be surprised if his tribe one day winds up in court with Tacoma.

“It’s all dollars and cents is what Tacoma’s looking at,” he said. “When an entity like Tacoma can make $30 million to $40 million profit a year, isn’t it about time they put some of that money back in the hatchery? I think so.”

Lewis County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller attended the meeting as well, recalling fishing on the Tilton River, a Cowlitz River tributary, as a boy, when salmon were so plentiful they swam between his feet.

The septuagenarian initially declined to comment on the proposed agreement, citing his “dual role” as a commissioner and as a representative on the board. But later he questioned some of its aspects.

“I never could get an answer why the fish ladder at Mayfield (Dam), why all of a sudden they just stopped (pursuing it),” Hadaller said.

Last fall, Tacoma relicensing coordinator Toby Freeman cheered conservation groups by extending an offer to build a fish ladder over the first of the two dams. Since then, the utility has backtracked to require scientific proof that threatened native salmon could spawn and reproduce above the dams at a sufficient level to warrant its construction.

Citing a recent meeting with officials from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Chehalis, Jeff Breckel, executive director of the Fish Recovery Board, said, “There was a lot of sentiment there that this threshold was too high.”

Tacoma attorneys and lawyers representing various state and federal agencies have been meeting behind closed doors in Seattle to hammer out details of the settlement in time for a July 15 deadline. They will meet again July 5.

Ethel resident Torn Fox argued against doing nothing or ignoring Tacoma’s settlement agreement.

“I think it is our business because we are responsible for restoration of the habitat,” Fox said. “I don’t see how we can meet our mandate of recovering the habitat without coming to agreement with somebody who’s in control of half of this habitat.

“I think we need to weigh in whether the lawyers have already got the draft done or not.”

Hadaller added, “If we don’t list our concerns, what scares me is (the National Marine Fisheries Service) and FERC will tell Tacoma what to do, and then we’re out of the loop. I personally would like to see that fishery back.”

The Chronicle
Centralia, WA
July 27, 2000

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Officials Agree To Salmon Strategy

Kempthome calls it recovery road map.

By N.S. Nokkentved
Times-News

BOISE – Four Pacific Northwest governors, in a rare agreement Tuesday, signed a salmon recovery strategy they called historic – but skeptics called window-dressing.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne called it a salmon recovery road map – which suggests the possibility of reintroducing salmon above Idaho Power Co.’s Hells Canyon dam complex, an supports using stored water from southern Idaho only if federal agencies can show it helps the fish.

Environmentalists and sport fishermen say the agreement is a good step, but it falls short because it doesn’t include a call for breaching four federal dams on the lower Snake River.

“This is what the governors agree on; it’s not what’s good for the fish,” said Mitch Sanchotena of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited.

The document was signed by Republicans Kempthorne and Montana Gov. Marc Racicot who attended via speaker phone, and Democrats John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Washington Gov. Gary Locke, who was represented by Larry Cassidy, chairman of the Northwest Power Planning Council.

The document includes the suggestions for salmon recovery that they all agree on. But they. acknowledged that salmon recovery is a national issue that will.require a sizable federal commitment of money.

Meanwhile federal officials are scheduled to announce their salmon recovery strategy Thursday.

The governors’ document represents “a list of things that are doable, that we can do now,” Keinpthorne said. “This is a cleareyed recognition that although at this time there is not a political consensus on the fate of the lower Snake River dams, there is still a lot that can be done to restore the Columbia River ecosystem while the question of dam breaching continues to be debated,” Kitzhaber said.

Arguments over breaching misses the larger question of what to do now, he said.

Central to the controversy about recovering endangered salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers has been the proposal to breach four federal dams on the lower Snake in southeastern Washington. Most Northwest fisheries scientists say dam breaching would be the best way to restore Snake River salmon.

Because the agreement doesn’t include a recommendation to breach the four dams, the four governors are merely endorsing more of the same that has been done for the past 30 years, Sanchotena said.

Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United acknowledged the importance of what the governors agreed on, but said it doesn’t address the four dams.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Marsh in a 1993 ruling criticized the government’s salmon recovery methods as inadequate because they rely on minor repairs rather than a major overhaul of the Snake and Columbia hydroelectric system, Bosse said.

Whatever the document leads will have to stand up to Marsh’s scrutiny.

The Clinton administration has made it clear that the question of dam breaching would be put off for up to 10 years.

Kitzhaber has said he would support dam breaching, but said he would back away if these suggestions work.

Though it doesn’t appear in the document, the four governors expressed some support for completing the engineering, feasibility and mitigation studies for breaching the dams.

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Congressional Report Warns Effects Of Dam Breaching Could Hurt Air Quality

General Accounting Office says Corps’ study underestimated effect of power, shipping changes

By Les Blumenthal
The News Tribune

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have underestimated the negative impact on air quality if four Snake River dams were breached to restore salmon runs, according to a congressional study released Tuesday.

The General Accounting Office, Congress’ bipartisan investigative arm, said the Corps didn’t take into account how much polution would be produced if the electricity the dams produce were replaced by coal or gas-fired turbines.

The GAO also suggested the Corps might have underestimated the cost of replacing a transportation system that uses barges to carry grain downstream with trucks and trains.

The study, requested by two Republican senators, Slade Gorton of Washington and Gordon Smith of Oregon, noted that the Corps probably was correct in estimating the cost of replacing the elecricity from the dams if they were breached at 245 million.

In our view, the Corps’ analysis and presentation of the effects of breaching on electricity costs is reasonable,” the accounting office said. “However, we could not determine the reasonableness of the Corps’ estimated effects on transportation costs and air quality.”

The four-year, $22 million environmental impact study of dam breaching, released by the Corps in December, looked at the possibility of breaching the four dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – and several other alternatives to rebuild the dwindling Snake River salmon populations. It came up with no recommendation on the best way to proceed.

The accounting office said air quality also could be affected by pollutants from trucks needed to haul grain if barge traffic were eliminated by breaching the dams, and from possible windblown contamination, including heavy metals and possibly DDT, from the sediments that would be exposed if the dams were eliminated.

The Corps estimated that the net increase in shipping costs if the dams were breached would be $21 mlllion annually over 100 years.

But the accounting office said the Corps did not pay enough attention to improvements to highways, railroads and storage facilities that may be needed. The Corps estimated that those infrastructure improvements could cost $532 million.

Gorton, a leading critic of dam breaching, said the study confirmed his worst fears.

“We’ve known all along that breaching the dams would ruin Eastern Washington’s way of life, but now it looks as if the environmental impacts are greater than we previously thought,” Gorton said in a statement.

“The study reveals that the Corps has understated the true impacts of dam breaching on the environment and our transportation costs.”

Gorton said the Corps analysis was obviously incomplete and that more work needed to be done.

“I would hope that persons on all sides of the dam breaching issue would agree that the negative impact on the environment potentially caused by breaching the dams should be carefully reviewed,” the senator said.

Bill Arthur, head of the Northwest regional office of the Sierra Club in Seattle, however, said the study was providing just another smokescreen to avoid breaching the dams.

“We continue to come up with creative ways to delay,” he said.

Arthur said the electricity lost if the dams were breached, enough to supply a city the size of Seattle, could be replaced by energy conservation programs and the development of such renewable resources as wind and solar power.

“The notion you have to go to combustion turbines is the Corps’ latest techno-fantasy,” he said.

As for transportation costs, Arthur said barge operators, which have a virtual monopoly on grain transport, did not pay to have the current river system of dams and reservoirs installed and do not pay maintenance costs.

“The current system is enormously subsidized,” Arthur said, suggesting that those subsidies could be used to help launch truck and rail services.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
July 26, 2000

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Governors Unite For Fish Plan

Northwest leaders ask Clinton to name leader for salmon recovery

By Susan Gordon
The News Tribune

Gov. Gary Locke, together with the governors of Oregon, Idaho and Montana, has called upon President Clinton to appoint a federal salmon czar to oversee Columbia Basin salmon recovery

Tuesday, in press conferences in Boise and Salem, Ore., Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the commitment by the governors of all four states to work toward a regional salmon recovery plan by January 2001. They also promised to consult with tribal leaders.

The suggestion that the president name a single person to lead federal recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest was among the key elements of the governors’ proposal.

lt may well be an idea worth pursuing,” said Elliot Diringer, a White House spokesman.

“We very much welcome the governors’ input, and many of the proposals dovetail nicely with what the administration is considering,” he said.

The governors sidestepped the issue of breaching four dams on the lower Snake River, apparently agreeing to disagree.

Kitzhaber is the only one of the four governors willing to give up the dams and the electricity they produce.

“As we all know, the most polarizing and divisive issue we face is the fate of the lower Snake River dams,” Locke noted in a prepared statement. “This document is an agreement to set aside the breaching option for now.”

Instead, the governors suggested other changes to improve fish passage and habitat, “so long as the modifications do not jeopardize the region’s electricity supply,” the agreement states.

Locke did not join in the public announcement – he is out of state on vacation – but a spokeswoman, Sandi Snell, said he reviewed and signed the document over the weekend.

The four-state agreement was unveiled before Thursday’s planned announcement in Portland of a federal strategy to bring back Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The Clinton administration is expected to delay for at least five years a decision on dam breaching but to approve spending $900 million over the next 10 years to restore salmon runs.

Environmentalists insist that decommissioning the four Eastern Washington dams Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – is the best way to restore necessary fish habitat. But the dams also are an important source of power, together producing enough electricity to supply Seattle.

Additionally, the dammed river is a lowest shipping channel for inland grain producers. Farmers also draw some of its water to grow crops.

In their agreement, the four governors pledged to support creation of salmon sanctuaries; an estuary plan for the lower Columbia River; improved management of fish-eating birds and marine mammals; changes in hatchery management; and continued treaty American Indian fishing for ceremonial and subsistence needs; and they urged the Bonneville Power Administration and Congress to pay for salmon recovery.

The BPA already has incorporated salmon recovery costs in its power rate schedule for the five-year period that starts Oct. 1, 2001, said Ed Mosey, a BPA spokesman.

Environmentalists responded critically to the governors’ announcement. In Seattle, Chris Zimmer, spokesman for the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition, said the governors haven’t gone far enough and, among other things, have ignored the public’s demand forndam breaching.

“The scientific consensus that these dams must go if Snake River salmon are to recover is rock solid,” the coalition said in a prepared statement. “We agree with the governors that dam bypass is not a silver bullet, but it must be the cornerstone of any credible plan to restore Snake River salmon.”

In the Columbia Basin town of Ephrata, farmer Tom Flint, who irrigates 900 acres with Columbia River water and founded Save Our Dams, acknowledged that “the salmon program lacks leadership.” But he said he’d prefer to ask Congress, rather than the president, to appoint a salmon czar. “I don’t have faith in the Clinton-Gore administration,” he said.

He said he would have liked to hear the governors commit to things such as purchase of fish-friendly hydropower turbines and water storage to ensure fish passage in drought years.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
July 26, 2000

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Governors Set Course For Fish Recovery

They call on Clinton to designate one official in region to oversee efforts

By Erik Robinson
Columbian

SALEM, Ore. – Calling it a historic document,” the governors of four Northwest states offered their own road map Tuesday for maneuvering through one of the region’s thorniest issues: restoring salmon.

The governors left off the table the prickliest issue of all – breaching four federal dams on the lower Snake River.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who earlier this year broke ranks with other Northwest politicians to say he would not rule out breaching the Snake River dams, said the governors worked until late Monday to hammer out an agreement supported by two Democrats and two Republicans.

“It is a victory of regionalism over parochialism,” Kitahaber said.

It comes in advance of the federal government’s announcement, scheduled for Thursday in Portland, of a federal strategy to restore salmon. In addition, the National Marine Fisheries Service will release its long-delayed biological opinion as to whether the operation of the federal hydropower system in the Columbia basin jeopardizes the survival of 12 imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

The governors who signed onto the agreement were Kitzhaber; Washington’s Gary Locke, Idaho’s Dirk Kempthorne and Marc Racicot of Montana.

“If it were easy, it would have been done long ago,” Kempthorne said.

Kitzhaber said the agreement between the governors reflects the reality that dam breaching has been taken off the table, for now at least, by the Clinton administration. George Frampton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said last week that the administration would not recommend breaching the dams immediately.

“There is still a great deal we can do today as dam breaching continues to be debated throughout the region,” Kitzhaber said.

Namely, the governors said, the federal government could provide more in the way of hard cash.nCongress already spends about $435 million per year on salmon recovery efforts, but the governors said it’s largely a federal obligation that may require more federal dollars in the future.

Frustrated by conflicting direction from various federal agencies, the governors called on Clinton to designate one official in the region to oversee federal fish recovery efforts and serve as the regular point of contact with state, local and tribal governments.

“One of the fundamental problems we’ve run into is the sheer number of federal agencies that have a role,” Kitzhaber said. “The agencies have to act in concertnand with a single voice.”

Kempthorne and Kitzhaber announced the governors’ agreement in joint appearances Tuesday in their respective state capitols of Boise and Salem. They were joined by Larry Cassidy Jr., a Vancouver resident who represented the vacationing Locke and who also serves as chairman of the Northwest Power Planning Council.

Afterward, Cassidy said the governors staked out more specific recommendations about harvest and hatchery reforms than an earlier version of the federal fish recovery strategy. He said Locke viewed the governors’ agreement as “an example all the rest of us can follow” to restore salmon.

“It’s never been done before, so it’s pretty clear that they all mean business,” Cassidy said.

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
July 26, 2000

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Umpqua Hydroelectric Project Talks Resume

Relicensing: Negotiations were stopped after 18 months when PacifiCorp walked out

By: Garret Jaros
The News-Review

Despite a rocky start, negotiations are once again under way to relicense the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project east of Roseburg.

Talks reconvened July 6 in Portland shortly after conservation-minded members of the settlement team complained that negotiations were being delayed, to the benefit of PacifiCorp. The utility company continues to operate the dams under one-year extensions based on the original 50-year-old license that expired in 1997.

The North Umpqua project includes eight dams and generating plants connected by 44 miles of canals and flumes. Soda Springs Dam is located about 60 miles cast of Roseburg between Dry Creek and Toketee.

A settlement originally was supposed to be reached within six months. Talks were stopped after 18 months when PacifiCorp negotiators walked out because it was recommened the system’s furthest downstream dam, Soda Springs, be removed.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the aoency responsible for relicensing the project has delayed making a determination on the condition that settlement talks move forward.

In May, settlement team member Ken Ferguso, who is conservation director of the 350-member Steamboaters fly-fishing group, said PacifiCorp was stalling.

The largest revenue stream Scottish Power will ever realize from this project is to continiue to operate under the terms of the original license which is both long expired and environmentally obsolete.”

Scottish Power, which owns the parent company of Pacific Power, has no incentive to settle, Ferguson said, and the relicensing process provides no penalty for its failure to do so.

With talks back on, all sides are once again bound by a confidentiality agreement, which prevents them from speaking about what is being said and who is saying it. The News-Review had been told that talks would be more open during this second round of negotiations, but that isn’t so.

“They can talk about their own views, but they just can’t quote what other people are saying,” said mediator Alice Shorett.

“This is in mediation now, it wasn’t before,” Shorett explained. “There are actually state and federal Iaws about mediation and traditionally there is a confidentiality agreement, and these parties agreed to it.”

Shorett is allowed to give updates that are approved by all members of the settlement team.

In an apparent compromise to getting talks restarted, policy-level decision makers have joined in negotations, which PacifiCorp officials had asked for, and all ofnthe original settlement team members are back at the table, which was a stipulation set by Umpqua National Forest Supervisor Don Ostby.

“The advantage of having policy-level people is that if you have issues they have to decide, you can get it decided quickly,” Shorett said.

All the parties involved are working hard, she said.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Shorett said. “Everyone is at the table. They are exploring issues around Soda Springs Dam.”

Other issues that will be discussed include anadromous fish passage, in-stream flows, economic analysis, reservoir management, terrestrial habitat, water quality and adaptive management.

“No settlement agreement will be reached until a complete package is on the table and all the parties can check in with their boards.” Shorett said.

Federal decision makers include the Forest Service, the National Marine FisheriesnService, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. There are also numerous state agencies and officials present, Shorett said.

Each group in the settlement team also has an attorney.

Audubon Society member and long-time dam engineer, Stan Vejtasa, gave his perspective on the talks so far.

“They are going about as good as can be expected,” Vejtasa said. “I think progress is being made and the talks are under way which is new news.”

PacifiCorp officials had no comment, and instead referred all questions to mediator Shorett.

Talks are scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Roseburg, and then twice a month in Portland through the end of September.

You can reach Garret Jaros at 957-4218 or by e-mail at gjaros @oregonnews.com.

News-Review
Roseburg, OR
July 25, 2000

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FERC: PUD Dam Licenses Are Open To Competition

By Joe Dennis
The Journal

EPHRATA- Despite a FERC ruling opening competition for the Priest Rapids Hydroelectric Project to other entities. Grant PUD is in no worse position than other dam operator facing relicensing.

That was the response of Grant PUD manager Don Godard to the Federal Energy Regulatory Coinmittee ruling issued last week.

FERC ruled that the license to operate Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams which expires in 2005 can be sought by other entities.

Grant PUD had argued that under Public Law 544 which authorized the Priest Rapids Project that only the PUD or a state agency could seek the license during the relicensing process.

We are not really surprised, we knew opening the process to other applicants was one of the possible outcomes,” Godard said, noting PUD Commissioners are expected to begin discussing the possibility of an appeal at the district meeting today, July 24.

However, a decision on whether to appeal is not expected to be reached before the Monday, July 31 meeting, he said.

Godard stressed that even with competition for the license Grant PUD remains in an extremely strong position, but noted facing competition will increase the cost of the relicensing process for the district.

“If someone does challenge it will cost more money to complete relicensing, and in that sense it’s not desirable,” he said.

In April, a consortium of 10 Northwest power utilities asked FERC to open the process, saying that several members were considering filing applications.

In addition to power purchasers since the inception of the project, Idaho utilities aud the Yakama Indian Nation have expressed an interest in competing for the license.

However, Godard noted the FERC ruling stated Grant PUD would enjoy a preference as the current license holder, and noted power purchasers are expected to have a difficult time making a case for the license because of their close relationship with GrantnPUD.

“If they want to compete, they have to show we haven’t done a very good job of operating the dams, and that would be tough to do when they have been looking over our shoulder for the past 40 years and never suggested there was anything we should do differently,” Godard said.

Commenting on the FERC ruling, Godard said the district is disappointed, but is still confident the license will be awarded to Grant PUD.

“It would have been nice if we could have put this behind us, but if we can’t we can deal with it. The statement that Grant PUD enjoys a preference certainly gives us comfort that everything will come out all right in the end,” he said.

“We just have to wait and see how it all plays out and what will happen over the next five years or so, Godard added.

Grant Co. Journal
Ephrata, WA
July 24, 2000

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Politics Of Fish

The dams of the Snake River have become a symbolic rallying point for all sides of tile salmon debate

By Erik Robinson
Columbian

For more than a century, people in the Northwest have fought over salmon.

Ballot initiatives have proposed to ban one type of fish trap in favor of another. Hatcheries have fallen out of favor; and then regained it as naturally spawning stocks dwindled. American Indians have been arrested, then exonerated by federal judges, for asserting treaty rights to salmon.

But the debate over the future of salmon may have never been as heated as it is now.nNo one intended or fully foresaw this day of reckoning for the salmon, but it is undeniable that the day has arrived,” said George Frampton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in testimony he is scheduled to deliver to a Senate subcommittee this week.

Federal officials regularly cite a sobering statistic: The number of salmon that return from the ocean to spawn as adults in the Columbia River basin has fallen from historic highs of 16 million per year to less than 2 million today. Most of those were raised in hatcheries.

To help restore salmon, the Clinton administration is thinking about what once was thought unthinkable. The government might puncture the earthen portion of four massive federal dams in Eastern Washington and restore 140 miles of freeflowing waters to the lower Snake River, historically considered one of the world’s most productive salmon grounds. Completed between 1961 and 1975, the four dams now generate about 5 percent of the Northwest’s hydroelectricity while turning lewiston, Idaho, into a seaport

A national campaign has emerged over the fate of the dams.

Even though federal officials maintain that the lower Snake is but a small part of the overall troubles afflicting salmon in the Northwest, the dams have become a symbolic rallying point for all sides on the salmon debate.

Conservation groups say dam breaching must be the cornerstone of any effort to reverse the decline of salmon. Labor, farm and industry groups counter that the dams are a fact of life in the modern Pacific Northwest, and removing them won’t assure the recovery of fish stocks.

The issue has emerged as a factor in this year’s presidential campaign.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee, made a campaign stop in the Tri-Cities earlier this year to assure residents of Eastern Washington that he opposes any proposal to breach the dams. He repeatedly has chided Vice President Al Gore, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, for not taking a stand on the matter.

Last week, Gore staked out a middle ground.

Gore is in an especially precarious position, with two traditional Democratic constituencies pulling him in opposite directions. Labor organizations view the dams as sources of high-wage jobs in shipping, aluminum and other riverdependent economies. Environmental groups have focused a national media campaign on breaching the dams to restore salmon.

Like environmental activists, union members tend to prefer Gore to Bush, and are reluctant to comment publicly on the politics of Gore’s stance. But one area labor official who asked not to be named noted that GOP candidate John McCain and Democrat Bill Bradley both refused to rule out dam breaching before the Washington presidential primary earlier this year. As a result, the official said, both candidates “got creamed.”

That might be why dam breaching is seen as political third rall, said a historian who specializes in the politics of salmon.

Joseph Taylor, author of “Making Salmon,” a 1999 book describing the history of the salmon crisis in the Northwest, said it’s no surprise Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is alone among prominent Democrats who won’t rule out dam breaching.

“Any way we move now, we’re going to affect humans,” Taylor said. “If we do nothing, we’re going to affect humans. If we breach the dams, we’re going to affect humans.”

Taylor, now a professor at Iowa State University who earned his doctorate at the University of Washington, documented a series of crossroads and crises for Northwest salmon dating as far back as 1877. His book documents a lengthy history of fingerpointing between various interests that all had something to lose in the salmon debate: sport and commercial fishermen, tribes, electric utilities, and various forms of industry.

Taylor, who formerly worked as a doryman out of Pacific City, Ore., said this is the most serious salmon crisis yet.

He noted that some runs of naturally spawning salmon and steelhead, particularly the four species listed as threatened and endangered in the Snake River; are hanging on by a thread. At the same time, more people than ever rely on the river to power their homes, feed their families and transport goods to market.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see anything happening in the foreseeable future,” he said. “The politics is simply not there.”

Larry Cassidy Jr. of Vancouver is a longtime backer of Democratic candidates with close ties to Gov. Gary locke.

Cassidy also is the chairman of the Northwest Power Planning Council, a four-state compact formed by an act of Congress in 1980 to balance the region’s power demand against fish and wildlife. The council distributes $127 million each year generated from the sale of federal hydropower marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration. The money is used to improve fish habitat.

When it comes to breaching dams, Cassidy is blunt in describing the political reality.

“If this battle comes down to fish vs. power, fish will lose,” he said.

For now, Gore and the Clinton administration have delayed a decision on breaching the dams. Instead, the administration will focus on shortterm measures designed to give fish a boost. Dams would be modified to improve water quality; harvest may be curtailed in some sensitive areas; hatchery practices would be changed to keep the last vestiges of naturally spawning fish from being overwhelmed by those grown in hatcheries.

Perhaps most difficult of all, the government will push to reverse the long history of stream degradation that began with white settlement more than a century ago.

If the government’s soon-to-be released recovery plan fails to reverse the decline of 12 Columbia basin stocks listed as threatened or endangered, Gore said, “We may then have no choice but to pursue options such as dam breaching.”

Labor representatives bristle at that suggestion, saying it leads directly to a predetermined conclusion to breach dams if land-use changes fail to achieve results.

“If those don’t work, then the automatic assumption is that we tear down the dams,” said Doug Riggs, coordinator of the Coalition for Responsible River Use, representing 16 labor organizations opposed to dam breaching. “The policy has us continuing to pursue engineering studies that would lead to dam destruction.”

By that time, however, conservation groups believe it may be too late to help some salmon stocks.

Let’s say three years from now the runs are much worse than they are now,” said Rob Mason, director of Northwest conservation programs for American Rivers. “We need to be making a decision then.”

American Rivers, a national conservation group, earlier this year listed the Snake as America’s most endangered river. Historian Stephen Ambrose, author of “Undaunted Courage,” a historical account of the lewis & Clark Expedition, now serves on the organization’s board of directors.

In “Undaunted Courage,” Ambrose recounted a time when the Snake River virtually teemed with salmon, describing Lewis and Clark’s encounter with the Nez Perce nation near the present-day site of the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams. The explorers were astounded by the volume of fish the tribe was able to pull from the river.

“Their catches were incredible,” Ambrose wrote. “One man could kill a hundred salmon on a good day, a full ton or more of fish.”

During a recent speech, Ambrose said he believes it’s possible to revive those runs. “In the 19th century,” he said, we devoted our best minds to exploring nature. In the 2Oth century, we devoted ourselves to controlling and harnessing it In the 21st century, we must devote ourselves to restoring it”

The Columbian
Vancouver, WA
July 23, 2000

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Several Factors Contribute To Run On Region’s Power Supply

Companies like Vanalco will not easily find affordable power in Northwest

By Bill Stewart
Vancouver Business Journal

Blame it on California. That seems to be one of the must popular explanations for the skyrocketing prices for electricity in the Pacific Northwest.

This region used to have some of the cheapest power rates in the nation and that’s still the case for residential customers. But some heavy industrial users have found themselves on the short end ofa supply-and-demand tug-o-war.

Typically, there’s plenty of electricity to go around for everyone in the Northwest, plus enough left over for suppliers, like the Bonneville Power Administration, to sell its surplus to California. But California had an unusually high demand for power in June, partly because of hot temperarures and partly because of increased computer use in Silicon Valley.

That increased demand ptit a strain on the Northwest’s already depleted power supplies, which helped send wholesale prices on the open market soaring. On a few rare occasions, prices shot up as high as $800 a megawatt hour. That’s astronomical compared with the $20 rate Bonneville charges many of its customers under a long-standing contractual agreement.

Vancouver’s Vanalco, one of the state’s oldest aluminum plants, was a Bonneville customer until 1995. That’s when Vanalco opted out of its BPA deal and began buying electricity on the open market. Most of the time since 1995, power on the open market was cheaper than Bonneville’s rates. But that certainly hasn’t been the case recently, as open market rates jumped to the $40 to $50 range. It’s predicted those rates could reach as high as $150 late this summer.

Since electricity accounts for approximately one-third of the total cost of Vanalco’s finished product, the company’s break-even point was eclipsed shortly after power rates jumped past the $20 mark. With no immediate end to the increases in sight, Vanalco’s owners say they had little choice but to shut down a majority of their operation.

The company then asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to force BPA to sell Vanalco some of its surplus power at cheap rates. BPA officials said they offered to sell Vanalco power, but only at the going open-market rates. Selling it any cheaper could potentially cost the federal agency millions of dollars, they said.

The escalating power rates forced at least two other Washington aluminum plants to shut down in recent weeks and more could follow. The situation prompted Sen. Slade Gorton to ask last week for a federal investigation to determine whether California power suppliers manipulated the energy market to the point it drove up wholesale prices in the Northwest.

But even Gorton doesn’t blame the entire problem on the California market. He noted that slower-than-expected runoff in the streams and rivers that power hydroelectric dams, plus outages (some of which were planned) at major generating plants, also contributed to the crisis.

Noel Shelton, a local power consultant who has provided advice to Vanalco in the past, said another key was the fact that major dams occasionally release water to help protect endangered salmon runs. He said the dams have already released enough water since April to generate 3,000 megawatts of power, which equates to the amount it would take to run three cities the size of Seattle.

BPA spokesman Perry Gruber said the 3,OO0-megawatt figure would be accurate only if prorated over the course of an entire year. Regardless of whether that’s an annual or a quarter figure, Gruber said Bonneville doesn’t consider fish mitigation a problem.

By law, we’re required to provide water for fish before power,” he said. “Fish come first, unless the power requirements are to preserve health and human safety.”

So the practice of releasing water to help fish runs, spilling, will continue no matter how much Northwest companies need the power that water would generate.

“I don’t think they’ll ever stop spilling,” Shelton said. “It used to be cheap to spill but it’s no longer cheap. So maybe that will change some of the decisions on spilling.”

The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is the fact that the Northwest could use more generation facilities. Several projects have been proposed or are nearly ready to begin construction. The only one under construction now is a plant in Klamath Falls, Ore. So, it may be three years or more before Northwest residents and businesses will realize the fruits of those labors.

“I think there will be a need for more generation. There’s no question about that,” said Mick Shutt, spokesman for the Clark Public Utilities District.

The problem is that it’s a very difficult process to site a new generation plant.

“It takes two months to pull all the data together, but it takes bureaucrats two years to make a decision on permitting,” Shelton said.

Then it could take another two years to build the facility. Sometimes it takes that long just to receive all the necessary equipment. Shurt noted that Clark PUD had to wait 22 months for the delivery of a gas-powered turbine that generates the electricity at Clark’s River Road facility.

Shurt said Clark has enough room at its plant to add another turbine, however, the rising cost of natural gas makes that notion rather unattractive.

“The prices of natural gas have been very high for the last few months. We’re very concerned about that,” Shutt said. “The important thing for our customers to know is we have adequate power supplies for the companies we have under contract, and at good prices.”

While Clark PUD has adequate supplies for its regular customers, they wouldn’t be of much help to Vanalco. Clark produces 248 megawatts of power each day, and the capacity of Vanalco’s plant is roughly 235 megawatts, which equals approximately half the usage of the rest of Clark County.

In 1980, the federal government told BPA it had to provide affordable power to all Northwest smelters. But that deal runs out next year and BPA will no longer be obligated to supply any of the smelters.

Still, “we decided to make available to them whatever power we could provide,” Gruber said.

Because Vanalco decided in 1995 to buy only 5 percent of its needed power from Bonneville, the agency can sell no more than that amount to the Vancouver smelter when everyone’s contract comes tip for renewal in 2001, Gruber said. By then, it’s possible that the Northwest’s supply-and-demand problem may have cleared itself up. But it could be too late for Vanalco at that point.

In documents that were filed in federal court, the company stated it would be forced into bankruptcy unless BPA provided a sufficient amount of low-cost power. But Gruber said it’s not the agency’s job to ensure that companies like Vanalco stay in business.

“The reason why Vanalco is in the position it’s in is because of the decisions it made,” the BPA spokesman said. “How would it look if Bonneville had to bail out everyone that made a bad business decision?”

Vancouver Business Journal
Vancouver, WA
July 21, 2000

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Feds’ Salmon Plan Omits Dam Breaching – For Now

Agencies will rely on other action to save fish

By Rocky Barker
The Idaho Statesman

Federal officials said they will delay until 2008 the longawaited decision on whether to breach four Snake River dams to save Idaho’s salmon.

In the meantime, a plan for a comprehensive suite of recovery measures to save 12 runs of endangered salmon in the Columbia River Basin is expected to be announced next week.

To keep Idaho’s Snake River’s runs from going extinct while they assess the dams, federal officials would expand a captive breeding program that supplements wild populations with fish raised in hatcheries.

Clinton administration officials have been saying since late last year that they would not immediately recommend breaching the four dams in Washington but neither would they take the drastic measure off the table. But in the strongest statement to date Wednesday, they confirmed their policy and laid out the timetable for a future decision.

The decision disappointed envirormentalists but pleased Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who is working with the governors of Oregon, Washington and Montana on their own plan for restoring salmon.

The soonest you’ll have full discussion on breaching dams is 10 years,” Kempthorne said.

That’s why I want to move forward aggressively on all four H’s – harvest, hatchery, hydro-power and habitat.”

Salmon are a living icon of the wild character of the Pacific Northwest that provide economic benefits to fishing-related businesses and spiritual sustenance to the region’s Indians. The four dams in Washington allow barges to travel from Lewiston to the Pacific and produce 5 percent of the region’s electricity, enough to power a city the size of Seattle.

The comprehensive plan calls for major changes in farming, logging and building practices throughout the Columbia basin to improve water quality and salmon spawning habitat. It also calls for increased river flows and changes in dam operations that could add to the cost of electricity.

Will Stelle, National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Northwest director, outlined the federal decision Wednesday in a telephone press conference. He and eight other federal agencies plan to release details of the comprehensive salmon restoration plan for the Columbia River basin July 27.

The fisheries service also will release its draft biological opinion on operations of the federal hydroelectric power system. The opinion, required under the federal Endangered Species Act, guides the operation of federal dams throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The biological opinion will include a set of performance standards to measure salmon recovery efforts. After eight years, if the wild salmon populations continue on the downward slide, then federal officials would recommend to Congress that the four dams should be breached, Stelle said.

Those standards include:n- A rising population trend of the endangered 12 salmon and steelhead stocks.n- Improved egg to smolt survival.n- Compliance with the federal Clean Water Act in salmon streams.n- Meeting of river flow targets in salmon rivers.n- Completion of specific habitat restoration projects.

The precise targets will be released in the biological opinion. Stelle did not say how much water will be required from Idaho to meet flow targets.

Idaho political leaders have stood together in opposition to both breaching dams and augmenting river flows with water from Idaho reservoirs such as Lucky Peak.

“It would be foolish in the extreme to Iimit the tools in our recovery toolbox to the narrow choice of breaching or flow augmentation,” said Steve Johnson, a spokesman for Idaho United for Fish and Water, an industry group formed to oppose breaching and the taking of additional water.

Most federal, state, tribal and independent biologists say breaching the four dams is the best way to save Snake River salmon and steelhead. Many of these same scientists say the fish will become extmct if the dams aren’t breached. But the National Marine Fisheries Service has pinned much of its restoration hopes on habitat improvement programs.

But because most of the spawning habitat in Idaho is located in wilderness or other federally protected areas, the habitat is generally in the best condition of the entire region.

To make up for delaying the decision on the dams, the fisheries service will rely on expanding the program of supplementing wild salmon with fish raised in hatcheries.

In this procedure, biologists collect the eggs and sperm of wild salmon adults, hatch the eggs and raise the fish to fingerlings. They release them into the river where they were collected in the spring. When the salmon return, they are allowed to spawn naturally.

The pracfice is strongly advocated by the Nez Perce and other Columbia River tribes. Kempthorne said the state also supports it but wants to allow wild fish to remain undisturbed in certain watersheds such as the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Geneticists say any time salmon are taken from the wild and raised part of their life in hatcheries, they lose some of their ability to survive in the wild. Past programs have had mixed results.

But with dam breaching delayed, and salmon populations on a serious donward spiral, geneticist Rick Williams of Meridian said it might be necessary.

“I would say it’s probably the most reasonable thing to do to buy us time,” he said.

Scott Bosse, conservation biologist for Idaho Rivers United said the decision to delay breaching will mean some Snake River salmon runs will likely go extinct.

“To punt on dam removal is a decision to sacrifice Snake River salmon on the alter of presidential politics,” Bosse said.

Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic nominee for President, has stopped short of endorsing breaching. Instead, he’s calling for a salmon summit after the election to revisit the issue.

Texas Gov. Bush, the certain Republican nominee, Wednesday pushed Gore to take a firm position.

“Al Gore should take a stand,” Bush said in a statement. “I say we can use technology to save the salmon, without leaving the door open to destroying these dams.”

Idaho Statesment
Boise, ID
July 20, 2000

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Grant County PUD May Face Competition For Dams

By Ryan Feeney
The Wenatchee World

EPHRATA – Ten Northwest power utilities that want cheap power may compete with the Grant County PUD for its license to operate Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

A ruling last Friday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowing the competition may increase the $30 mlllion the PUD was planning to spend on relicensing, PUD Manager Don Godard said.

But PUD Commissioner Bill Hewitt believes there is little chance that the PUD will lose its license to operate the two dams. He said competition from the utilities is a tactic to bargain for more of the dams’ cheap power after 2005, when power produced by the dams is divided differently.

We don’t see it as an attempt to take over the dams,” said Hewitt.

“I don’t think there’s a chance they could get a license.”

FERC ruled last year that the PUD’s share of the inexpensive power produced at the dams will increase from 36.5 percent to 70 percent in 2005. That means a smaller share of power from the dams will be available to other utilities at wholesale costs.

Walt Pollock, senior vice president power supply at Portland General Electric Co., one of the 10 utilities, said PGE would like to strike a deal with the PUD ensuring it a large chunk of inexpensive power rather than seek a license.

“What we would like is a continuing substantial share of the power output at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams,” he said. “I’m positive we can reach a settlement.”

He said there are no formal talks under way now between PGE and the Grant County PUD.

Godard said the PUD commission hasn’t decided whether to accept the ruling or to appeal it in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The PUD was against allowing other utilities to seek a license for the dams, arguing a 1954 decision by the U.S. Congress allows only the Grant PUD or an agency of Washington state to seek the license.

The utilities that asked FERC in April to be allowed to compete for the license include Portland General Electric Co., PacifiCorp, Puget Sound Energy Inc., Eugene Water and Electric Board, city of McMinnville, Ore., city of Forest Grove, Ore., Kootenai Electric Cooperative Inc., Clearwater Power Co., Idaho County Light and Power Cooperative Association and Northern Lights Inc.

The Wenatchee World
Wenatchee, WA
July 18, 2000

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Power Crunch Forces NW To Regroup

High costs may force some businesses to close

By: Bert Caidwell
Spokesman Review

Marginal aluminum smelfers, wood-products mills and other industrial plants may fall by the wayside as the Northwest adjusts to changing electricity markets, the head of the Bonneville Power Administration said Friday.

But, added Judi Johansen, the region’s economic base will endure as the stresses created by recent power shortages and price spikes ease and new generating plants come online.

This is just a rough time that as a region we will have to get through,” she said.

Johansen was in Spokane for the dedication of the new Modern Electric Water Co. office complex at 904 N Pines.

An unseasonable hot spell on the West Coast two weeks ago drained electricity supplies, sending prices to unprecedented levels.

Johansen said customers were calling Bonneville seeking power at any price. Stunned consumers, longtime customers and noncustomers alike, continue to clamor for agency resources, she said.

Several regional officials, including Washington Sen. Slade Gorton and Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, are calling for investigations of the crisis.

A panel assembled by the Northwest Power Planning Commission will meet in Spokane next week to discuss the issues.

Bonneville sells electricity from federal dams and the Columbia Generating Station atnHanford – almost 40 percent of the region’s supply.

The agency is now signing contracts that will take effect in October 2001. With demand rising, customers such as the aluminum smelters have been allotted fewer megawatts and at higher costs.

Three of the Northwest’s10 smelters have closed in the past month, as have other businesses employing hundreds each.

Johansen said Bonneville is sponsoring a study of the long-term survivability of the smelters, which consume huge amounts of electricity as they convert alumina into aluminum.

Participants will discuss whether a problem exists, the role of electricity prices, and what can be done and who will do it, she said.

Or, she said, the region may decide it does not want to do anything at all.

Whatever the outcome, Johansen said, the region will continue to have a viable natural resource-based economy. Independent power providers and utilities will build the generators needed to meet future energy demand, she said.

She said the region will be able to blunt the cost of adding those resources by blending into the cheap base of hydropower.

Bonneville, she noted, is studying ways federal projects, many decades old, can be upgraded to produce more electricity.

Even with a requirement that investments pay for themselves within five years, she said, the opportunities are abundant. Even the dams on the Snake River have potential, she said.

With river flows for salmon recovery thrown into the equations, Johansen said, “It’s a tricky calculation.”

More energy might be obtained from wind farms in Wyoming and Oregon, a potential geothermal project in Oregon and conservation efforts in the region, she said.

Johansen said regional utility operators are also making progress toward forming a Regional Transmission Operator that would control all high voltage lines.

An RTO could maximize the carrying capacity of the existing grid and undertake construction to eliminate bottlenecks, she said.

For Bonneville, which controls three quarters of the transmission capacity in the Northwest, the results could be revolutionary, she said.

We’re giving up control of a federal entity, Johansen said, adding that the status of federal employees who now manage the systeni is among the stickier issues.

She said Bonneville took some financial hits of its own during the recent shortage, but nothing that will prevent managers from meeting targets for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

But Johansen cautioned that utility officials must remain on guard.

“The events of June are just a precursor of what we could see this summer and this winter,” she said.

Spokesman Review
July 15, 2000
Spokane, WA

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Gorton Wants To Know If Power Market Manipulated

Senator asks for probe into California suppliers’ actions

By: Les Blumenthal
The News Tribune

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton has asked for a federal investigation into whether California power suppliers last month manipulated the energy market to dramatically drive up wholesale electricity prices in the Northwest.

The price spikes resulted in thousands of temporary layoffs and raised concerns about future blackouts.

Gorton requested the probe in a letter Wednesday to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and an earlier letter to the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, James Hoecker.

The Bellevue Republican said there are plenty of reasons why wholesale electric rates rose sharply, in some cases by 50-fold, in late June, including hot temperatures, a slower than expected runoff in streams and rivers that power hydroelectric dams, and planned and unplanned outages at some of the region’s major generating plants.

But these factors alone do not explain the unprecedented levels of price spikes,” Gorton wrote. He said deregulation of the California energy market has “created a situation that encourages suppliers and in some cases large users to ‘game’ the market.

“I have heard that certain generating plants were held back from the market…in order to sell (electricity) at astronomical levels on the short-term spot market,” he wrote.

Electricity regularly flows back and forth between the Northwest and California over a series of transmission “interties” as demand in one region or the other rises and falls.

In June, however, demand in both regions was extremely high, and wholesale power rates in the Northwest rocketed from between $20 to $50 per megawatt-hour to up to $1,000 a megawatt-hour.

Something is seriously wrong with this market, and consumers and workers are going to suffer from this situation,” Gorton said. “This situation stymies the function of the marketplace and encourages certain entities to gain tremendous financial windfalls from creating potentially artificial shortages.”

While residential users didn’t feel the impact, the price spikes forced some industrial plants, including several in Tacoma, to close down or cut back their production.

But Gorton and others warned it may be only a matter of time before residential rates also climb.

“Consumers throughout the West will eventually see rate increases from this situation, workers are jobless due to these actions and the reliability of the entire West Coast bulk-power grid is thereby endangered,” Gorton said.

Gorton has yet to hear back from the energy commission, though he asked that the investigation be completed by the end of July. A commission spokeswoman would only say the commission had received the senator’s request and would respond. The commission also has received a similar letter from Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.).

In his letter to Richardson, Gorton asked the secretary to direct the Department of Energy either to launch its own investigation or assist the energy commission.

Gorton also has asked the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), to call hearings. Gorton, along with five other senators from the Northwest, is a member of the committee.

Northwest utilities welcomed Gorton’s call for an investigation.

“What he is requesting is reasonable and appropriate,” said Steve Klein, power superintendent of Tacoma Power. “It needs to be investigated.”

Klein said it was “pretty clear” that in late June there were additional generating units in California and elsewhere that could have been running.

“We are playing by California rules even though we (Washington state) haven’t deregulated,” Klein said.

Ed Mosey, a spokesman for the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, said it’s clear that when prices are high in California and electricity is needed in the Northwest, it’s going to cost a lot.

“Gorton is not the only one concerned,” Mosey said. “His concern is widely shared.”

BPA markets the low-cost hydropower generated at federal dams in the Northwest and sells almost half of the wholesale electricity in the region. It also got caught in late June when the supply of electricity in the Northwest shrank dramatically, and the region’s utilities had to buy on the expensive California market.

Mosey said those unexpected purchases cost BPA about $20 million.

As to what caused the huge run-up in prices, Mosey said there was no evidence anyone was “gaming,” or manipulating, the market.

“Everyone is playing by the rules,” he said. “But people are optimizing their opportunities.”

The Senate recently passed legislation, authored by Gorton, aimed at ensuring there would be a reliable, source of electricity nationwide. While much of the measure deals with the technicalities of transmitting electricity, it also would establish a national oversight agency for the power markets.

Gorton has compared the new agency to the Securities and Exchange Commission.nThough the stock markets are deregulated, the SEC still acts as a watchdog, andnGorton said that’s what is needed as the energy market deregulates.

High gasoline prices also are coming under scrutiny.

Higher prices have meant sharply higher profits for producers and refiners. Major oil companies are expected to post average earnings growth of 121 percent for the three months that ended in June compared with the corresponding period last year, according to analysts at First Call/Thomson Financial. And oil exploration and production companies are expected to report average increases of 371 percent.

With a host of politicians, including Vice President Al Gore, demanding an investigation of “price gouging,” the Federal Trade Commission already has started an inquiry into possible industry collusion.

But industry analysts do not expect the commission’s investigation to turn up evidence of illegal behavior in the United States, largely because the huge profits can be explained by market forces.

The News Tribune
Tacoma,WA
July 13, 2000

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Kayakers Successfully Run Chelan River

By Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan Valley Mirror

Standing on the rocks at Entrance Exam with whitewater rushing by at 390 cubic feet per second, it is hard to hear other people talk without shouting. After a successful first ascent of the Chelan River Gorge on Saturday, July 8 with flows at 273 cfs, the six kayakers were taking a very serious look at the flows in Entrance Exam on Sunday. After considering the risks of running the four falls at this juncture, only three of the boaters felt comfortable enough to run Entrance Exam while three declined and portaged around the four falls.

The actual on-water kayak testing of the Chelan River has taken over a year to negotiate and develop. Bo Shelby, Shelby Research and Consulting, Corvallis, Oregon and Doug Whittaker, Anchorage, Alaska, were retained by the PUD to study the feasibility of running the Chelan River.

This past weekend six expert whitewater kayakers actually entered the river just east of the Chelan Dam and paddled the entire stretch to the Chelan Falls PUD Park (They intended to run the river again on Monday at 475 cfs). After completion of the day on Sunday, Chelan County PUD Commissioner Jim Wall said, It has been a lot more successful than I thought it would be.” He remarked that not understanding kayaking led to his doubts about running the river. “This has been a real education for me… I’m impressed with what they can do.”

Others on the PUD staff were equally impressed with these six individuals. They were impressed that they checked each section carefully before attempting to kayak it and the fact that they portaged around the 23 foot high PinnaclenFalls as being to dangerous to boat.

On Saturday morning before putting in, Bo Shelby held an orientation for the boaters. “We don’t have to run anything we consider dangerous,” Shelby told the crew. John Gangemi, American Whitewater, told the crew, “We want to be as objective as possible. This isn’t a normal week… you are being scrutinized very closely and it is very important to look at this as our job. If someone says, ‘I don’t want you to run that’… then you don’t run it. Think of this as a study.”

Each boater was required to flll out a survey form at the end of each day so the advantages and disadvantages of different flow levels could be discerned.

After Saturday’s four hour run through the Gorge, the kayakers were ecstatic. Forrest Hubler of Hood River, Oregon said it best. “I thought it was awesome. We only did one portage.” Tracy Clapp, Sultan, stated that it is a classic run. “The rapids are so distinct with a nice pool to recover in.” Gangemi said the run reminds him a lot of Tullulah Falls in Georgia. Rick Williams, Black Diamond, said, “It reminds me of runs in desert Idaho, but it is the color of the water that stands out…it is very unique. The morphology is a real asset.”

They all agreed that the setting was incredible and that it could be run safely. “It is much safer than some other runs,” said Willams. They liked the fact that they could provide safety almost at will anywhere in the canyon. Shelby said it was a lot like he expected after conducting the on-land study last year. “Some drops were bigger than we first thought.” Pinnacle is 23 feet and none attempted it. Several others are 19 feet and 13 feet.

They also enjoyed the weather, but who could complain about 80 degree temperatures and 70 degree water temperatures. On Sunday, the new flows did change things a bit, but overall the experience was the same. It took the boaters three and one-half hours to accomplish the run on Sunday. Gangemi feels that boaters accessing the river would be able to do two runs a day if the river is opened up to kayaking. “It is a pretty good resource,” he said. “All clear drops and they are the fun kind of drops,” said Clapp. “It is cool to have them all packed in there together.”

Gangemi said he feels whitewater releases would fit well with the community.

After the on-water study is completed on Monday evening, July 10 the PUD will wait until the Shelby/Whittaker report is finished before making any further looks at opening up the river which would not happen until the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project is relicensed in 2004. Other issues that cloud potential whitewater releases include liability issues of the PUD and how much it will cost in lost power production if the request is made for fall releases.

One thing is very evident…kayakers with the skill to boat the Gorge…can do so safely and prudently.

Chelan Valley Mirror
Chelan, WA
July 12, 2000

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Comparison Shopping For Power

Industries consider plugging back in to Tacoma Power

By Al Gibbs
The News Tribune

In 199.6, Pierce County’s biggest industrial electric consumers divorced Tacoma Power to buy energy from other, somewhat cheaper suppliers.

They’ll be looking for a reconciliation this fall as the uility decides how much energy it will buy from the Bonneville Power Administration beginning in 2001- and how much it will be able to sell to its industrial customers.

Expect the industries, hit hard by recent surges in the price of electricity, to come back to Tacoma Power.

“Absolutely,” said Rich Zgol, manager of Abitibi Consolidated Corp.’s paper mill in Steilacoom. “We’ve attended several meetings they’ve hosted; and indicated our interest.”

That’s clearly one of the top options being considered,” added Larry Landry,  manager of Pioneer Chlor-Alkali’s plant on Tacoma’s Tide-flats. “Right now, (an assured supply and low price) looks really good.”

Skyrocketing energy prices on West Coast wholesale markets in the past few weeks have caused the industries that use lots of power to reverse course rapidly as high electricity costs have forced production slowdowns and even some plant closures and lay offs.

Power has routinely sold for peak prices of $500 to 750 a megawatt hour in recent weeks; It’s normally available for $20 to $50.

Although regular cousumers haven’t seen the price spikes, they’ve been a major problem for industries for which the cost of power can be as much as one-third to one-half of their productioh costs.

Even Bonneville will be on the receiving end of industrial love and affection in September as it decides who gets how much power through 2006.

It lost customers in 1996, too, when its prices Were higher than the market A lot of those fickle folk aluminum  producers and other direct-service industrial customers want to return. “Many of those took their load to the market, and now want ours back” said Bonneville spokesman Ed Mosey.

They may not get all they want.

Bonneville, which markets electricity from 29 hydroelectric dams and one nuclear plant, has about  9,000 megawatts to sell.

Under federal law municipal utilities like Tacoma Power, Seattle City Light and the region\’s public utility districts get first dibs at the lowest price.

Investor-owned utilities like Puget Sound Energy are next in line, followed by direct-service customers like aluminum plants.

Of Bonneville’s  9,000 megawatts, about 5,000 will be allocated to public utiities;  investor-owned utilities wiii get as much as 2,200 megewatts; and the direct-service customers will get about 1,500.

Bonneville will begin cutting up the .power pie in September afler all its customers indicate how large a share they want.

Most, including Tacoma Power, haven’t yet decided.

Tacoma’s case illustrates what happened in the mid-90s when many customers left Bonneville.

In those days, Tacoma got about 40 percent of its power from Bonneville. But Tacoma’s industrial customers found they could buy electricity elsewhere at a cheaper price.

Rather than lose those customers entirely, Tacoma Power agreed to act as a broker, buying power on the open market and delivering it to the plants.

Tacoma’s dependence on Bonneville dropped to less than 10 percent of its load.

The change was benefited the industries for all of one year.

That first year, power was about 10 percent cheaper, said Abitibi’s Zgol. But the second year the price rose about $2 a megawatt  higher than market rates; the next year it was $7 higher.

“Now it’s insurmountable,” Zgol said. “I don’t think there’s any question (leaving Tacoma. Power) went against us.”

When Bonneville announced it would allow customers to subscribe to its power this fall – and set prices that, on average, were at or below the market- the scramble was on.

Puget began running radio ads aimed. at maintaining  the price break it had been getting but no longer would enjoy beginning about a year from now.

Aluminum companies backed by lobbying muscle from the AFL-CIO, stormed the offices of the Clinton administration and convinced officials to order Bonneville to increase their share.

“The process has not been without. its bumps;” said Bonnevile’s” Mosey.

So far,  he said, few utilities have indicated how much of Bonneville’s power they’d like to buy.

“Utilities aren’t stampeding in to sign up he said.  “We think they’ll wait until the last minute to see what the market does.”

But Tacoma Power’s industrial customers aren’t worried that their former electrical supplier will exact revenge. “I don’t feel taken advantage of by Tacoma Power,” Zgol said. “I think they’ll come up with a scheme to balance this out.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
July 12, 2000

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Plan For Cowlitz Dams Is Approved

Tacoma Utility Board OKs package that commits $60 million to salmon

By Al Gibbs
The News Tribune

Tacoma Power apparently will be allowed to continue operating its giant hydroelectric dams on the Cowlitz River in ways that might not immediately cause increased costs for its electric customers.

A dozen federal, state and nongovernmental agencies have agreed to support a plan to run the dams while spending as much as $60 million on efforts to restore wild salmon and steelhead trout in what once was one of the Northwest’s most productive river basins.

Tacoma’s Utility Board approved the agreement Wednesday night. The 60-page document, created as part of Tacoma’s effort to relicense two hydroelectric dams – Mayfield and Mossyrock – will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which could issue a new operating license by next spring.

“I think the real winners are the (fish),” said Toby Freeman, Tacoma Power’s relicensing coordinator. “This gives us the greatest chance for (salmon and steelhead) restoration.”

Added Rob Masonis, regional director of conservation programs for the influential environmental organization American Rivers, “On balance, I think this will be good for fish in the Cowlitz. It’s a strong agreement.”

Tacoma Power Superintendent Steve Klein said he won’t know until next month whether the utility will raise rates during the next two years. The price of Tacoma’s power has remained unchanged for more than five years.

Besides raising the money Tacoma has committed to spend on a variety of Cowlitz projects, normal inflation, unexpected price spikes in West Coast energy markets and a new contract with the Bonneville Power Administration will determine whether the utility can avoid a rate increase until 2001.

“Right now, I’d say it’s 50-50,” Klein said. “We could possibly sneak through the next bi-ennium” without a rate increase.

While the so-called settlement agreement and proposed relicensing qualifications also cover such subjects as recreational, cultural and historic resource programs Tacoma will operate in the Cowlitz basin, restoration of salmon and steelhead runs proved to be the most difficult issue overcome during the four years officials worked on relicensing.

When the dams were built, fish priorities centered on augmenting natural runs with salmon and steelhead grown in hatcheries, and the facilities Tacoma built along the river were among the largest in the world.

But that world has changed.

“This happened during a paradigm shift in public priorities,” Freeman said.

Resource agencies are now concentrating on restoring wild runs, and production at the Cowlitz hatcheries, which are run by the state, actually will be reduced as part of that effort.

Instead, Tacoma has agreed to a so-called adaptive management plan that involves all the agencies in planning ways to make it easier for salmon and steelhead to spawn in the streams of the river’s upper basin and for their progeny to return to the sea.

Although some methods involve artificially moving the fish upstream and down, the most natural methods will be most favored. The $60 million Tacoma has committed will be spent over decades, and won’t be a hard financial hit in any single year.

That more than a dozen agencies and organizations could reach agreement on the many contentious issues involved was itself an achievement, Klein said.

“A lot of the hard work was bringing people to the table and getting a cohesive solution,” he said.

“We weren’t holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya,”‘ said Martha Bean, a Seattle consultant who served as a mediator during the negotiations. “But we found that fighting simply wastes time.”

At least one group involved in the negotiations won’t sign the agreement.

Friends of the Cowlitz, a fishing group, doesn’t think the plan goes far enough to keep fishermen happy with hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead while trying to restore wild runs.

“We think some things could be tweaked to make it better,” said Bill Zaikawsky, the group’s president.

But Klein pronounced himself pleased that the dams that provide about one-third of Tacoma’s average power load could continue operating for up to 40 years.

“This is the best license in the world that we could get today,” he said.

“It’s a cohesive plan, and we have agreement by the parties. Everybody’s heading in the same direction.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
July 10, 2000

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Removing Dams Could Cause More Problems On River

By Ray Hughes
Columbian

In the 20th century, dams became a big part of the Northwest. We use them for power, navigation and irrigation.

Ever since we put dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers, salmon runs have decreased. With the decreasing salmon runs, people have thought about taking out the dams. Dams do cause problems, but would removing them be the answer?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constantly working to improve salmon runs. The engineers installed screens that direct fingerlings away from the turbines. They also take fish by truck and barge down past the dams and release them.

The water going over the spillway raises the nitrogen levels in the water, giving fish a disease similar to the bends disease in people. They put slabs of concrete in the spillway called flip lips to break the fall of the water.

When you think about the loss of salmon, you need to look at the four Hs: hatchery, habitat, harvest and hydro. Fish from hatcheries are not as strong as the native fish. The mixing of hatchery and wild stocks weakens the wild gene pool. Hatchery salmon are less stream smart, less instinctual and less alert.

As human population increases and develops, habitat for the salmon is either lost or destroyed. When salmon are born, they face a lot of predators. In the river, bears, hawks and eagles can eat them. When they get in the ocean, seals, whales and larger fish feast on the salmon. Commercial fishing boats bring in salmon by the net load. In the Columbia River Gorge, American Indians put nets into the river, which can cause problems for the salmon when they get caught in the nets.

Hydroelectric dams can block migration. The main dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers all have fish ladders to help guide fish through the dam, but the small dams up-stream do not have fish ladders.

Dams produce millions of horsepower in electric power. If the dams are breached, we will lose that power. We will have to make it up by burning more fossil fuel. Breaching the dams would allow the water level to drop so far that irrigation would be impossible. The tons of mud and sediment built up behind the four lower Snake River dams would wash down the river. The extremely muddy river water could wipe out salmon and other fish, and it would take years for the river to recover.

People use the gorge for a place to go for the weekend and have fun. If the dams arenbreached, people won’t be able to go boating or windsurfing be cause the water current would be too strong.

Breaching would make navigation for tugboats and ships impossible. If the barges are shut down, this would make the roads and railways more crowded. Placing the commodities that are now on barges onto rail or trucks will result in more air pollution. We rely on dams to make clean electricity and keep the barging industry from going out of business.

Dams provide clean power using a renewable source. They provide a navigation system that is more fuel efficient and results in less air pollution. Removing the dams is not the silver bullet it is hailed to be and will result in serious consequences to the people of the Northwest.

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
July 10, 2000

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Region Needs More Power

By Bert Caldwell
Spokesman Review

Rumblings of distant power shortages in the Northwest last week broke like a sudden summer electrical storm.

The immediate damage was confined to a few industrial plants, but officials predict the impacts will spread unless the region adds generating and transmission resources to meet growing demand.

New facilities are almost sure to increase the cost of electricity in the region, which historically has paid the lowest rates in the country thanks to the numerous hydroelectric dams.

Utility managers scrambling for megawatts as temperatures soared paid more than 50 times the usual going rate for this time of year.

Avista Utilities asked customers to avoid unnecessary use of electricity from 4 to 7 p.m., when the price of megawatts to keep air conditioners and other appliances going peaks.

In addition to high temperatures, last week’s developments were caused by untimely outages at four of the region’s major generating plants, including the 1,1OO-megawatt Columbia Generating Plant at Hanford.

Also, hydroelectric output in the Columbia Basin was constrained by spillage for fish passage downstream, although the Bonneville Power Administration briefly declared an emergency that permitted dam operators to direct more water through the turbines.

Bonneville had alerted the region to impending power shortages in a 1998 white paper, and the Northwest Power Planning Council amplified those warnings in an Adequacy/Reliability Study released in March.

The Power Planning Council says there’s a 24 percent chance of a shortage within the next four winters, an unacceptably high risk. To meet demand rising at a rate of almost 2 percent a year, the panel says at least 3,000 megawatts of new generation are needed.

Avista will solicit proposals for new supplies sometime next month, said Bob Lafferty, manager for resource optimization.

But most of the resources proposed now will not be available until late in the four-year period. Meantime, utility managers and customers alike may be juggling kilowatts in order to keep demand and supply in balance.

Spokesman Review
Spokane, WA
July 9, 2000

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BPA Puts Squeeze On Utilities

By Chris Mulick
HeraId staff writer

Some electric utilities believe the Bonneville Power Administration is trying to squeeze them out of the agency’s most popular contract offer.

Wholesale power contracts are scheduled to expire next year, and utilities are negotiating new agreements with Bonneville that would take effect Oct. 1, 2001.

As the deadlines approach, utilities are swarming to the agency’s so-called Slice of the System” offer, allowing them to purchase a percentage of the power produced by the Northwest’s nuclear plant and system of federal hydroelectric dams.

Though a bit risky — forcing utilities to buy and sell more power on the volatile spot market — the slice contract offer gives utilities the most flexibility, officials say.

Bonneville’s more traditional offers include higher penalty fees when utilities shop around for a better deal.

But Bonneville, unsure of its own ability to operate under the slice contracts, have added new stipulations in negotiations.

Utilities, many of which have done business with the BPA for 60 years, now must extend Bonneville a line of credit and submit a legal opinion from a recognized law firm, indicating the authority to sign such contracts. The BPA also is reserving the right to cancel contracts if utilities don’t pay their bills on time.

“That’s fairly heavy-handed,” said Gary Saleba, a Bellevue-based power consultant.

For its part, Bonneville says it is not trying to deter utilities from pursuing slice contracts. The agency simply is trying to ensure it can handle the ups and downs of the spot market when it needs to make purchases.

Ultimately, the BPA may end up selling as much as 30 percent of its power through slice contracts.

“To step off the dock in times like these, that’s a big step,” said John Elizalde, the agency’s manager of Western power sales and customer service.

Besides, it was tough enough late last month when the agency had to scramble to replace the 1,150 megawatts usually produced by the Columbia Generating Station, Elizalde said.

The nuclear plant north of Richland tripped off-line unexpectedly at a time when Bonneville already was buying power off the spot market to meet demand.

“This was pretty much a Bonneville crisis,” Elizalde said. “There were a lot of decisions that had to be made very quickly. Go out two years and it’s the same scenario and you’ve got 30 new players. How smoothly and efficiently will we be able to deal with those new parties?”

Though Elizalde insists Bonneville is not trying to steer customers away from slice, others say it couldn’t be more clear. “It’s not a feeling, that’s a fact,” said Jerry Garman, a power consultant representing Piebland’s electric utility and the Benton and Franklin public utility districts.

Despite the new hurdles, area utilities still plan to pursue slice contracts.

“It’s a nuisance and a slap in the face, but we’ll deal with it,” said Benton PUD Manager Jim Sanders.

But that’s only if the utility can have access to enough power under a slice contract to make it worthwhile

To limit risk, Bonneville will allow only 1,150 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts of power to be sold under slice contracts, even though demand has soared above 3,000 megawatts.

The agency is expected to announce this week how much each utility would get if they agree to the new contracts. The deadline for signing is Sept. 30. But if the amount of slice power isn’t large enough, smaller utilities may not find it worthwhile to participate at all.

Every slice participant, no matter how small, will have new expenses associated with power scheduling, including staff to constantly monitor changes in the power market.

“A lot of costs go into scheduling with that much detail,” said Chuck Dawsey, manager of the Benton REA.

Tri-City Herald
Kennewick, WA
July 9, 2000

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PSE Asks To Sell Water From White River

By Bruce Rommel
Journal

LAKE TAPPS – Puget Sound Energy is considering a plan to sell water from the White River to offset operating losses at its White River hydroelectric plant and preserve Lake Tapps.

PSE wants to draw as much as 60 million gallons of water daily from the White River near Auburn and has filed a water rights application with state officials.

But if the state allows PSE to take more water, there might be less for the city of Auburn, which has long planned to pump more water from ground wells near the White River to help the city meet the demands of future development.

The potential conflict is the result of new federal operating requirements for PSE’s White River plant. PSE says upgrading the plant to meet new environmental rules to protect salmon habitat would be so costly the company would be forced to close the hydroelectric operation. That could mean eventually draining Lake Tapps, a manmade reservoir replenished by the White River. Draining the lake would leave thousands of lakeside residents literally high and dry. There are also two large public parks on Lake Tapps, one of the region’s most popular recreational lakes, southeast of Auburn.

Auburn earlier applied to the state for rights to draw more ground water from wells. The city has spent about $3 million studying how that would affect the Green and White rivers.

PSE, the private Bellevue-based utilities company, proposes to draw more water from the White River and sell it to cities and counties in the area.

But company officials are quick to stress PSE doesn’t want to get into the water business. The White River plant was completed in 1911 Officials with the Bellevue-based PSE say upgrading the facilities to meet the new federal rules means an operating loss estimated at between $3 million and $5 million annually. Selling water to cities and counties in King and Pierce counties would offset those loses to keep the plant operating and Lake Tapps full, said Ed Schild, director of energy storage for PSE.

This isn’t to increase storage our profits,” Schild said.

PSE is also looking at the options, along with the Lake Tapps Task Force. The task force includes PSE, Auburn and other area cities, Pierce County and state agencies. The group was created to find a plan to preserve Lake Tapps.

Chris Engler, Auburn’s public works director said yesterday the city is proceeding with its pursuit of new water rights from the White River to help meet the city’s future demands.

Schild, the PSE director, said the company will continue its study as one possible option.

“It takes years to obtain water rights,” Schild said. “This is one option that has some promise, so we’re following it for now.”

The Lake Tapps Task Force also is looking at other options, such as creating a special lake management district, which might mean an additional property tax assessment for Lake Tapps area residents. Pierce County and the city of Bonney Lake, both of which have public parks on the lake, also are looking for ways to preserve the lake.

South County Journal
Kent, WA
July 7, 2000

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Tri-City Utilities Negotiate ‘Slice’ Contracts

By Chris Mulick
Herald staff writer

Despite spiking market energy prices, the new wholesale power contract proposals Tri-City electric utilities are favoring would have supplied enough juice last week had they been in place.

But analysts say the Bonneville Power Administration’s so-called SIice of the System” offer remains laden with risk that could have forced utilities to buy spendy electricity off the market under different circumstances.

With existing contracts set to expire, Tri-City utilities are negotiating new contracts with Bonneville that would take effect Oct. 1, 2001. The slice contracts would allow utilities to purchase a percentage ofwhatever the BPA system of federal hydroelectric dams and Energy Northwest’s nuclear power plant produce.

Sometimes that portion would be more than enough to meet demand, and utilities would sell surplus to the market. Other times, they would have to buy from the market to provide enough.

And that can be a risky proposition. With four power plants offline and temperatures soaring, West Coast wholesale electricity prices jumped to unprecedented levels last week, topping out at more than $1 a kilowatt-hour. By comparison, residential consumers in the Tri-Cities pay 2 cents a kilowatt-hour and 5 cents a kilowatt-hour when distribution and administrative costs are added.

Though the market stabilized this week, wholesale power was being sold Thursday into the Northwest from California at prices twice as high as a year ago. Until this spring, the kind of volatility experienced last week had been seen only during summer heat waves in the Midwest and Northeast.

“It’s come over the Rockies and it’s coming our way,” said John Elizalde, Bonneville’s manager of western power sales and custom service.

As it turns out, Richland’s electric utility, the Benton Rural Electric Association and the Benton and Franklin Public Utility Districts probably would have made a little money last week if they had been operating under a slice contract.

That’s because dam operators, knowing a late runoff still is coming, allowed enough water to be rushed through turbines to make the utilities’ would-be slice enough to cover demand.

“The way the water was being regulated, the slice purchaser would have had some power to sell into that volatile market,” said Jerry Garman, a Bellevue power consultant. “The utilities in the Tri-Cities would have been OK”

But similar conditions in August likely would have turned the utilities into buyers. By then, the runoff typically has already passed and dam operators are using water more sparingly, filling reservoirs for electricity generation in the winter.

December could be another bad month. Then, operators allocate water conservatively, not knowing how much water will be available to help struggling fish runs the following year. They have a better picture of mountain snowpack by January, Garman said, and can use water more liberally.

Analysts say last week’s episode offered a clear illustration of the price spikes utilities will have to brace themselves for in the years to come.

“This last couple of weeks seem to be an eye-opener for everybody,” said Gaiy Saleba, a Bellevue-based power consultant. “We will probably have a few more summers that won’t be very pretty.”

Naturally, dam operation strategies are determined by how much water there is and when it is available. And that can vary from year to year.

“Every year is a different ball game,” Garman said. “Mother Nature is very fickle.”

To mitigate risks utilities are pooling resources Richland and the Benton and Franklin PUDs for example are teaming with three other public utilities. Benton REA is teaming with about a dozen utilities in a separate pool.

Because power demands in Eastern Washington differ from Western Washington depending on the time of the year utilities on both sides plan to share surpluses within their pool to avoid expensive market purchases.

Ray Sieler, Richland’s energy services director, said his utility still is considering buying a portion of the output of a new gas-fired power plant.

Though power from a new plant would cost more than prices Bonneville is offering it still would be alot cheaper than buying electricity from the market during times like last week, Sieler said.

Tri-City Herald
Yakima, WA
July 7, 2000

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Gorton Backs Deregulation Of State Energy

POWER: Murray seeks to protect interests of smaller communities.

By John Stark
The Bellingham Herald

Federal legislation may eventually prod all of the states into unleashing market forces in the electric energy business, U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said Wednesday in Bellingham.

But Washington Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, also in Bellingham Wednesday, said Congress should move cautiously on the issue and make sure the interests of smaller communities are protected in any new electricity marketplace.

Gorton, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said he favors the passage of legislation that would give states a deadline for moving to a market-driven electrical power system.

California and several other states have already taken that step, but Washington still relies on a system that maintains a type of regulated monopoly for electric utilities such as Puget Sound Energy. Electricity users in Bellingham and much of the rest of Whatcom County get their power from Puget, with the price regulated by the state through the Utilities and Transportation Commission.

In California and several other states, electric utility companies now make their profits through transmission, not by selling power, and all electricity consumers have the opportunity to purchase power from more than one company.

Some observers fear that switching to a market system could push electric bills higher for homeowners and others in the Pacific Northwest, where power costs are among the lowest in the nation. In Washington, a kilowatt-hour of electricity generally costs 4 to 5 cents. In California, it’s nearly 10 cents; in New York, more than 11 cents.

Because of that differential, Gorton said, the wrong kind of deregulation could hurt this region. If electricity markets were wide open, Northwest utilities would ship more power to regions where the prices are higher, thereby cutting the supply and raising the price here, he said.

Murray added that smaller communities and rural areas might not fare well under a market-driven system if they were dependent upon profit-making companies for their power supply. Power producers and suppliers would tend to focus their attention on bringing power to industries and large cities where profit margins are greatest, she said.

Gorton and Murray agreed that Northwest electricity costs could be kept low if the region continues to enjoy preferential access to low-cost hydroelectric power from the Bonneville Power Administration. Both senators sald that Republicans and Democrats representing Northwest states in Congress would work to keep that preferential access in any new energy legislation.

If restructuring of the electricity business is handled properly, the introduction of competition should increase efficiency and thereby reduce power costs everywhere, Gorton said. He added that ending the present patchwork of regulated and market-driven states would give entrepreneurs the certainty they need to invest in new generating plants, thereby increasing the supply of power.

Gorton also said a comprehensive federal electricity bill should contain incentives to encourage companies to invest in renewable or green” power generation, although he acknowledged that many of his fellow Republicans disagree.

“If we act wisely, everyone, every region of the country, can be a winner,” Gorton said.

Murray cautioned that there is no simple solution to electricity price and supply problems. The nation needs long-term planning for both increased power generation and for conservation, she said. She rejected the charge that the Clinton administration had not done enough to develop a national energy policy and maintained that Republicans in Congress have rejected President Clinton’s energy initiatives.

The structure of the electricity business became a hot issue in Whatcom County last week when Georgia-Pacific West Inc. and Bellingham Cold Storage found themselves facing electricity costs that were 10 to 20 times normal in the final year of their five-year contracts with Puget Sound Energy.

At those rates, officials at both BCS and G-P said neither could operate profitably. G-P ordered a two-day shutdown, idling more than 600 workers, and BCS curtailed operations as sharply as possible, throwing 270 seafood processing workers out of a job. While G-P has since returned to normal operations, the workers at Trans-Ocean Products Inc. and Icicle Seafoods remain idle.

Officials at G-P and BCS say they could cut power costs by negotiating with other power suppliers in cooperation with Whatcom County Public Utility District No.1- if PSE would agree to allow other electric suppliers to transmit electricity to the two companies via PSE power lines. But under Washington law, PSE is under no obligation to do that and PSE officials have rejected the idea.

During his visit here Wednesday, Gorton met with Bellingham Cold Storage President Doug Thomas and Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson to discuss the situation. He promised to do what he could to help.

“I don’t have any power over Puget Sound Energy, but we’ll try to rattle the cage and see whether we can get something to take place,” Gorton said.

Last week, the Senate approved the Gorton-sponsored Electric Reliability Act, which he said would indirectly help moderate the kind of electricity price fluctuations that caused problems for G-P, BCS and other companies in the state. Among other things, the bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to punish companies that hold back power to drive up the market price. Gorton and others have suggested that such manipulation might have played a role in the recent price crunch.

Murray said the federal government has no short-term fix for the power price problems of local industries. As she sees it, that situation underlines the need for a long-term energy plan.

Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, WA
July 6, 2000

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Brownout Time

This could be the year that energy supplies fall seriously short of demand cycles

Several hundred Vanalco workers in Clark County have been pink-slipped. Alcoa just shut down the Reynolds mill in Troutdale it bought a few months ago. Kaiser is closing down potlines at aluminum refineries in Tacoma and Spokane. nnThose and other painful industrial decisions were driven by the rising costs and flat availability of electricity in the Pacific Northwest. Even though the aluminum refineries suck up huge parts of the regional power capacity, suppliers warnnthat brownouts could hit the region in weeks to come.

Such dire warnings have been floated by the electricity industry for nearly four decades, but never in those years have the threats seemed so imminent.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the prophets of energy doom focused on threatened strictures on the industry’s generating capacity. Most of the big rivers had been dammed for hydroelectricity by then. Environmentalists were mounting serious assaults on the use of strip-mined coal. Petroleum reserves weren’t being discovered as fast as they were being used up. The early promise of nuclear generation was foundering on fear of radioactivity.

The industry got us to think about the possibility of frequent blackouts, total failure of an overstressed supply system. Industry experts taught us a new word: brownouts, the continued operation of the system but at a level far below demand.

The anxiety then stirred enabled the industry to sell the public on such things as the Washington Public Power Supply System, which set out to build five big nuclear plants, actually finished one at Hanford and wasted tens of billions of borrowed dollars on the four left in various stages of construction.

WPPSS – universally known as Woops! by the early 1980s – was killed by economics. Contrary to the historic patterns of the industry and the confident expectations of industry mangers, electricity demand turned out to be price sensitive. When electric bills started soaring to meet the WPPSS debt service and other rising costs, most everyone figured out how to make do with less electricity. The projected demand lines on industry charts became bumpy curves. Even without net increase in generating capacity since the Trojan plant shut down, the demand was readily met.

This unusually hot and dry summer is testing the flexibility of the demand price relationship. At the same time the aluminum industry is being priced out of production, supply is dwindling. The reactor at Hanford shut itself down on Monday. Coal-fired generators in Centralia and in Montana at Colstrip and Jim Bridger were shut down. The power pools behind the hydroelectric dams are dwindling.

No AC this summer?

Electric system managers probably know how to avoid disastrous, unanticipated blackouts. They may not be able to avoid brownouts that reduce power supply to particular areas to some uncomfortable base level. This could be the year we all learn how to live without air conditioning even on the hottest days. It is already the year we are learning to do without a lot of formerly dependable industrial salaries.

We might develop new habits of energy thrift. Given our history, though, we are more likely to be softened up for the next big industry answer. How many really hot days without electrically cooled air will it take before we remove the wraps from nuclear generation? How many nights without streetlights before we decide that saving a few salmon runs is less important that beefing up the hydroelectric system?

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
July 2, 2000

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Electric Shortages Raise Rates

Aubrey Cohen
Bellingham Herald

Four years ago, it seemed like a good idea.

In 1996, Puget Sound Energy agreed to sell electricity to Georgia-Pacific WestnInc. and Bellingham Cold Storage at a variable rate pegged to the Dow Jones Mid-nColumbia Electricity Index, which shows the price at which power and electricitynfutures are being bought and sold each day m the region.

With prices generally below 5 cents a kilowatt-hour into this spring, that was a good deal for G-P, Bellingham Cold Storage and the ARCO Product Co. refinery at Cherry Point which also buys its electricity at wholesale rates.

~Over the past three to four years they’ve saved tremendous amount of money, said Bill Gaines, vice president of energy supply for Puget Sound Energy.

But a spike in prices, this week – above 37 cents per kilowatt-hour – has forced G-P to close its Bellingham mill and temporarily lay off 600 workers, and also, forced layoffs at Trans-Ocean Products Inc., a seafood processor.

The problem is bigger than Bellingham. Two weeks ago, Kaiser Aluminum Corp. said it would reduce capacity at plants in Spokane and Tacoma, forcing about 400 employees out of work, and Vanalco Inc. in Vancouver, Wash., shut down most of its aluminum plant in early June, laying off 450 workers, all due to high electricity prices.

Gaines said about 15 percent of PSE’s commercial customers buy electricity from the utility at market prices. Residential customers buy power at fixed rates.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission approved the market-rate contracts only after deciding that the contracts did not shift costs onto residential consumers, said Dick Byers, an electricity policy specialist for the commission.

“We had to impress upon the consumers that were going to take the power under these contracts, in this case Bellingham Cold Storage and Georgia-Pacific, that they were taking the risk,” he said.

But this spring, utilities in California gave notice that they were going to be short of electricity and, therefore, would be willing to pay more for power, Byers said.

That caused a panic among people who expected typically low electricity prices at this time of year, because of low demand and high production from hydroelectric dams, and therefore had not made any long-term arrangements to buy power, Byers said.

Gaines noted that many power plants in the Pacific Northwest have shut down for regular maintenance because of the typical supply-and-demand balance this time of year, and four other power plants went offline in emergency shutdowns Monday.nMeanwhile, record-high temperatures on the West Coast are driving up demand, and the snowmelt that usually creates more hydropower this time of year is late, Gaines said.

Western Washington and Oregon baked in record-setting temperatures in the upper 80s to near 100 this week. East of the Cascades, it’s been equally hot, but not at record levels. A cooling trend was forecast for today.

The brief heat wave came at a time when the power supply is low in the West.

The 1,200-megawatt Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant, shut down automatically on Monday.

“The initial thinking is that a buildup of dust on a bus bar that conducts electricity from the main generator to the transformer yard allowed an arc to form,” said Don McManman, a spokesman for Energy Northwest, the power consortium that owns the plant on the Hanford nuclear reservation in south-central Washington. “When that arc flashed, sensitive instruments within the plant automatically opened circuits to protect delicate instruments, much like a fuse box in your house.”

The turbine tripped, and the reactor shut down. Managers plan to begin the process of bringing the plant back up tonight. In addition to the nuclear power plant, there was a reduction in generation at three coal-fired plants in the West – Centralia in Western Washington, Colstrip in Montana and Jim Bridger Wyoming, which sustained various forms of shutdowns.

All the electricity from the nuclear plant – enough to power three cities the size of Seattle – is sold by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal power marketing agency that sells about half of the region’s electricity.

BPA has spent up to $25 million, possibly more, to buy enough electricity to meet demand for the rest of the week. Its regional hydroelectric dams are operating at full capacity.

BPA spokesman Perry Gruber said the federal agency had to buy enough electricity to replace the 1,100 megawatts of electricity that is usually produced by the nuclear plant in Hanford.

“It’s’ a short-term solution to a short-term problem,” Gruber said. “It will not affect our power rates at this point.”

Just a few months ago, the four-state Northwest Power Planning Council began warning of possible power shortages, including rolling brownouts, in the event of a long, cool, dry spell in the region, which is heavily dependent on hydropower.

The primary problem has been an increase in growth in the region without an increase in electrical generation capacity – no one is building power plants because the market incentive hasn’t been there, and because of the difficulty of getting new plants approved.

Puget Sound Energy both produces and buys power.

“It varies from hour to hour and day to day,” Gaines said. “Last week, the utility was selling power. This week it’s buying power.”

The Mid-Columbia Index has fluctuated dramatically this month along with several other electricity markets on the West Coast, said Rajat Deb, president of LCG Consulting, an electricity analysis company in Los Altos, Calif.

“Basically, you have wholesale power being traded like any other commodity,” said Ed Mosey, a spokesman for BPA. “When weather conditions are hot and demand goes up in the Southwest and the Northwest, the sellers raise their prices. The buyers pay because they have no alternative.”

On Tuesday, prices in central Washington’s Mid-Columbia Basin market ranged from a low of $300 per megawatt-hour to a high of $900 per megawatt-hour on Tuesday and remained high Wednesday.

In the regulated market, prices this time of year typically would be in the $20 range.

Prices are high in other Western power markets as well. At the California-Oregon border, the low was $600 per megawatt hour and the high was $700. In California at Palo Verde, the low was $450 and the high $600.

“I heard that there were prices that went over $1,000,” Mosey said. “If you need it and need it quickly, sometimes you get stuck with some very high-priced electricity.”

For comparison, wholesale electricity prices in the Gulf Coast region ranged from $28 to $60 per megawatt hour. In the Midwest, thee range was $21 to $48.

Byers, of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, said that in the short-term, commodity markets for electricity aren’t based on actual cost of the product.

“They’re based on the psychology of the market, they’re based on what people think the cost will be in the future,” he said.

Deb agreed that the prices don’t necessarily reflect reality.

Like stock prices, you cannot always really say what it is,” he said. “It’s like a bandwagon effect.”

Another theory is that the fluctuations at least partly reflect the growing pains of a new unregulated market.

“When a market is just forming and developing, volatility is extreme,” Gaines said. “That’s what we’re seeing in the electricity market.”

The nature of electricity adds to the volatility, Deb said.

“Electricity is a very fickle commodity,” he said. “You cannot produce electricity and store it to be used later on.”

Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, WA
June 29, 2000

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Water Released For Salmon Brings Benefits, Concerns

N.S. Nokkentved
Times-News

TWIN FALLS-Some have called for the water to be released sooner to help relieve water quality problems in the middle Snake River.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, would just as soon leave the water in the American Falls Reservoir, spokesman Lindsay Nothern said.

Last week the Bureau of Reclamation started releasing about 1,500 cubic feet per second of water from American Falls to benefit endangered salmon migration.

On its way, the increased flow may also alleviate the accumulating alga mats in the middle-Snake River – and it would send more water over a parched Shoshone Falls.

While some folks wondered why federal officials waited so long to release the water, others are concerned that the release will lower the reservoir too far.

The water being released is part of 232,000 acre-feet of water from federal reservoirs on the upper Snake the bureau is supplying for flow augmentation” to help migrating endangered salmon move past federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.

An acre-foot is the amount of water, one foot deep, covering one acre about 325,850 gallons.

Crapo generally is opposed to flow augmentation, Nothern said. He is working to get additional modification to four federal dams on the lower Snake River to improve the passage of salmon.

But most of the water leaving American Falls is for irrigation.

On Wednesday about 13,000 cfs was being released from American Falls. The flow past Milner was 1,507 cfs. The rest of the water was being diverted for irrigation.

“It’s a low water year,” said John Redding, Bureau of Reclamation spokesman in Boise. nBut there’s enough water in federal reservoirs on the upper Snake River to meet all its irrigation contracts and supply water for flow augmentation under an agreement among the Bureau, the state and the Idaho Water Users Association.

“The system is operating the way it should,” Redding said.

When irrigators start tapping stored water, American Falls is usually the first to be hit. Officials like to keep most of the water in upstream reservoirs.

“We can always move it down,” said Mike Beus, water operations manager in the bureau’s Burley office. “But you can t move it up.”

It is easier to maintain water quality in the higher reservoirs where the weather is cooler, he said.

Bureau officials expect American Falls to be down to 5 to 10 percent of its capacity by the end of the irrigation season in October, Beus said. The reservoir can hold 1,672,000 acre-feet of water – all but 8,951 acre-feet of that is allocated to irrigation.

The federal reservoirs on the upper Snake can hold 4.1 million acre-feet of water.

There’s enough water to supply everyone this year, Redding said. But if the dry weather continues, there could be some problems next year.

The bureau has been providing 427,000 acre-feet of water from southern Idaho reservoirs since the early 1990s. Of that, about 232,000 has been coming from reservoirs above Milner Dam.

This year, salmon managers have called for the salmon water at Lower Granite Dam in eastern Washington by July l. To meet that deadline, bureau officials began releasing water and passing it through Milner Dam June 22.

The flow of salmon water is limited to 1,500 cfs past Milner. At that rate it will take 74 days to move the entire 232,000 acre-feet.

Times-News
Twin Falls, ID
June 29, 2000

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Warning Issued On Blackout Possibility

Other officials downplay energy secretary’s words

By: Erik Robinson
Columbian

While American gnash their teeth over high gasoline prices, energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Wednesday raised the potential for electrical blackouts due in part to summer heat.

Though Richardson told a congressional committee the potential for blackouts was imminent” energy later downplayed the threat of blackouts-at least in the Northwest. They said a few major utility-owned power plants happened to be out of service earlier this week due to problems unrelated to this week’s sweltering heat, but most came back on line by the end of the day Wednesday.

“The situation we’re currently facing is short-term,” said Perry Gruber, spokesman for the Bonneville Power Administration, the Porland-based federal power marketing agency that supplies roughly half of the electricity consumed in the Northwest.

The region isn’t out of the woods yet, however.

Though the Northwest typically experiences its peak demand for electricity during the cold winter months, Gruber said this week’s demand forced the BPA to purchase electricity from utility companies here, in California and in Canada.

“Usually, this occurs in July and August,” he said, “so we expect that it’s going to get worse.”

Though the agency draws a small amount of power from a handful of coal-burning plants operated by public utilities, as well as a single nuclear power plant in southeast Washington, as much as 91 percent of the electricity marketed by BPA is generated from hydroelectric dams.

Over the long term, Gruber said, that could be a problem, particularly amid heightened calls for lowering reservoirs and increasing river flows to benefit imperiled runs of salmon and steelbead.

Meanwhile, federal officials reiterated the concern Richardson expressed during a visit to Seattle earlier this year.

Federal energy officials said uncertainty stemming from deregulation of the power industry five years ago has translated into fewer investments to generate and transmit electricity. One high-ranking Energy Department official said the transmission system nationwide and in the Northwest has become increasingly congested.

The administration is pushing for federal legislation that would establish regional transmission organizations to better manage a hodgepodge of federal and utility-owned transmission lines.

Sweltering heat across much of the West has prompted emergency calls this week in California for people to reduce power use amid warning that otherwise there could be rolling blackouts. Earlier this month power problems and high demand caused an outage in the San Francisco area.

Richardson said the concern became more acute because of problems with electric generators in the Pacific Northwest and with some loss of power in New England because of problems at the Seabrook nuclear plants in New Hampshire.

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
June 29, 2000

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G-P Closes Temporarily

ENERGY: Spot prices for electricity have surged

By: John Stark
Bellingham Herald

The shutdown at Georgia Pacific West Corp’s Bellingham mill is a symptom of anregion-wide industrial power crunch, caused by a sudden surge in the spot market for electricity that could be a foretaste of painful power rate hikes to come.

I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I have never seen a market like this,” said William Gaines, vice president for power supply at Puget Sound Energy.

Georgia-Pacific West Inc., Bellingham Cold storage and the ARCO Products Co. refinery owned by BP Amoco at Cherry Point all pay a power rate to Puget sound Energy that is recalculated twice a day, based on spot-market prices. Those prices began to trend ominously upward in April, and have spiked upward to record levels the past few days. No immediate relief is in sight.

At ARCO, spokesman Scott Walker said the refinery had been paying $2 million a month for electricity until the price surge. Now, ele ctricity costs at times have hit $500,000 a day.

Doug Thomas, vice president at Bellingham Cold Storage, said he expects his company’s Wednesday power bill could be the equivalent of 23 days of power costs under the prevailing price until recently, usually less than 5 cents a kilowatt hour. When the rate hit 37.5 cents a kilowatt hour a couple of weeks ago, the company was alarmed.

But today Thomas said, the spot market rate is expected to range between 60 and 80 cents.

On Tuesday, Thomas met with representatives of the companies that lease cold storage space from his firm to suggest that they curtail production or even be prepared to shut down during peak production times. Thomas said total employment at Cold Storage facilities amounts to about 1,200 people, including Cold Storage employees and employees of companies that lease cold storage space.

Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson said he has been working with Gov. Gary Locke’s office in hopes of coming up with some kind of power price relief for local industries.

“Overnight, we have a market gyration that has the potential to severely impact hundreds of employees,” he said.

Tom Anderson, general manager of Public Utility District No.1 of Whatcom County, said that, the surge in the spot market price for electricity currently affects only industrial users such as G-P, Bellingham Cold Storage and BP Amoco. Those companies have contracts with Puget Sound Energy that require them to pay an electric rate pegged to a formula called the Dow-Jones Mid-Columbia price index.

The index, in turn, is based on electricity prices in a number of spot markets, where prices fluctuate daily. Most of Puget Sound Energy’ s residential and business customers and some industries have power rate schedules or contracts with fixed prices, and are thereby protected from short-term fluctuations.

In recent weeks, Anderson said, a number of factors helped push spot prices in the western United States sharply higher:

Natural gas prices are climbing. Many power producers burn gas to generate electricity.

About 2,500 megawatts’ worth of power generation capacity at three different plants is shut down for unscheduled repairs.

The snowpack in most areas is low, meaning hydropower production is expected to be low too.

Air conditioners in the Southwest have been working overtime because of a heat wave.

Growth in the demand for power has outstripped generating capacity in the Northwest.

But Anderson and Thomas agree that economic factors only partly explain the surge in prices. They say pure speculation in electricity markets may he driving prices higher.

“It (the price index) has departed from the economy,” Thomas said. “It is not a function of supply and demand… .No one can figure out what is causing it.”

For industries forced to pay the higher prices, the cause is a secondary concern. They are scrambling to find cheaper power sources before they are forced to curtail production or even shut down.

Some aluminum plants elsewhere In the state-at Tacoma, Mead and Spokane-have already sent hundreds of workers home until the power crunch is over.

No comment was available from the Alcoa Intalco Works smelter west of Ferndale, but the company may not be affected because it buys its power from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Anderson said the energy crisis gives new urgency to PUD No.1’s plan to provide power to G-P and Bellingham Cold Storage. The district has proposed building new power lines into Bellingham to bring power to the waterfront industries, a project that will require City Council approval.

That project, if approved, would enable the two industries to buy power from the district after the expiration of their five year contracts with Puget Sound Energy. Those contracts expire next year.

Thomas and Anderson said new power lines would not be needed if Puget Sound Energy would release the two companies from the last year of their contracts and let power from the PUD be sent to them over Puget’s lines.

Gaines, of Puget Sound Energy, called that “a complete red herring .” He said the PUD would have to buy power on the spot market to serve G-P and Bellingham Cold Storage, so no savings would result.

But Anderson said he could negotiate a more stable and less expensive power supply if Puget Sound Energy would get out of the way. H e called it “a chicken and-egg problem,” saying power suppliers won’t hammer out a contract with the PUD as long as the district has no way of getting the power to its would-be customers.

Gaines said Puget Sound Energy remains willing to negotiate long-term power deals with the companies that will give them predictable power costs.

“They chose to purchase at market (prices) back in 1996,” he said. “You can’t just change your mind now.”

Gaines said he didn’t know if the spot market situation would help or hurt his company’s profits. Some days, the utility must buy, on the spot market; on other days it sells power on that market.

Anderson said the spot price may be the first indicator that the decades of cheap electricity are coming to an end in the Northwest. He predicted that Puget Sound Energy will ask the state Utilities and Transportation Commission for much higher rates to replace the rate schedule that expires at the end of 2001.

Gaines said it was too soon to make that statement.

“We haven’t made any determination along those lines at all,” he said.

Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, WA
June 28, 2000

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FERC Terminates License To Build Dam On Snake River

By: Anne Minnard
Idaho State Journal

Pocatello – Local environmental groups welcome the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’ s decision to terminate the license for a hydroelectric power project near Twin Falls as a strike against further damming the Snake river.

But federal officials say there’s been no change in policy – and company officials who wanted to build the structure and are bitter about what they call close-minded political activism.”

FERC, the federal agency in charge of permitting dams, has announced it will officially terminate Cogeneration Inc.’s license for the Auger Falls Hydropower Project. Nine years after the license was issued, the company still has not started construction.

The decision comes on the heels of a final ruling last week about breaching Maine’s Edwards dam. People on both sides of the Northwest’s salmon recovery debate are calling that move- prompted by concerns about Maine fish runs-a precedent for breaching the four Lower Snake River dams blamed for local salmon and steelbead declines.

“I think that FERC is coming to a new awareness about the impact of dams,” said Sara Denniston of Idaho Rivers United. “I think that they are giving more consideration to new projects. I think they’re also realizing there’s a critical mass as far as how much hydropower a river can stand.”

But Celeste Miller, FERC spokesman disagrees. “The Edwards case was specific to the circumstances.” She said. “We look at every case on a case-by case basis. We haven’t changed the way we license projects.”

Steve Hamden was the president of Cogeneration, which disbanded when the project fell through. He blames the failure of the Auger Falls project on “midlevel federal bureaucrats in conjunction with environmental groups. They were able to slow us down so we were never able to get our finances and permits in sync.”

Hansen said the abandoned project – a water diversion system and not a full – fledged dam – left a planned park, recreational opportunities and public river access in the dust.

“It’s all private property, fenced off so that nobody gets to use it. It was a wonderful project, and it should have happened. This an example of close-minded political activism that doesn’t do anybody any good.” Hansen said the whole process cost his company $3 million.

The proposed 43.6 megawatt dam was licensed in 1991. The FERC license required construction of the project to start by December 17, 1999 but the project was never built because Cogeneration failed to get other necessary permits from the state and federal government.

The biggest setback for the project came in 1996, when the Idaho Land Board denied Cogeneration a submerged lands easement to build the dam on the bed of the Snake River.

Denniston said the dam was defeated in large part due to public opposition, based in the belief that it would have drastically altered the ecological and recreational characteristics of the mid-Snake River.

Idaho State Journal
Pocatello, ID
June 7, 2000

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N. Umpqua Hydroelectric Talks Fail To Find A Spark

Negotiations stall: Dates set for mediation talks on relicensing system of dams pass without progress

By: Garret Jaros
News-Review

Settlement talks to relicense the 53-year-old North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project have stalled, leaving conservationists involved in the talks frustrated.

PacifiCorp and Forest Service officials had said they hoped talks would reconvene in May, but dates set by a mediator for this week have come and gone, and still, no talks have occurred.

“We thought we were meeting this week, but we’re not,” said Diana Wales, a member of the settlement team and an Audubon Society member from Roseburg. “It’s just so disappointing. We were told to hold some days open, but now that won’t be happening.”

Mediator Alice Shorett of Seattle sent Wales an e-mail saying the sessions scheduled for Monday and today were canceled. No further explanation was given. Shorett was hired by PacifiCorp after being jointly selected by state, federal, environmental and Pacificorp representatives.

Forest Service officials also received notice of the cancellation.

Umpqua National Forest Supervisor Don Ostby said he is concerned things aren’t moving along, but he said it isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just the process.

“The mediator wanted to take time to meet and get to know the people involved,” Ostby said. “It would have been nice to be in meetings weeks ago, but the process for getting things organized and going is just taking loner than we would have wished.”

When Pacificorp’s Hydro Licensing Director Terry Flores was asked Monday about the meeting being canceled that same day, she said she was “a little bit surprised.”

“As far as I know settlement talks are proceeding forward,” Flores said by phone message before going into a meeting.

“My meeting today is to meet with the subset of the settlement team to talk about ground rules and to set a schedule through the rest of summer for talks to occur,” Flores said. “So talks are moving forward.”

This morning, Flores said the mediator canceled because she wasn’t done with her assessment.

“Instead of having a full-blown meeting as such, a group of met with her yesterday,” Flores said. The group consisted of Pacificorp personnel, a representative from the state, Ostby from the Forest service and Brett Swift of the conservation group, American rivers, Flores said. During the meeting, July 7 was chosen as a tentative date for talks to resume.

“So to say that talks have stalled is completely inaccurate,” Flores said. “they have gone exactly according to plan.”

But Wales, who found out about Monday’s meeting this morning, said no such meetings were to take place without the whole group.

Mediator Alice Shorett wasn’t available for comment.

Conservationists are tired of delays, which they say only benefit Pacificorp, and its new owner Scottish Power. Furthermore, there are on penalties assessed to the company for the delays.

“Scottish Power’s real goal here is to continue to operate this project full bore under the terms of an obsolete and expired licensing agreement,” wrote Ken Ferguson of Roseburg, conservation director for the Steamboaters and a settlement team member.

“By avoiding a settlement as long as possible, they produce maximum revenues with no investment in any of the needed changes to relicense this project,” Ferguson wrote.

Ferguson, Wales, and other members of the settlement team’s conservation contingency point to a study done by Stan Vejtasa that shows Scottish Power earns $14 million a year on the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project as long as nothing changes.

Vejtasa, who has a doctorate in chemical engineering, has 25 years of experience in process engineering and economic and technical evaluation of power generation systems.

After reviewing and recalculating the economic data presented by Scottish Power/Pacificorp in its February 2000 relicensing application, Vejtasa wrote, “The economic data seems inconsistent and misleading.”

Bob Allen of Roseburg, settlement team member and president of Umpqua Watersheds Inc., summed it up simply.

“We think they are bending the truth,” he said of Scottish Power and Pacificorp.

FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is responsible for relicensing the project. It has issued three consecutive one-year permits under the same conditions as the original 1947 license, with the condition that settlement talks are moving forward.

“I think we need to let FERC know that negotiations haven’t happened,” Wales said when asked about the next step. “FERC gave them a bye until September and I don’t know if they’ll rescind it.”

News-Review
Roseburg, OR
June 27, 2000

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To Breach Or Not To Breach?

That is not the question

By: Mark O. Hatfield
The Oregonian

I am neither an advocate nor an opponent of breaching the four federal dams on the Snake River. It is tedinically feasible. Tbe Northwest’s electric power system can be modified to accommodate it. But drowned in the onslaught of a misleading public relations campaign are five fundamentals that make the current debate among the most troubling I have witnessed in my 50 years of pubtic life.

Fundamental No. 1:

The eight federal dams that lie between the spawning grounds and the ocean once devastated most of the migrating Snake River smolts. Fewer than 30 percent survived this passage during the worst years. Today, though, the survival figure is 80 percent, far higher than just before the Snake River dams were constructed. Most of the fish-recovery money spent in the Columbia Basin during the last 20 years has been for improving passage. While passage through the dams can be further improved by large additional financial outlays, the incremental biological benefits would be small. Meanwhile, the real problem is ignored.

Fundamental No. 2:

Scientist agree that there will be no salmon recovery solution without radical and expensive steps to correct what is happening above the dams in the spawning habitats and below the dams in the estuary and the ocean.

Fundamental No. 3:

Scientists disagree as to whether breaching – in the end, after other prudent and beneficial steps have been taken – will be necessary. Some believe it is part of the best hope” for salmon, but it is not “the only hope.” Indeed, we know that it alone is not sufficient.

Fundamental No. 4:

Breaching requires four years of digging out channels around the end of the concrete dams, followed by a decade or more of dispersion of huge oil deposits from behind the dams. This will have substantial environmental impacts, very likely inflicting near-term damage upon the very fish stocks ultimately meant to benefit from breaching in the long term.

Fundamental No. 5:

The Snake River stocks listed as threatened or endangered are only three of the 12 stocks so listed in the Columbia Basin. Their life cycle involves a complex ecosystem extending from the tributaries to the ocean. Only by addressing the entire system, on all fronts of the salmon problem – habitat quality, hatchery operations, harvest allowances and hydroelctric operation (the so-called “four H’s”) – can we hope to recover these magnificent species.

When the current public policy debate is tested against these fundamentals, startling questions emerge. Even the most strenuous of fish advocates should be disturbed by the tunnel vision of the proposal for immediate breaching of the Snake River dams. The “breach now” drumbeat has absorbed tremendous attention and energy and $20 million in study money to examine a project that will not be sufficient for the recovery of even three of the 12 listed stocks. It’s a project that will cost more than $1 billion and end the flood control, irrigation, navigation and electric power benefits worth more than $300 million a year to the Pacific Northwest.

Electric power revenues, not taxes, have paid for more than threequarters of the entire fish recovery effort in the basin since 1980. Should we now end the revenue stream from these four dams? And then suffer the environmental impact of breaching actions before we have taken more cost-effective and more biologically effective actions above and below the dams to bolster these stocks, either enabling them to recover with dams in place or better ensuring their survival during breaching?

Is it correct to sacrifice the multiple benefits of these large public hydroelectric dams before we are certain that this necessary?

What is to be done for the other nine listed stocks in the Basin? Should we expect the federal managers to begin studies now to breach all the dams from Grand Coulee to Bonneville?

The best interests of our region depend upon state and federal officials preventing our public policy development processes from being hijacked by a public relations campaign intent upon proceeding down a very costly, risky and potentially disastrous path. Let us for now set aside the breaching question and accept a basinwide, holistic approach that will ensure the most efficient use of our resources in addressing the real obstacles to salmon recovery.

Sunday Oregonian
Portland, OR
June 4, 2000

 

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Hydro Dams Must Pay To Stay

Tom Stuart
Times-News

During the next decade, many privately owned hydropower dams in Idaho must obtain new operating licenses from the federal government. These licenses will last up to 50 years. Thus, the new licenses will affect Idaho’s economy, environment, water quality and recreation opportunities for generations.

Because relicensing is so important, power companies, agencies, tribes and conservation groups must focus on common values rather than our differences. Stakeholders must he willing to talk honestly about the costs of hydropower dams. Companies must he willing to compromise on mitigation requirements.

One heartening example of collaboration and cooperation was the relicensing of the Clark Fork dams in northern Idaho and western Montana. These dams are owned by Avista Inc., a forward-thinking company that went out of its way with an innovative, responsible approach to relicensing. Because of Avista’s open, collaborative attitude, everyone worked together on relicensing rather than fighting it out later in court. Stakeholders crafted an excellent agreement and Avista received a new license a full year before the old one expired.

Conservation groups, agencies and companies are now involved in relicensing other hydropower projects in Idaho, including dams on the Bear River and the Mid-Snake River. But the granddaddy of them all is the license for Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon complex, the nation’s largest privately owned hydropower facility, producing 40 percent of the electricity Idaho Power sells.

In every relicensing process, citizens and conservation interests strive to allow dams to continue operating, while improving facilities, flows and operations to reduce the damage done to fish, wildlife, water quality and recreation. Many old dams (like Hells Canyon) use obsolete technologies and hardware, based on old licenses that ignored damage done to rivers and wildlife.

With Idaho Rivers United supporting the removal of four other dams in southeast Washington state to save Idaho salmon, some people misrepresent IRU’s position on Hells Canyon. For the record – WU is not seeking removal of Hells Canyon dams, despite the fact that they eliminated all salmon in upstream waters like the Boise River, the Lower Payette River, and the Owyhee River. A huge population of Snake River fall chinook (now endangered because of the loss of too much habitat) was eliminated in the Marsing reach alone

But operated better, the vast majority of dams (including Hells Canyon) can continue for years to come. Only those few whose environmental costs outweigh benefits (like four federal dams on the lower Snake River in Washington) should be removed.

Again, IRU is not seeking removal of the Bells Canyon dams. We do, however, seek responsible mitigation for damage done to fish and wildlife and changes in dam operations to undo part of it. Expensive TV advertisements run by Idaho Power (funded by hundreds of thousands of customer dollars) do not mention these responsibilities.

In relicensing, stakeholders review the negative impacts of dams and provide input. Mitigation is a cost of doing business on publicly owned rivers, ensuring that companies take cost-effective steps to reduce damage.

Experience shows that environmental stewardship does not threaten companies. Notably, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has found that relicensing brings dramatic environmental improvements at an average cost of only 1 percent of generating capacity. Responsible hydropower companies still earn huge profits from the virtually free use of Idaho’s rivers – public assets – but in exchange for relicensing, improvements are required. For any decision lasting 50 years, this is only reasonable.

Dams damage rivers, fish and wildlife. New studies indicate that hydropower may even contribute to global warming through increased greenhouse gases caused by reservoirs. Even so, Idaho Rivers United acknowledges the need for low-cost power. And IRU will continue to work with Idaho Power and others to achieve a better balance between power production and the conservation of the beautiful rivers in our state.

Times-News
Twin Falls, ID
June 23, 2000

Posted in Biologic Opinion, Environment, Hydropower, News, Relicensing | Leave a comment

Electrical Consumers Jolted By Price Surge

Volatility in power market could be long-term threat

By: BIll Virgin
Seattle Post Intelligencern

The price of electricity in the Pacific Northwest has been downright shocking this spring, both to the utilities who sell it and the customers who buy it.

Electricity generated at the seven mid-Columbia River dams has sold historically for $30 a megawatt-hour or less in May. This year, the price shot up to nearly $60 a megawatt-hour. Electricity to be delivered this summer has been quoted at more than $130 a megawatt-hour, more than four times the usual prices.

And that’s not the worst of the sticker shock. The Dow Jones California-Oregon Border index of prices, which a year ago rose as high as $60 a megawatt-hour, this year rocketed to more than $500. For a time, prices in the California market hit $750.

What we are seeing is unprecedented price spikes in the Northwest,” said Paula Green, deputy superintendent in Seattle City Light’s power management branch.

The price spikes are caused in part by a confluence of short-term developments. But some in the energy business wonder whether greater volatility, and higher prices, are permanent features of the electricity market.

The latest victim was Spokane-based utility Avista Corp., which said it will break even in the second quarter because of higher power prices and losses in energy trading.

High prices were a problem for all utilities. But Avista compounded that with a series of missteps including, it said, an energy trader who wrote contracts to sell power at fixed prices without lining up purchase agreements to match. To fulfill those supply contracts, Avista had to buy power. In a bizarre twist to the story, Avista disclosed that the trader has since died.

Kaiser Aluminum recently said it would idle aluminum-making capacity at its Tacoma and Spokane-area smelters because of the price of electricity, and laid off 400 workers. Kaiser’s move followed that of Vancouver, Wash.-based Vanalco, which shut four of five production lines and laid off 450 workers.

Among factors driving up prices:

Arizona and California had early heat waves, boosting the use of air conditioners and the demand for power. That occurred at a time when utilities in both the Northwest and Southwest traditionally reduce generating capacity for maintenance between the winter and summer winter peaks. In addition, a fire at a California nuclear plant removed it from service, further reducing the available supply.

Oil prices are nudging $30 a barrel. Because natural gas can be substituted in many applications for oil, demand for gas has been rising, and so have prices.nNatural gas has been increasingly used as a fuel to generate electricity, even in the Northwest, so the cost of operating gas-powered plants has been rising.

“The supply-demand relationship for natural gas has been tightening,” said William Gaines, vice president of energy supply at Puget Sound Energy.

The Bonneville Power Administration, the region’s major wholesaler and transmission system operator, hasn’t been running as much water through its power-producing turbines as expected.

Gaines said that’s partly because of a need to spill water to aid migrating salmon, partly to refill reservoirs such as that behind Grand Coulee Dam for recreation.

Not only does that reduce the amount of power the BPA has for sale, in some cases it also affects the amount of water going through turbines at downstream dams, such as at Seattle City Light’s Boundary project in Pend Oreille County.

“The flows we expected to see we haven’t seen,” Green said.

While the snowpack in the Cascades appears to be normal, the melt of that snow, which provides the water that drives the hydroelectric turbines, has been slower than normal, Gaines added.

The coal-fired Centralia generating station was sold by a consortium of Northwest utilities to an Alberta company. A number of utilities, including Avista, signed long-term power purchase contracts with the new owners; Avista, however, didn’t cover May and June with firm contracts.

Beyond those factors, there’s a lot of speculation that what has caused the power market to behave as it has is just that: speculation, betting on prices in the recently deregulated wholesale power market. With literally hundreds of power marketers and buyers scrambling for deal, the price of electricity may not settle for a while.

“We’ll definitely see more volatility; that’s just the nature of free markets,” BPA spokesman Perry Gruber said. “This is a new market; this kind of volatility is characteristic of an immature market.”

Richard Byers, electricity policy adviser at the Washington Utilities andnTransportation Commission, agreed: “It1s an open question whether the averagen(price) levels we ve seen will remain as high.”

So far, most of the effect has fallen on the utilities themselves or those industrial customers who, like Kaiser, took their chances with short-term contracts rather than long-term commitments. Weyerhaeuser Co., for example, buys only about 5 percent of its power under short-term agreements, spokesman Frank Mendizabal said.

Most utilities say they don’t face the same kinds of problems as Avista. Gaines said Puget Power has been trying to match its fixed-rate customers with fixedrate contracts “to insulate the utility from all this volatility in the market. You’re not going to see the effects on Puget that you saw on Avista.”

Utilities are buyers and sellers of power depending on whether they have a surplus or a deficit, but no one is hoping to make big money in the current environment.

“Nobody likes these markets, even if you’re selling in this market,” said Coe Hutchison, assistant general manager of power and business services at Snohomish Public Utility District.

Residential customers, as well as cautious industrials such as Weyerhaeuser could be affected if power prices stay high over the long term.

“If it continues to go up, that will be an issue of concern the next time we negotiate these contracts,” Mendizabal said.

A long-term factor that helps keep prices high is the fact that, as a region, “we’re not adding supply as fast as demand has been increasing,” Gaines said.

But generating capacity is being added in the Northwest and California that might help stabilize or even reduce power prices; Avista, among others, says it has started work on one natural-gas-fired plant in Idaho and plans to build another in Oregon next year.

Seattle Post Intelligencer
Seattle, WA
June 23, 2000

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Power Decision Likely Thursday

Hydro power options before City Council

By: Darren Friedel
Daily News

Days from a vote that could decide the city’s future power source, the Ketchikan City Council on Tuesday listened to presentations from Southeast Intertie and Mahoney Lake hydroelectric proponents.

The two projects have become pitted against each other because intertie supporters have said a power sales agreement between the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Electric Co. for Mahoney-produced power would eliminate the long-sought Southeast Intertie.

They say Ketchikan Public Utilities’ power purchases would not be enough to offset the cost of both Mahoney Lake and the intertie. So committing to Mahoney would kill the intertie, according to a city document.

However, KEC officials contend that the two projects can co-exist and would be the best combination for short- and long-term power.

KEC is a partnership between Saxman-based Cape Fox Corp. and Alaska Power & Telephone.

According to a KPU assessment of all the hydroelectric alternatives, city officials agree with the intertie supporters’ financial concern and have recommended pursuing a Swan Lake-Lake Tyee Intertie, along with a Whitman Lake hydroelectric project and a power sales agreement with Metlakatla Power & Light.

The proposed Swan Lake-Lake Tyee Intertie is the first connection in the Southeast Intertie, which is designed to eventually link several other Southeast Alaska communities.

That alternative will be discussed and possibly voted on, along with an agreement with KEC for Mahoney power and a motion to pursue only the Whitman Lake/Metlakatla Power & Light alternative, at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

Four Dam Pool Committee member Dave Carlson told the council that if the Swan Lake-Lake Tyee project is not approved, it will eliminate the proposed Southeast Intertie.

The Four Dam Pool is made up of four hydroelectric facilities that serve five communities, including Ketchikan. The State of Alaska sold the four hydroelectric facilities to the Four Dam Pool in April.

Those utilities support the further pursuit of funding for the Southeast Intertie.

Twenty years from now … if you make the decision to go with the intertie someone is going to say, “By God those people that sat on the City Council made the right decision to get us where we are today,” Carlson said. “The Mahoney project is a good project, but it needs to follow the intertie.”

Darron Scott, general manager of Kodiak Electric, told the council that his utility would not support future divestiture of the hydroelectric facilities if the Swan Lake-Lake Tyee portion is not constructed.

The goal is for each utility to purchase its own hydroelectric facilities once the debt is paid off, said Scott. However, it would be difficult for each utility to divest if the Swan Lake-Lake Tyee portion is not built.

“The deal will not go through,” he said. “We’re in it together.”

Cape Fox Corp. CEO Peter Gigante told the council the proposed Mahoney Lake project could displace diesel generators used by KPU and would be the best possible backup to the intertie if it ever is constructed.

The Mahoney project also would not be a threat to the intertie because KEC’s offer contains a 24-year deal with three eight-year options, added Gigante. If the Swan Lake-Lake Tyee Intertie is up and running after eight years, KPU could terminate its contract with KEC and only purchase needed power.

“Mahoney will save the city a lot of funds in the short-term that would have been spent on diesel,” he said.

Unlike the Whitman alternative, all the facts regarding the proposed Mahoney project have been presented to the City Council and it is ready for construction now, said Gigante.

“I can’t believe the city would let Mahoney die on the vine for the sake of projects with so many uncertanties,” he said.

Joe Williams, president of the Saxman IRA Council, said that the IRA Council is supporting the Mahoney Lake project. He asked the council to consider the “average worker” when making its decision.

“Every time you turn on diesel after December 2001, you have done mem as a user, an injustice because there are some things that have been presented here tonight that can circumvent that,” he said.

Daily News
Ketchikan, AK
June 15, 2000

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Relicensing Dams Means New Access To Missouri

By Michael Babcock
Tribune Outdoor Editor

Four new public access points on the Missouri River are planned in the Great Falls vicinity.

One, called the East Side Access between Morony Dam and Carter Ferry, and another near the Chouteau County Fairgrounds in Fort Benton, may be in place this fall or early next year.

Each of the four sites is expected to have at least a hard-surface boat launch, a vault toilet and a parking lot.

Planners say the Fort Benton site will have both a hard-surface boat launch and a canoe/raft carry-in launch.

Of the other sites, one will be between Cascade and The Dunes Fishing Access Site and the other will be between Ulm and the Big Bend of the Missouri, perhaps in the area of the Canoe Camp” where Lewis and Clark stopped to build a couple of dugout canoes in the summer of 1805.

All of the sites will be open in the next three to four years. The new access sites are coming as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing of the hydroelectric dams on the Missouri. That process began in 1989, before the Montana Power Co. sold the dams to PPL Montana, and is expected to be complete this summer.

The sites are meant to make up for certain recreational opportunities lost to the public due to the use of the river for generating electricity. Under the relicensing, no boating, floating, sailing or swimming will be allowed on Cochrane, Ryan or Morony reservoirs.

“Historically, the reservoirs are not used for boating, floating, sailing and swimming,” said recreation and safety consultant Elvin “Speed” Fitzhugh. “It isn’t as if you took a resource that was being used by the public and made it off limits. You could probably count the number of people who have (boated) on one hand.”

Fitzhugh, formerly of Montana Power Co. and now of American Public Lands Exchange, a Missoula consulting firm, said that because the reservoirs are designed to provide power at peak demand, the water level at the dams can change dramatically in just a few minutes. That makes recreational activity on the reservoirs unsafe.

He said that in 1986, Congress passed the Electric Consumer Protection Act that requires all resource concerns, such as recreation, wildlife and energy conservation be considered equally during relicensing of the dams.

“FERC calls it protection, mitigation and enhancement of the resource,” Fitzhugh said. “Those four river access sites were mitigation for excluding boating, floating, sailing and swimming on those three reservoirs. We are providing alternative sites.”

MPC developed the plan with help from a “river access site committee” made up of the City-County Planning Commission; Fish, Wildlife & Parks; the Bureau of Land Management; the Medicine River Canoe Club; Walleyes Unlimited; the Missouri River Flyfishers; Russell Country Sportsmen, and the Great Falls Kayakers.

Each of the sites is budgeted to cost about $200,000 and that money ultimately comes from utility ratepayers.

The East Side Site, which is directly across the river from Portage Coulee, seems to generate the most interest among users.

The site is a cooperative project among a number of parties: Chouteau County designed and graveled three miles of road; private landowners provided easements; PPL will arrange for engineering and construction of about one mile of road down to the access, and FWP will build and maintain the access site.

The last mile of road down to the East Side site has not been put in and Fitzhugh said until it is, the access is not a “done deal.”

“The roads to the site need to be finished before the easements are in effect,” Fitzhugh said.

The process of relicensing and thus creating the access began under MPC ownership of the dams, but PPL took ownership of the dams last fall. And even though the relicensing document probably won’t be issued until July or September, PPL plans to carry on.

“PPL Montana traveled around the state talking with folks and assured them that the new company was going to honor all of the license conditions,” said Jon Jourdonnais of PPL Montana. “We look forward to cooperating with those agencies and the public in implementing those measures.

Mike Aderhold, regional supervisor for Fish, Wildlife & Parks, said increasing access to the Missouri River is one way to disperse the number of people who are expected to come to the river to mark the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

“If those places are available, people will spend time here trying to re-create the adventure,” Aderhold said.

“We’re saying there are other places. You don’t all have to go to the Wild and Scenic portion of the Missouri to capture the experience,” Aderhold said.

While the public generally cheers any new access, landowners often are reluctant because of the potential for vandalism, fire and litter.

“It isn’t always good to create more access,” said Jourdonnais. “You have other impacts and you begin to diminish the experience.

“We have to balance recreation opportunities with protection of fisheries and wildlife habitat and use levels. We have to balance all these things when we look at new recreation sites not just from a public use perspective.

“We have to include other things that have been a little bit a of a challenge. These projects shook out and they make sense and it is good to see them hitting the ground.”

Besides those four access sites, PPL Montana plans to put in a carry-in boat ramp at Black Eagle Island and a take-out point across the river at Giant Springs.

“For that half-hour float that people might want to do in the evening, the opportunity will be real nice,” Fitzhugh said.

PPL also will work with FWP to enhance the FWP property at Carter Ferry.

“These are all linked together in a kind of system of sites,” Fitzhugh said.

Aderhold said the number of access sites will give recreationists an opportunity to mix and match their trips on the river.

Other access to the Missouri can be found at:
The Dunes above Ulm;
The Ulm Bridge FAS;
Big Bend;
White Bear Island, an undeveloped FWP site;
Broadwater Bay; and
Carter Ferry.

Tribune
Great Falls, MT
June 15, 2000

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PUD Backs SCL’s Boundary Dam Relicensing Project

Guarantees county residents cheap power

By Robert Chaney, Sr.
The Miner

NEWPORT – Pend Oreille Public Utility District No. 1 took steps on Tuesday, June 6, to guarantee that county residents will continue to have inexpensive power for many years to come – the board of commissioners signed a memorandum of agreerment with Seattle City Light concerning power from Boundary Dam.

Boundary, which is owned by the City of Seattle, will go through the relicensing procedure in 2011; the PUD through the memorandum, has agreed to support Seattle’s relicensing effort in exchange for a guarantee of 48 megawatts of power from the Boundary project.

This is very important to the residents of this county,” said PUD General Manager Larry Weis. “Without this agreement in place low cost power would not be possible.”

In October1953, the City of Seattle filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) an application for a preliminary permit for a major hydroelectric development on the Pend Oreille River designated as the Boundary Project. A preliminary permit was issued in 1954.

In 1956, SCL executed a Power Purchase Contract with PUD to purchase surplus power from the Box Canyon Project through August 1, 2005.

In July 1957, PUD filed an application for the license of a competing project on the Pend Oreille River at Z Canyon but FERC rejected such application because the City already held a prelinimary permit for the Boundary Project in the same vicinity.

Soon thereafter, SCL filed the application for a license for the construction and operation of the Boundary Project.

Later that year, PUD filed a petition to intervene in the Boundary Project together with a competing plan for a dam and power plant at the Z Canyon site. FERC permitted this intervention.

Finally, in March 1961 FERC issued a 50-year license to SCL for the Boundary Project. The order was ultimately modified in September1961 to add the following provision:

Article 49. The Licensee shall assign 48,000 kilowatts to the PUD from the Boundary Project at the PUD’s system load factor, any part or all of which shall be available to the PUD at cost upon two years’ notice by the PUD to meet the load requirements of present or potential consumers (not including purchases for resale) within the PUD’s service area; provided that the amount of power made available by this article shall be reduced by the ampunt of any power recaptured by the PUD under the Box Canyon Contract with Seattle and sold for use outside Pend Oreille County.

In September 1969, PUD and SCL executed an agreement to settle several issues between the parties (“Box Canyon Settlement Agreement”). This Agreement also tied the Boundary obligation to the Box Canyon contract so that PUD’s withdrawal rights under both could be coordinated and predictable for both parties.

Due to the moderate level of loads in PUD’s service area, there was no request made to SCL for Boundary Withdrawals until 1983. At that time, PUD sent the required advance Notice of Withdrawal of Boundary Power in 1985 for the construction of a paper mill and fiber mill plant at Usk. The parties began to discuss an appropriate methodology for determining the “at cost” power price.

Power deliveries pursuant to Article 49 finally began at 24 MW in 1989, after multiple years of interim agreements and a final decision by FERC on the application and interpretation of the license assignment. The Settlement Agreement for the Article 49 Power Assignment to Pend Oreille Public Utility District No.1 by the City of Seattle was executed in 1992. It extends through the term of the current Boundary License, July 1, 2011.

Article 49 deliveries to PUD increased to 28 MW in 1992, to 32 MW in 1995, and are expected to increase to 36, in August 2000 and finally to the full 48 MW in August 2005, concurrent with the expiration of the Box Canyon Power Purchase Contract.

In the last five years, PUD has taken an average of 243,601 MWh of Boundary Project power each year, for which it paid SCL on average $704,861 per year.

Newport Miner
Newport, WA
June 14, 2000

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Yakimas OK’d To Ink BPA Contracts

Tribe has until 2005 to form utility, or feds can cancel contracts

By: Mike Barenti
Yakima Herald Republic

Yakama Nation officials took another step forward Wednesday, in their efforts to start an electric utility.

The tribe’s 14-member Tribal Council gave the go ahead to sign contingency contracts to buy electricity from the federal Bonneville Power Administration.

It certainly doesn’t mean we’ve set anything in stone,” said Tribal Councilman Edward Arlen Washines. While contracts have to be signed by the end of this month, the Yakama’s have several years to actually form a utility.

“We’re just doing our homework to follow the mandate of our people,” Washines said. In 1995, tribal members voted to have officials look into forming a utility.

The Yakamas’ utility would provide electricity to the 12,000 reservation customers now served by Pacific Power. Benton Rural Electric Association customers wouldn’t be affected. The Yakama utility would combine access to cheap BPA hydroelectric power with a nonprofit operation that Yakima consultants estimate could save reservation customers from $3.5 million to $5.8 million a year on electric bills.

The tribe’s goal is to provide quality, low-cost service for alI reservation residents, Indian and non-Indian, Washines said.

But before that happens, the Yakamas will have to obtain poles, wires and other electrical distribution hardware now owned by Pacific Power, which has repeatedly said it isn’t interested in selling.

If the tribe hasn’t formed a utility by 2005, BPA can cancel the contracts, said Fred Rettenmund, a power account executive in BPA’s Spokane office.

But that wouldn’t necessarily happen. The steps a tribe’s taken to form a utility will influence what BPA does when the 2005 date rolls around, he said.

The Yakamas also need to contend with opposition from some reservation residents.

The news that the Yakamas are moving forward with the utility plan didn’t surprise Rusty Jones, president of the STAND-UP Committee.

“We knew that was coming,” Jones said. “We’re going to continue our drive to keep that from happening.”

Resides working against the tribal utility, STAND-UP is fighting the Yakama’s alcohol ban, which is scheduled to take effect Sept.17, and longterm attempts by the tribe to possibly gain control of two dams on the Columbia River immediately upstream from the Hanford Reach.

People worry the Yakamas don’t have the skills to run a utility, Jones said. The Yakamas have countered by pointing to their Toppenish casino and White Swan saw mill as proof they can run a businesses successfully.

There’s more to STAND-UP’s opposition than just fear the lights won’t come on when somebody flips the switch in their house, Jones said. Even if the tribe brings in outside experts to run the utility, the group will fight against it, he said. The utility is just another attempt by the Yakamas to exercise control over non-Indians living on the reservation, he said.

“We are definitely not giving up the fight,” Jones said. Petitions opposing the sale are circulating on the reservation and the STAND-UP Committee plans to present copies to Pacific Power and the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Utilities Commission officials have said it’s not clear what authority the commission has to regulate a tribal utility. But the commission would have to approve a Pacific Power sale since it regulates that utility.

That would mean public hearings, probably held in Toppenish, on the sale. STAND-UP members would speak out against the sale, Jones said.

The Yakamas plan their own public meetings in the coming weeks to explain the benefits of a tribal utility. Meeting dates haven’t been set, Washines said.

Yakima Herald Republic
Yakima, WA
July 13, 2000

 

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Anglers Fuming Over Tacoma Dam Deal

Fish Runs: Current agreement significantly different from assurances

By: John Henderer
The Chronicle

Irate local anglers claim a deal touted by Tacoma Power to restore Cowlitz River fish runs actually will doom them to further ruin.

Fishing groups say Tacoma Power’s so-called Agreement in Principle to operate its hydroelectric dams in Lewis County calls for the reduction or elimination of the Cowlitz River’s two remaining reliable fish runs: summer steelhead and early winter steelhead.

You know, the only two fish runs that we have to fish for are those two fish,” said Joe Little, Chehalis, vice president of Sport Fishing Guides of Washington.

While several key state and federal resource agencies signed the preliminary agreement, none of the fishing, environmental or tribal groups involved in the utility’s four-year relicensing process has signed it.

“I think it’s slanted way too far for Tacoma’s favor, and there isn’t much for anyone else,” said John Barnett, Cowlitz Indian Tribe chairman. “It’s not a good deal for the fish”

Lewis County Commission Chairman Dennis Hadaller signed the preliminary deal Mayn3. He did not return calls for comment.

“Tacoma really did a good job of negotiating of absolutely pulling this off,” Little said. “I don’t think the Lewis County Commission really understands the issues here. What they don’t realize is there’s nothing else here to catch.”

THE CURRENT ISSUE

of Fishing and Hunting News includes an editorial lambasting state Fish and Wildlife Department Director Jeff Koenings for signing the agreement.

Anglers are angry because they say the agreement Koenings signed in May differs significantly from assurances they received from department biologists in April.

“Jeff Koenings has agreed, in principle, to kill sport fishing on the Cowliltz River,” the editorial begins, continuing with a diatribe against the director in much the same vein.

A spokesman for the department disputed the editorial.

“We think it’s simply not true,” said Tim Waters, of the director’s office. “Our intent is to recover the wild fish as well as provide enhanced fishing opportunities, and I think we can do, that down there.”

After receiving a petition with signatures of support for the agreement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Tacoma until July 15 to hash out a comprehensive settlement.

A settlement would mark the culmination of Tacoma’s four-year alternative relicensing effort, avoiding a potentially unfavorable license decision from the federal commission. Dubbed a collaborative enterprise, the process involved monthly public meetings until last December when no deal had been reached, and Tacoma submitted its application for a new 40-year license to meet a deadline. Its existing license expires next year.

Talks have continued behind the scenes, and Tacoma hopes to “bring more people into the fold,” said Toby Freeman, Tacoma’s relicensing coordinator.

He termed the signing by resource agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, “tremendously significant.”

But some aren’t waiting for Tacoma to issue new guarantees.

Assessing the deal as “unacceptable,” the Bonneville Power Administration onnJune 2 filed a motion before FERC to intervene in the relicensing process. ThenBPA expressed particular concern that Tacoma appears to limit its own liability,nwhile leaving a gaping hole to be filled by the BPA and the Lewis County PublicnUtility District, which operate the Cowlitz Falls Dam.

HOPING TO TORPEDO

Tacoma’s effort, members of the Friends of the Cowlitz are working to build coalition of fishing interests and environmental groups.

Friends of the Cowlitz President Bill Zaikawsky criticized the settlement plan for proposing to reduce or eliminate the steelhead runs, and for requiring unlikely scenarios before Tacoma ever would be required to build fish ladders over the dams.

“They’re wanting to do away with part of the run? No way,” said Zaikawsky said. “It just doesn’t make sense, other than from Tacoma’s standpoint. It’ll save them a lot of money.”

Tacoma pays the state about 4$ million a year now to operate the Cowlitz salmon and trout hatcheries, rearing 13 million juvenile salmon and steelhead yearly. But hatchery operations have come into question in recent years as fish runs have continued to flounder in spite of the massive hatchery efforts.

Spring chinook salmon, once the pride of the Cowlitz, have dwindled dramatically in the latter part the last decade. The last five year’s average return of 1,414 kings to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery amounted to just 12 percent of the average annual return in the 1980s.

With so few returning fish, anglers catch just a fraction of these.

But the disputed steelbead runs have continued to provide a fishery, albeit less than in prior years. In 1998, anglers caught more than 5,000 steelbead on the Cowlitz.

Freeman acknowledged public opinion surveys show a great deal of interest in fishing on the Cowlitz River. About 60 percent of the people who live in the basin go fishing on the river at least once a year, he said.

Regarding the elimination of the popular steelhead runs, Freeman attributed this to a misunderstanding. He said the summer steelbead program will continue until indigenous fish runs rebound enough to allow fishing on the native species. But he acknowledged the early winter steelbead will be phased out “in the not too distant future.”

THE AGREEMENT ALSO

calls for using late winter steelhead and spring chinook salmon as indicator species to determine whether fish ladder should be built over Mayfield Dam and and a tram over Mossyrock Dam, helping the fish spawn more naturally. Once these species, which have been listed as threatened, return in sufficient numbers Tacoma would have to begin building ladders.

“By using late winter steelhead and spring chinook they’ve probably doomed volitional passage (using fish ladders) from ever happening because those are the most depressed runs we’ve got right now,” Zaikawsky said.

But Hal Beecher, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said using these species makes sense.

“I think there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll get one or the other of those (to recover) ,” he said.

The trend under the Endangered Species Act has been away from artificial propagation and toward supporting self-sustaining fish runs.

We’re also trying to create an environment to give fish that are listed and really all the fish that are indigenous to the Cowlitz Basin the best chances for recovery and abundance,” Freeman said.

Tacoma and at least some government biologists say the fish species to be eliminated are not native to the Cowlitz River, but were introduced there. Fishing groups disagree.

The Chronicle
Centralia, WA
June 9, 2000

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Agreement On Dams Expected

By: Dave MoMechan
Pioneer

An agreement to maintain local tax revenue generated by the Pelton-Round Butte hydroelectric facilities could be in place within the next couple of months.

Representatives of the three entities involved in the negotiations Jefferson County, the Warm Springs tribes and Portland General Electric are confident that a mutually acceptable agreement will be finalized perhaps in June or July.

In recent weeks, the county presented a proposed agreement to PGE and the tribes that would, if finalized, guarantee future revenue from the dams in an amount at least equivalent to this year’s revenue.

The tribes and PGE have been reviewing the proposal, and are planning to meet with county officials with the intention of developing a final arrangement.

Tribal, PGE and county representatives have expressed optimism that an agreement will be reached with the county.

The agreement may involve payments to the county in lieu” of property taxes.

nImportant revenue source

nThe future of tax revenue from the dams became an issue a few months ago, as the tribes and POE came to an agreement providing the tribes a one-third ownership interest in the Pelton-Round Butte facilities.

Under the existing tax calculation method, tax revenue from the dams to Jefferson County would decline substantially in 2001, when the tribes are scheduled to acquire the one-third interest.

Along with the county, other taxing districts – Mountain View Hospital, Central Oregon Community College, 509-J school district – would also realize a loss in revenue from the transfer of interest in the dams.

The county has taken the lead role in making sure that future tax revenue from the dams remains intact to the local jurisdictions.

Among Oregon counties, Jefferson is the most reliant on utilities for property tax revenue.

With no agreement in place regarding future taxes from Pelton-Round Butte, the county would realize a loss of 14 percent of its annual tax base.

PGE is the single largest property taxpayer in Jefferson County, due to its ownership of the hydro facilities, which have an assessed value of nearly $180 million.nPot the tax year 1999-2000, POE paid a property tax on Pelton-Round Butte of $2,123,874, or more than 16 percent of the total county property tax.

Pioneer
Madras, OR
June 7, 2000

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FERC Cancels Auger Falls Hydro License

By N.S. Nokkentved
Times-News

An unpopular hydroelectric project on the Snake River, dying a lingering death, is in its final throes, after a federal agency terminated its license.

Federal officials have canceled the license on a electric project proposed at Auger Falls. Most thought it had died last year after promoters failed to start construction within a deadline set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses hydroelectric projects.

Cogeneration Inc. of Salt Lake City holds the 1991 license to build and operate a small hydroelectric plant at Auger Falls on the Snake River about three miles downstream of the Perrine Bridge.

When Cogeneration failed to meet a December deadline, FERC in February notified the license holder that the agency intended to cancel the license. Cogeneration did not respond.

FERC then terminated the license May 25, effective 30 days from that day. That still gives Cogeneration until June 26 to resurrect the moribund project. That’s the deadline to request a rehearing.

This is a great day for the mid-Snake River,” said Sara Denniston, river conservationist with Idaho Rivers United.

Former Cogeneration President Steve Harmsen, a Salt Lake City businessman who for years headed the project, said last fall that he no longer was directly involved with the proposal. Harmsen could not be reached Tuesday.

This latest FERC decision is the latest in a long list of setbacks for the proposal. Cogeneration land near Auger Falls was sold at a sheriff’s sale to satisfy liens – twice. The state refused to issue a lease for submerged lands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pulled a permit for the project. Idaho Power Co. canceled a contract to buy the power the project would generate.

Critics have questioned the project’s effects on water quality, fish and wildlife, and recreation.

“The middle Snake River now is a state protected river, blocking any future hydropower projects, but Auger Falls was licensed before the protection was imposed”, Denniston said.

“With the demise of this project, the mid-Snake River is finally safe from hydropower development,” she said. “Auger Falls will be protected for generations to come.”

The project’s history dates to 1900.

Delbert “Bill” Block, Twin Falls manager of J-U-B Engineers, local hydro developer Jack Straubhar, and engineer Douglas Preston founded Cogeneration Inc. in 1980.

The three also were part of a group called Rock Creek Joint Ventures that sold the land at Auger Falls to Harmsen for $1.8 million in 1990.

In November 1998, Rock Creek Joint Ventures foreclosed on the land it sold to Harmsen. In March 1999, the former owners of the 550 acres reclaimed ownership of the land at a sheriff’s sale on the steps of the county courthouse.

Rock Creek Joint Ventures entered a “credit bid” of about $2.5 million – the sole bid. In effect, the group got the land in lieu of the money it was owed.

The city has expressed an interest in the land as a public park and as a place where treated sewage could irrigate poplar trees as a way to reduce the amount of pollutants going into the river.

Times-News
Twin Falls, ID
June 7, 2000

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Lewis River Proposal Fishes For Salmon Solution

Dam relicensing plans expected to benefit fish

By Kathie Durbin
Columbian

When the floodgates of Pacific Power and Light Co.’s new Merwin Dam closed in 1931, wild salmon and steelhead lost 80 percent of their habitat on the North Fork of the Lewis River.

Utilities, government regulators and even fisheries biologists assumed hatcheries and trap-and-haul programs could offset such upstream habitat losses. But they mostly didn’t.

Before Merwin Dam was built, thousands of steelhead and chinook and coho salmon spawned above the dam site. Today, no wild salmon or steclhead survive above Merwin Dam, and the wild fish remaining below the dam are protected by the EndangerednSpecies Act.

Now PacifiCorp, PP&L’s parent company, is seeking new licenses for its Merwin, Yale and Swift dams on the North Fork. But that is occurring in a new era of fish protection, and no one knows what the outcome will be.

PacifiCorp, Oregon’s largest electric utility, might have to find a way for wild fish to get over or around its dams and reservoirs. That would be expensive, and no one is sure whether it would work.

We’re trying to stay openminded,” says Frank Shrier, the PacifiCorp biologist overseeing the utility’s relicensing process. “We have a directive to do the right thing. nWe feel there’s lots of habitat east of Swift Reservoir, especially for steelhead andnspring chinook.”

But an almost-completed parallel relicensing process for two Tacoma Power dams on the Cowlita River may set a precedent for the Lewis River dam relicensing process.

In May, after a four-year, $8 million effort, the utility agreed to a plan to restore salmon and steelhead runs on the Cowlitz in exchange for new licenses that will let it operate its 1960s era Mossyrock and Mayfield dams another 40 years. The plan would cost ratepayers more than $60 mIllion over the four decades.

If approved by federal regulators, it eventually could require Tacoma power to build a fish ladder and tramway system to get salmon over 2O0 foot-high Mayfield Dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses privately owned hydroelectric dams, is expected to approve it if all parties involved agree.

Shifting the balance

Steve Fransen, a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, is heading that agency’s involvement in both the Lewis and Cowlitz river dam relicensing projects. He says the Endangered Species Act has shifted the dam relicensing process in favor of fish.

Since passage of the 1986 Federal Power Act, the commission has had to give “equal consideration” to energy conservation, recreation and protection of fish and wildlife when licensing hydropower projects.

“In the past, FERC has achieved what they considered a balance that was to the considerable detriment of anadromous fish,” Fransen said. “FERC can’t do that in licenses that are subject to ESA requirements. The licenses now have to contain terms and conditions that realistically provide protections for fish.”

A high-stakes process

For PacifiCorp, the stakes in dam relicensing are high.

The Lewis River dams generate nearly 510 megawatts of electrical energy – half the company’s hydroelectric capacity, and enough to power nearly every house, business and industry in Clark County.

A portion, 70 megawatts, goes to the Cowlitz County Public Utility District, which owns one of two powerhouses downstream from Swift Dam.

Yale Dam’s S0 year license expires in 2001; licenses for the Swift Dam projects expire in 2006 and the Merwin Dam license expires in 2009. But last December, FERC agreed to consider new licenses for all four projects simultaneously under a new program known as the Alternative Licensing Process

The process, also used by Tacoma Power, brings all the players to the table earlier, considers the impacts of hydroelectric projects on entire watersheds, and requires consensus on key issues.

“Everyone agreed it made sense to look at the whole system,” said Terry Flores, PacifiCorp’s hydro licensing director.

As part of the process, PacifiCorp will prepare an environmental impact statement and consult with federal agencies on threatened and endangered fish.

nA model on the Cowlitz?

nTacoma Power is the first utility in Washington to use FERC’s alternative licensing approach. Over four years, it will spend millions of dollars to get adult fish to spawning grounds above its dams and help smolts survive their downstream migration over the dams.

The utility will also pay studies to determine how well these steps are working before a decision is made on whether it must build a fish ladder over Mayfield Dam.

Conservation groups, including American Rivers and Trout Unlimited, have not yet endorsed the plan. Nor has the Cowlitz Tribe.

Tacoma Power has a head start in the effort to reintroduce salmon to Cowlitz’s upper watershed, says Toby Freeman, Tacoma Power’s director of relicensing.

Both juvenile and adult salmon already are being trucked around Cowlitz Falls Dam upstream from Mossyrock Dam. The Bonneville Power Administration agreed to pay for the facility, owned by the Lewis County PUD to settle a lawsuit by Friends of the Cowlitz.

“Reintroduction was already happening; that wasn’t a question,” Freeman said. “The issue is, What is our responsibility for fish passage?”

The utility has agreed to build a facility to collect fish at the base of Mossyrock Dam. Adults will be trucked above Cowlitz Falls Dam. Juvenile fish will be hauled below Mayfield Dam to resting ponds and later released downstream.

If studies show that the adults can find their way from Mayfield Lake to their stream of origin and successfully reproduce, Tacoma Power will likely build a $22 million fish ladder and tramway system to get them over the lower dam.

Freeman said the new licensing process has worked well for Tacoma Power.

“I know there are folks out there who are actively seeking some sort of black-box solution to hydro licensing,”. he said. “I don’t think that exists. But the fact that we seem to be on the verge of reaching a comprehensive settlement with most or all of the relicensing participants is a good indication of the value of the process.”

PacifiCorp still is in the early information-gathering stages of relicensing but already is helping fund several projects to strengthen surviving wild fish populations.

Staff biologist Erik lesko is working with state biologists to count threatened bull trout and fall chinook and to move bull trout from Lake Merwin to spawning grounds in Cougar Creek.

Operators of Swift Dam are experimenting with releasing water into the old river course to see whether a three mile stretch could again support bull trout.

At Merwin Dam, PacifiCorp is releasing water downstream to provide adequate flow for fall chinook, a requirement of the dam’s current license.

And the company recently contributed $450,000 to buy Eagle Island, which provides critical rearing habitat for fall chinook smolts below Merwin Dam.

Will fish ladders work?

As part of its relicensing, Pacifiorp must study the impact of its dams on fish, wildlife, water quality and quantity, recreation use and cultural artifacts. But its not clear whether it might have to fit its dams with fish ladders~.

Shrier said a conventional fish ladder on 323-foot-high Yale Dam wouid extend 2,000 feet into Lake Merwin and cost about $10 million. He said as far as he knows, “no fish ladder that long really works.”

“Ladders on two Portland General Electric dams in Oregon failed to provide adequate fish passage”, he said.

PGE biologist Doug Cramer said the utility has stopped using a 3.2-mile ladder on Pelton Dam on the Deschutes River, but added that a 1.7-mile ladder and tunnel on its Clackamas River dam still works well.

Biologist Fransen says getting young fish back downstream is the critical challenge on both the Cowlitz and the North Fork. “Effective juvenile passage is absolutely the No.1 key to successful fishery restoration at any these dams,” he said. “If we cannot effectively pass the juveniles, we cannot achieve succes.”

Columbian
Vancouver, WA
June 7, 2000

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New Orofino Plant Set To Produce Power

Staff
Spokesman-Review

A $5 million hydropower project near Orofino is on Schedule to start producing power in late June or early July.

That would allow the project to start selling power to the Bonneville Power Administration by Aug. 4, said Hal Anderson of the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

Work started last October on the hydroelectric plant near the Dworshak and Clearwater fish hatcheries downstream from Dworshak Dam.

Spokesman-Review
Spokane, WA
May 24, 2000

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FERC Rules Against Grant PUD’s Relicensing Methods

Federal agency requires traditional relicensing approach for Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams

By: Devin Proctor
Columbia Basin Herald

After two federal agencies and other fishery interests objected to Grant CountynPUD’s use of alternative relicensing methods, the Federal Energy RegulatorynCommission ruled the PUD must use a traditional process.

Grant County PUD relicensing manager Linda Jones said they will continue to operate the solution groups and hold public meetings, but with the latest decision, the relicensing process could take longer.

Our goal remains the same – to achieve an acceptable outcome by entering into settlement agreements with a wide range of interests including the agencies, Tribes, special interest groups and the general public,” Jones said. “While our timetable to accomplish some relicensing tasks and to implement mitigation measures may now be longer, there will be no major changes in our approach.”

FERC is the federal agency which will issue the next operating license for GrantnCounty PUD dams. The application process is expected to end around 2003 whennGrant PUD turns in its relicensing application to FERC. The existing FERCnoperating license for Grant County PUD expires in 2005.

Back in December of 1999, Grant County PUD formally asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to use what is considered an alternative method of relicensing. The PUD was using the alternative method since early last year which involves public meetings and solution groups as ways to discuss and work through issues.

Several agencies filed objections to the process with FERC saying Grant County PUD had withdrawn from Habitat Conservation Plan negotiations and failed to reach agreement on fish protection measures.

Grant County PUD Public Affairs Officer Gary Garnant said the PUD disagrees with those objections to the alternative process, but doesn’t oppose FERC’s final decision requiring a traditional process.

Doug Ancona, Grant PUD’s Manager of Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs, said they have worked to protect salmon in many ways.

“We have been actively involved in salmon protection, mitigation and enhancement measure for many years,” Ancona said. “FERC’s action will not deter us from continuing to work with agencies and tribes to reach mutually acceptable protection measures for fish.

With a goal ot passing 95 percent of fish migrating through the dam in the spring, Ancona said, the PUD passes large amounts of water through the spill gates of their dams.

He estimated the amount of power lost to provide spill to fish at 200 megawatts every year.

Jones said the relicensing process will continue as it is in place now.nHundreds of people from agencies, both public and private, have taken part in the solution group process prior to FERC’s decision. Many of the groups met once a month. Several larger public meetings were held in Moses Lake last year to inform county residents on the alternative process:

Officially it is no longer an alternative process but Jones said they will still operate the solution groups and continue to work to keep the public involved.

“We want to focus on substance, not process,” Jones said. “Our hope is that all parties will continue to participate fully in our traditional, but highly collaborative process.

Columbia Basin Herald
Moses Lake, WA
May 23, 2000

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Congress May Be The Only Option For Availability Of Power To Aluminum Plants

By Kathy Gray
Sentinel

Elected officials can help maintain the Northwest aluminum industry’s access to affordable power by keeping the political heat on Congress, says Brett Wilcox.

Wilcox is the chief executive of Golden Northwest Aluminum, the holding company for Northwest and Goldendale aluminum plants. He told Mid-Columbia elected officials last Wednesday about threats to the regional aluminum industry and how they can help provide the industry with affordable power to keep plants operating.

Wilcox said in his time at the plant he hasn’t dealt with a problem more serious.

Nothing on this order of magnitude by any means,” Wilcox said. “And that’s not just my analysis. It’s very widespread.”

Electricity is the single largest cost in producing aluminum, Wilcox explained. The two Mid-Columbia plants spend a combined $90 million per year on electricity.

The availability of affordable power for the aluminum industry is threatened by Bonneville Power Administration’s proposed new rate case, which could take effect late in 2001. Bonneville proposes to slash the power available to other aluminum producers by almost half.

Further purchases from Bonneville would require the industry to pay market rates, significantly increasing the cost of power relative to other aluminum producers.

“If nothing changes, smelters in the Northwest will be pushed to the very highest end of [worldwide power costs]” Wilcox said. If the Northwest smelters had been under such a scenario last year, more than half of the industry would have shut down, Wilcox said.

He blames an interest in pro-viding higher-priced power in the California market for the reduction in cost-based power being offered to the aluminum industry by Bonneville. He suggests that selling power in the lucrative market allows the power-market-reserve to build up a large cash reserve that could be used later for expensive dam breaching projects. Bonneville’s proposed $1.2 billion reserve is not necessary if the agency is properly managed, he contends.

Wilcox and other industry leaders are taking a multi-pronged approach to acquiring affordable power, but they need Bonneville’s support to do it.

“There really are a couple of key solutions,” Wilcox said. “Basically, we’ve gone through the process with Bonneville to get half our load served with 25-mill (a “mill” is one-thousandth of a dollar) electrical cost. That’s essentially done now. The real question is what do we do with the other half of the load?”

As previously reported in the Chronicle, Wilcox is working with Klickitat and Northern Wasco PUDs to arrange 9.9 megawatts of power from each agency. Typically, large industries, Weyerhauser for example, are served through their local PUDs, but because of the way the Northwest hydroelectric system has evolved since it began, aluminum industries have remained direct customers of Bonneville. “It’s a small part of our total load, but every little bit helps,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox wants to change that by seeking power the way other industries do. He is seeking less than 10 megawatts to avoid provisions of Bonneville’s single large new load clause, which says new users of10 megawatts or more can have their power costs repriced.

“The problem is that Bonneville’s not sure it wants to let that happen,” Wilcox said.

Bonneville soon will begin a process to re-evaluate its policy on single large new loads. If that happens, any changes will affect new large loads out side the aluminum industry as well.

Wilcox also wants the aluminum industry to be able to fill more of its power need with secondary energy at cost-based rates from Bonneville.

“The long term solution may ultimately involve legislation,” said a paper circulated by Wilcox, “but, in the interim, BPA can manage its system (under the present subscription arrangement) to provide additional benefits to the companies and others. This can be accomplished without increasing the proposed rates to public power and still maintain a significant (and sufficient) protection of Treasury repayment.”

Wilcox is also looking at generating more power through a partnership with National Energy Systems to develop a state-of-the-art 248 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Goldendale. But he sees Bonneville’s support in the project as critical.

The plant could provide an additional, more reliable power supply to complement Bonneville’s hydropower. He hopes that will make Bonneville more willing to provide secondary power at cost.

Asked what local officials can do to help, Wilcox explained that Congress essentially acts as Bonneville’s board of directors. He suggested that concerted effort to put political pressure on the Northwest delegation could have a positive effect.

At Sen. Ted Ferrioli’s (R-John Day) urging, Wilcox said he would work with local officials to draft a letter which elected officials could sign.

Asked if there were any election issues that could affect the safety of the industry, Wilcox, who describes himself as a “nominal Democrat,” said, “In terms of business and a rational balance between business and the environment, the Northwest has to support Governor Bush. Gore would be a disaster for the region.”

Tamer Kirac, director of Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, also spoke at the meeting. Kirac drafted a report earlier this spring analyzing the effect of the aluminum industry, and its reduction, on the Mid-Columbia economy.

He noted that the aluminum industry has an effect nearly three times the normal size of average jobs in the Mid-Columbia in terms of its cumulative effect in the region. Loss of 1,200 aluminum plant workers would mean the projected loss of a total 3,000 regional jobs.

Kirac said his study, commissioned by Northern Wasco PUD, was not intended as shock therapy.

“The study was not to scare off people, but to inform and educate people,” he said. “Those that lived through [plant closures] in the 70s and 80s know what the impact will be.”

The message, he said, is that there are things that can be done by citizens and elected officials to support the industry and the economic benefit it provides. It all comes back to jobs and people, Wilcox added.

“The reason I got involved in Northwest Aluminum in The Dalles is because I knew the people here. I knew what was going on at the time. [It involves] a lot of jobs, and what’s more, a lot of great people’s lives. That’s what really matters. I’m not here to scare people. I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Sentinel
Golden, WA
May 18, 2000

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Soda Springs Dam Talks To Resume

Staff
News-Review

Toketee – PacifiCorp spokesman Tim O’Connor said this morning there will be an exploratory meeting Friday in Portland to consider restarting settlement talks on the Soda Springs Dam.

Those agreeing to be present are Douglas County officials, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and local conservation groups. The meeting will include most of the original settlement team and some new faces. They will decide if they should reenter the talks, which would last up to 120 days.

The talks surround the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, located about 50 miles east of Roseburg in the Umpqua National Forest. PacifiCorp left the talks when the Forest Service was going to require the removal of Soda Springs Dam before issuing a new license.

The difference now is people are willing to go into the talks without the precondition of Soda Spring dam removal,” said PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme. “Before, the condition was to remove the dam, now it’s still on the table but not a precondition.”

News-Review
Roseburg, OR
May 18, 2000

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PGE Stalls Bull Run Scuttling Due to Dam

By Doug Irving
The Oregonian

Portland General Electric’s plans to scuttle its Bull Run bydroelectric plant have snagged on Marmot Dam, officials announced Wednesday.

The dam channels much of the Sandy River into Roslyn Lake and through the plant. For almost a century, Marmot has gathered a wall of silt and rubble, which PGE worries will scour fish spawning grounds if the dam is torn down and the debris released.

The company had expected to apply next month for the permits it needs to shut down the plant. Instead, it will hold onto the permit application until it can untangle the environmental and practical problems surrounding the dam’s removal.

The delay could grant a reprieve to Roslyn Lake, a sanctuary for fishermen and picnickers that could dry up without the dam.

“If we’re going to have something that we all agree on, that road goes through Marmot Dam,” said Tom Sullivan, resentative of the project’s lead engineering team.

PGE announced its plans at a meeting Wednesday of state and federal wildlife agencies, forestry officials and local residents. The decision came after the company received dozens of questions and concerns about its proposal.

The dam shutdown probably will cost between about $5 million and $14 million. Most of that uncertainty comes from Marmot Dam. Digging out some of the sediment wall could cost five times as much as the “blow and go” option of tearing down the dam.

But officials aren’t sure now long it would take to excavate the stacked-up debris or how they’d do it. And they’re not sure they want to uproot Marmot Dam. A fish ladder at the dam is used to stop hatchery fish from moving upstream where wild salmon and steelhead spawn. If the ladder disappears, then hatchery fish probably would no longer be released in the river and cut fishing opportunities.

PGE is considering leaving the dam in place: “A cement waterfall in the river with a fish ladder,” said John Esler, project manager in the company’s hydropower licensing division.

By slowing down its application, PGE hopes to smooth over any controversies that would hinder the project later, said Julie Keil, PGE’s director of hydropower licensing. It still expects the Bull Run plant to produce its last watt within five years.

But timing is everything, Keil said, and the delay could keep the dam online and replenishing Roslyn Lake for another year. The lake can count on Sandy River water through next summer and possibly through 2002.

The Oregonian
Portland, OR
May 18, 2000

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Lake Tapps Preservation Task Force Schedules Update Meeting Thursday

By Rob Tucker
The News Tribune

With 13 months of work and negotiations under its belt, the task force formed to save Lake Tapps will report to the public this week.

Pierce County Councilwoman Jan Shabro, who lives on Tapps Island and is task force cochairwoman, said people often ask about how things are going in the effort to save the lake.

Some people believe the task force has solved the problem,” Shabro said. That’s not so.

“A lot of work has been done, but there’s more to do,” Shabro said.

Puget Sound Energy has said the lake, created as part of a hydroelectric power project, might disappear if the stockholder-owned utility cannot resolve expensive licensing issues with the federal government.

The task force of government agencies, homeowners and lake owner Puget Sound Energy will report Thursday on its progress since forming April 26, 1999, and relate what’s left to do.

So far, the taskforce has been able to winnow down lake-saving options from 34 to 13 or less.

One of the most controversial remaining options consists of forming a Lake Management District, so residents living along and near the lake can tax themselves to help raise the money to save the lake.

The task force says it will take a combination of options to save the lake. They must ensure that the solution allows enough water in the White River, which feeds the lake, to protect endangered chinook salmon, bull trout and other fish.

Other lake-saving options include:

Selling the lake or river water for human consumption.

Getting funding from federal and state sources.

Persuading the State of Washington to purchase the lake from Puget Sound Energy.

Allowing the lake’s water level to fluctuate about a foot during the summer to allow PSE to sell power at times when rates are higher.

Purchasing the $61 million hydro project from PSE and operating it as a public agency.

Lanette Knobel, a task force member, said some people still believe that losing the lake would be impossible.

But PSE said it’s facing losses of $35 million to $80 million over 20 years – up to $4 million a year – if it must meet new federal power licensing requirements for the White River Hydroelectric Project, which includes he lake. If something isn’t done, PSE said, it couldn’t accept the license, terms.

Then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses hydro power projects, could stop PSE’s water diversion and the lake would disappear.

The lake, six miles long and 31/2 miles wide, was formed by using dikes to raise the water level.

If the lake disappears, four smaller, original lakes would remain, but some of the 2,200 property owners who have Lake Tapps shoreline would be high and dry.

Lakeside property owners have deeds that appear to protect PSE from legal liability if the lake disappears. With no Lake Tapps, some owners on and near the lake could see their property values drop by up to a third.

The lake is full from late May to early September. It’s a popular recreation site and often is crowded with boaters.

For those who don’t think it’s possible to eliminate Lake Tapps, Knobel said, people should consider what Portland General Electric Co. did in Clackamas County, Ore.

The utility is decommissioning a hydro project there to save salmon, said PGE spokesman Mark Fryburg. The utility will remove two dams and three small reservoirs on the Sandy River system. Nearby homeowners and citizens want to preserve one, the 160 acre Roslyn Lake. The utility is working with them, the City of Sandy and Clackamas County to preserve it in a 50-acre, reconfigured form. Portland General Electric will donate the lake bottom, he said.

The Lake Tapps task force has until September to submit a general agreement to save the larger lake. The detailed agreement must be submitted to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June 2001.

Knobel said some homeowners had reservations about PSE’s motives when the crisis began. But PSE has been a hard-working participant in the lake-saving effort, said Knobel and Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland, task force co-chairman.

“We are very fortunate,” Knobel said, “PSE is concerned about the community. We all see that. There is no bad boy in this picture.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
May 16, 2000

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Council Guest: Predators, Not Dairies, Not Dams, Hurt Salmon

By: Aubrey Cohen
Bellingham Herald

Portland researcher Don Dodds came to Bellingham Thursday evening with his message that predators and ocean conditions, not dams and dairies are primarily responsible for salmon decline over the past century.

There is no strong, hard data to say human activity was responsible for the decline in salmon,” Dodds told more than 100 people gathered in the Whatcom County Courthouse.

Whatcom County Council members Sam Crawford and Marlene Dawson caused a stir in the community when they invited Dodds to speak in the courthouse. Local environmentalists have pored over Dodds’ paper on salmon and pointed to flaws in his sourcing.

Dodds spent the first 15 minutes of his presentation addressing the criticisms, and continued to sprinkle such responses throughout a presentation that lasted well over an hour.

“I’m not quite sure tonight whether I’m supposed to be the speaker or (be) tarred and feathered,” he said.

Dodds said he is not a salmon expert, nor is he a farmer, fisher, logger, developer, member of a special interest group or of the Communist Party.

“I am not the anti-Christ, nor am I the Messiah. I am merely a voice crying in the desert,” he said. “Why would I come 250-some-odd miles up here on my own money to tell you lies.”

Dodds acknowledged that he mistakenly made reference to removal of a dam on the Elwha River having no effect on salmon, not knowing that the two dams on the river still stand. He explained that he nearly doubled his source’s numbers on the seal population to account for increases since 1994. And he defended his use of a report on sheep breeding to talk about salmon reproduction.

Audience members laughed when Dodds said he did not why people should get worked up about his Elwha blunder and when he said he would not get into the math of salmon breeding because he did want to confuse people.

The presentation was entertaining in other ways as well. Bulleted points appeared on a backdrop of evening sky, trees and a home on the range with a “pop” and a “ploink.” Graphs and charts came in with “whoosh” and he even had a canned laugh track.

Dodds told the audience that most plans to save salmon will restore free-running streams, reduce private control of land, increase the number of salmon predators, and damage the environment by necessitating increased use of fossil fuels, They will not save salmon, however he said.

The science behind such plans is flawed and incomplete, he said. Salmon recovery is a complex puzzle, requiring not only biologists, but oceanographers, meteorologists, ground water hydrologists, foresters, water chemists and other scientists, he said.

To illustrate this point, Dodds tossed jigsaw puzzle pieces.

In addition to talking about what is missing from conventional salmon science, Dodds alleged possible errors in conventional wisdom regarding river habitat, and said any plans based on current habitat science should be postponed.

He asserted that dams could help salmon by eliminating natural rapids that damage fish, tax their food supply and leave them more vulnerable predators. He referred to a program to put dead salmon in rivers to feed young fish, and said the dead salmon break down into nitrate, potassium and phosphate.

“That’s the same constituents that are in cow manure. That’s fertilizer folks,” Dodds said.

The government is trying to prevent manure from leaking into rivers.

“What we have here may well be a case where the left hand is shooting the right hand in the foot,” he said, evoking the loudest laughter of the evening from the audience.

Dodds said the salmon population in the Columbia River basin historically was one or two million, as opposed to the 10 to 16 million commonly thought, and peaked in the late 1800s because people killed salmon predators and whales, thereby freeing up more food for salmon.

“We have to deal with the predators,” he said.

Killing predators would have an immediate impact and the predator populations could quickly rebound if people decided that was the wrong strategy, Dodds said. He cautioned that this was a temporary solution, a way to buy time and do good science, because other predators soon would pick up the slack.

During a question period at the end of the talk, Bellingham fisher Mitch Kink said Alaska has 30 million fish returning each year from the same ocean, with the same predators.

“The only difference is the habitat,” Kink said. “Therefore, I can’t buy your theory.”

Brady Green, an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Forestry Service, said Dodds asked good questions, but oversimplified the issue and gave people reasons to avoid fixing river habitat, which is an essential part of saving salmon.

“Politicians love simple solutions,” he said.

Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, WA
May 12, 2000

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Bonneville Dam’s Power Generators All On

Staff
Skamania Co. Pioneer

For the first time since 1994, all 20 hydropower-generating units at Bonneville Lock and Dam are up and running. Ten of the units are located in the lock and dam project’s first powerhouse on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, the remaining 10 are located in the second powerhouse on the Washington shore.

Unit 10 in the first powerhouse, which was out of service for a stator replacement, came back online April 28. Unit 10 furnishes attraction flow for the entrance to the adult fish ladder and to the juvenile outfalls area, keeping the flows high enough to keep predators away, according to Debby Chenoweth, operations manager for the dam.

When all units at Bonneville Dam are operating, they have the capability of producing 1,076,600 kilowatts of hydroelectricity–enough energy to power 250,000 homes.

In late July rehabilitation of Unit 3 in the first powerhouse will begin.

Skamania Co. Pioneer
Stevenson, WA
May 10, 2000

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Tacoma Power Proposes Dam Deal

By Al Gibbs
The News Tribune

Tacoma Power officials have agreed to a proposal that aims to restore salmon and steelhead runs on the Cowlitz River while allowing the utility to operate its two hydroelectric dams there for another 40 years.

And while the plan, if accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would cost electric ratepayers more than $60 million over four decades, it won’t immediately boost the price of power.

We’ve done everything we can to assure the recovery of fish,” said Debbie Young, Tacoma Power’s natural resources manager.

Added Toby Freeman, the utility’s relicensing coordinator and lead negotiator: “This is good for the other (state and federal agencies and environmental groups in the negotiations) and best for the fish in the Cowlitz River Basin.”

“All the folks supporting the agreement think it best assures the chances of (salmon and steelhead) recovery.”

Exceptions are public interest groups like American Rivers and Friends of the Cowlitz. They have yet to sign the agreement in principle.

American Rivers’ chief negotiator, Rob Masonis, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Friends of the Cowlitz president Bill Zaikawsky said officials with that group haven’t had time to study terms of the agreement but probably would refuse to sign because the plan doesn’t go as far as the group wants.

The agreement is not final, but Martha Bean, the Seattle mediator who has been working with negotiators for nearly two years, has asked regulatory commission officials to delay their review of licensing recommendations for two months to allow attorneys for the parties to draft a formal plan. “It’s more than a good start it’s a remarkable accomplishment,” Bean said. “This is a giant step, but there are still miles to go.”

None of the agencies got everything they wanted, said Steve Fransen, a fisheries biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service and chairman of one of the technical negotiating committees.

“I don’t think there is ever an agreement like this that there isn’t some dissatisfaction,” he said. “The discomfort should be equally spread.”

But, he added, “I think it took a tremendous commitment of many parties, especially Tacoma, since they’ll pay most of the bills.”

The Cowlitz is the third of Tacoma Power’s three hydro projects to go into the relicensing process.

The Nisqually project, including Alder and La Grande dams near Eatonville, was relicensed in 1997 after nine years of study and negotiations. The Cushman project’s two dams on the Olympic Peninsula have been the subjects of contentious talks for 25 years. Their relicensing is the object of at least two federal court suits.

Tacoma so far has invested four years and more than $8 million on the Cowlitz relicensing.

The main theme of a proposed settlement – which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could adopt as terms of a new license – is that the utility and both public and private resource groups agree to a so-called adaptive management method of deciding what should be done to bring the river back to the days when it was the state’s most fecund producer of salmon and steelhead.

Tacoma has agreed to spend millions of dollars on a variety of methods and equipment to get adult fish to their natural spawning grounds above the dams and guarantee that baby fish can swim to the sea in the most natural fashion possible.

There are agreed limits, however, on how much Tacoma would have to spend on various actions or construction projects. Negotiators also decided to reduce the production of salmon and trout at two Cowlitz hatcheries that are among the largest in the world. Tacoma pays the bills and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife operates them.

Biologists now believe that hatchery fish, which are larger than wild fish when released into the river, become predators of young wild salmon.

Negotiators set up a formal process for resolving disputes among the various agencies during the life of the license.

Tacoma also agreed to pay Lewis County $1 million a year for four years, an increase in the utility’s past in-lieu-of-taxes payments and what Bean considers a major move leading to the settlement.

Tacoma’s deal with the county provided Tacoma with substantial credibility among other negotiators that the utility was serious about reaching an agreement, she said.

Freeman said he hopes attorneys can agree on contractual language by mid-July. Such a document then could be submitted as the basis – if not almost the exact language – for the terms and conditions the federal energy agency would impose on a new license.

“This (agreement in principle) is a major milestone, but it’s not the finish line,” Freeman said.

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
May 10, 2000

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Avista Debates Rate-Cut Proposal

By Bert Caldwell
Spokesman-Review

Avista Corp. Rates Manager Tom Dukich said Tuesday that consultants low-balled their own numbers to come up with recommendations that Washington roll back the utility’s electricity and natural gas rates.

The Spokane utility had sought a $26.3 million electricity rate increase and a $4.9 million natural gas increase.

Instead, the staff of the Utilities and Transportation Commission recommended on Friday a $16.5 million cut in electricity revenues and just $785,000 in additional gas revenues.

The assistant attorney general who represents consumers before the commission also proposed rate cuts.

The three-member commission is not bound by either recommendation.

Avista’s rates have advanced 3.5 percent during the past decade. The company’s request wouId have lifted residential electricity rates 14 percent and gas rates 6.5 percent.

Although several factors contributed to the gulf between the county and the staff, Dukich said two issues – rate of return and power supply – accounted for much of gap.

He said the Virginia-based consultant who analyzed Avista’s capital structure pegged the equity portion at 42 percent, compared with 44 percent for a peer group.

Then the consultant allowed only 10.4 percent return on the equity, compared with 11.4 percent for the peer group, he said.

Avista had proposed a 47 percent utility share, on which the company would be allowed to earn 12.25 rent.

Debt, such as bonds, comprises rest of Avista’s overall capital structure.

Dukich said the difference in the company and staff analyses constitutes $13 million of the overall difference of $43 million in the final rate calculations.

Turning to power supply, he said the staff did not allow the company to recover any of the $4 million the company will spend replacing power from the Centralia Power Plant, which Avista and its partners sold last week to a Canadian utility.

Dukich said Washington consumers are splitting $19 million in revenues from that sale.

The staff also assumed Avista would earn $5 million annually from its energy-trading activity, he said. In fact, the company lost $5 million in 1999.

Different assumptions about the amount of water that would flow through company hydroprojects created a $9 million revenue sinkhole, Dukich said.

Other quarrels involve allowances from the 1996 ice storm, last year’s corporate name change and the shift of some costs from the rate base to expenses.

Avista has until June 2 to file with the commission its rebuttal to the staff case, which is expected to act on the filing this fall.

Spokesman-Review
Spokane, WA
May 10, 2000

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Hermiston Qualifies For Low-cost Power Contract With BPA

By: Terri Meeuwsen
East Oregonian

Hermiston – The Bonneville Power Administration gave the city a thumbs up to buy power at BPA’ s lowest cost, assuming condemnation proceedings against Pacificorp end in the city’s favor.

We believe it is clear the city is committed to meeting the requirements of the (standards of service) and that the city is intending to complete the condemnation process,” wrote Daniel Bloyer, an account executive for BPA. “Within a reasonable time, Bonneville expects the city to become a fully operating utility.”

The city must sign a contingent power contract by July 31.

“That does not mean that the condemnation proceedings must be completed by then,” said city attorney Jim Deason.

If the proceedings can be completed by Sept. 30, the city could meet the requirements to be a “preference customer” under BPA’s new regulations, he said.

“I’ve seen the proposed contracts and they say that if the condemnation proceedings don’t come out in the city’s favor, the contract just goes away,” Deason explained.

A preference customer gets first dibs on BPA power from the Columbia River dam system at a lower rate than non-preference customers.

The city would receive 12 megawatts out of the 75 set aside for new small utilities.

Several requirements must be met for a city to be declared a preference customer, including owning its distribution facilities, having an adequate system for distribution and being able to pay for the bulk power received from BPA.

To help meet some of those requirements, the city and Umatilla Electric Co-Operative nixed its agreement for the co-op to take over the power system.

On June 8, 1998, the City Council entered into a preliminary agreement with UEC to try to force out Pacific Power, which serves 75 percent of the city.

The city offered to pay more than $3.2 million for the local electric system. PacifiCorp had 40 days to decide if it would accept that offer. It took no action, so the city began the court process to acquire the system. That led to the first condemnation action last January.

nIn May, PacifiCorp charged that UEC violated state utility laws by trying to take over the Hermiston service area with the city’s help.

An advisory vote passed Aug. 25, 1998, by Hermiston voters said it was OK for the city to enter into the condemnation proceedings, as long as UEC would foot the bill.

But contracts between the city and UEC were canceled because city attorneys wanted to speed up the condemnation proceedings. At the same time, the two entities agreed to a mutual-cooperation agreement. That agreement explains that UEC will provide the city with the necessary transmission access and expertise to operate the distribution system; within city limits.

The city has spent more than $550,000 since 1997 when the entire process began. That includes court proceedings as well as feasibility studies and other preliminary work.

East Oregonian
Pendleton, OR
May 9, 2000

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Murkowski Urges Passage Of The Small Hydro Exemption Bill

Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski testified March 30 before a key subcommittee in the House of Representatives in support of his bill that would speed construction of renewable energy projects in Alaska by allowing the state to regulate a smallscale hydroelectric project – instead of the federal government.

Murkowski said he was heartened by the comments of Rep. John Dingell, D Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, who expressed his support for the legislation and pledged to work with Murkowski.nnMurkowski stated, Alaska has a great potential for small-scale hydroelectric projects which would help reduce the price of electricity to the consumers in Alaska & help the environment by reducing air pollution. But under existing law, a project, no matter how small or how remote it is, must obtain a federal license; and the licensing process itself is a major impediment & cost for the small projects.”

While the five to 10-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process may not defeat a giant project, it represents a significant cost increase for smaller projects. Murkowski said that the Black Bear Lake hydro project on Prince of Wales Island, a proposed 4.5-megawatt generator, took seven years and $1.2 million to complete the licensing process – adding significantly to the $10 million cost of the project. The nearby Goat Lake project required five years and $1 million in spending to win the FERC approval, adding to its $10 million construction cost.

“For a small project that’s located in a remote region of Alaska, the FERC licensing process is a major expense; & for too many small projects, this alone dooms an otherwise economically viable & environmentally beneficial project,” said Murkowski.

He noted that most of these projects are not on a salmon spawning stream, but on small creeks or at the outflow of lakes & that the projects have no effect on the environment or wildlife.n”Small hydro projects in Alaska are environmentally sound, renewable power sources since they replace the fossil-fuel burning diesel generators as power sources. It’s important to make note that this legislation doesn’t exempt Alaska’s small hydro projects froni regulation. Instead, it allows the state to regulate (them) in lieu of FERC. I ask, who’s more interested in the environment of Alaska we Alaskans or the distant FERC regulators?”

Murkowski noted that Alaskans, on average, pay 36 percent more for electricity – and some in rural Alaska pay up to 43 cents per kilowatt hour 5 times the national average. These high costs result from the fact that power is generated from diesel generators whose fuel must be shipped to remote areas at great cost.

The FERC exemption will only be triggered if Alaska’s Governor notifies the Secretary of Energy that the State has in place a comprehensive process for regulating the new facilities – a process that follows all federal environmental, natural resources, or cultural resource protection laws.

The bill has been endorsed by Alaska Legislature’s Utilities Restructuring Committee, by Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, & by the Alaska State government.

The bill, (S. 422) passed the Senate on March 26, 1999 and is awaiting action in the House.

Island News
Thorne Bay, AK
May 8, 2000

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EWEB To Help Purchase Acreage

McKenzie: The $1 million fund will help ensure clean water and resore wildlife habitat.

By: Jaime Lyn Rea
Register Guard

The Eugene Water & Electric Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to give $1 million to the McKenzie River Trust for the purchase of land along the McKenzie River that will help to ensure clean drinkine water and restore the natural habitat for fish and wildlife.

The board approved a $500,000 outright grant and a $500,000 matching grant for the purchase of 400 acres of secure ecologically viable riparian property.”

The McKenzie River Trust was established in 1990 as a nonprofit, nongovernmental corporation that seeks to protect natural resources, especially those threatened by development and sprawl.

The trust currently protects 200 acres of land in six areas along the McKenzie River above Hayden Bridge in Springfield.

“This grant represents a gift back to water quality and to the fish that depend on that water as much as we do,” said Laurie Power, environmental manager for EWEB.

Mike Dyer, an EWEB member who has in the past opposed the grant, said he voted in favor of the recommendation because it was a history-making move by the utility.

Board member Peter Bartel was absent.

EWEB members said they support the land protection efforts because they want customers to feel confident that the water flowing into their homes is pure, and at the same time, they want to help restore the natural habitat along the river.

Bull trout and spring chinook salmon, which are on the federal endangered species list, are two species that EWEB and the trust hope to help recover through protecting riverbank lands.

“We’re aware of our impacts on the river, and this is a good way to protect the lands,” said Cathy Hamilton, spokeswoman for EWEB.

When EWEB applied for relicensing of its power plants in Walterville and Leaburg in the early 1990s, it set up a plan to support the protection of riverfront property as a mitigation tool to counterbalance the impacts of the dams upon the river, Hamilton said.

When the licenses were approved, EWEB was told by the federal licensing board that it didn’t need to mitigate for the impact upon the river. But EWEB chose to stick with its original plan to help rebuild the river’s natural habitat.

The $500,000 grant and potential $1 million comes from a capital reserve fund that EWEB established in 1991.

Drawing from the fund has no direct effect on customers’ rates, Hamilton said.

The next step for the hoard and trust is to form a three-member overseer group to direct and advise on the purchase of land.

The trust will then identify lands prererably threatened lands that it would like to buy, Hamilton said. Previously, the trust has waited to buy lands until landowners have approached it with acreage for sale.

People will often ask the trust to buy land that logging companies have shown an interest in, hoping to protect the kind from clearcutting, said Tom Bowerman, projects coordinator for the trust.

Bowerman said $1 million isn’t a lot of money to work with in the McKenzie River basin because some homes and acreage can cost at least $1 million, but the trust plans to choose lands that will sell for a good price per acre as well as meet the criteria of acreage with a high ecological value. It also welcomes donated or discounted lands.

The trust plans to initiate a campaign to raise the $500,000 in matching funds from public and private sources.

The trust must raise its part of the $1 million by 2010 or the money reverts back to EWEB. The grant is not conditional, which means any amount up to $500,000 will be matched by EWEB. “The McKenzie River is the lifeblood of this Eugene community and EWEB harnesses that river for drinking water and low-cost, hydroelectric power,” Power said.

“This grant is a great way to give back to that river that has given so much.”

Register Guard
Eugene, OR
June 7, 2000

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Tacoma Power Reports Progress

By John Henderer
The Chronicle

Tacoma Power reports talks are making progress toward a settlement agreement to guide operations of its Cowlitz River dams.

Tacoma officials plan to submit a document to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by Friday in hopes it will serve as the framework for a comprehensive settlement to be hammered out over the next two months.

The so called agreement in principle on lines fish passage facilities, hatchery operations, habitat improvements and recreation opportunities for which Tacoma will pay to obtain the license.

Since building Mayfield and Mossyrock dams in the 1960s, Tacoma has operated them without fish ladders, trucking dwindling salmon and steelhead runs around the dams to spawn.

Tacoma’s existing federal license expires Dec. 31, 2001.

Tacoma sponsored collaborative licensing talks for several years, beginning in 1996, but monthly meetings with state and federal resource agencies, Indian tribes and fish conservation groups failed to produce a settlement agreement. The meetings ended in December.

Later that month, Tacoma sent a license application to FERC to meet a deadline. Since then, Seattle mediator Martha Bean and Tacoma officials have been negotiating behind thenscenes with of the original group to craft a settlement.

The 17 page document dispersed last week to the resource groups represents “the final” product at this stage, Bean said in an April 26 e-mail accompanying the draft. She asked representatives to sign a statement in support and asking for time to negotiate until July 15.

Lewis County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller signed the letter Wednesday.

“They’re here. We’ve been here for a long time, and we get to work together,” Hadaller told The Chronicle on Wednesday. “We wouldn’t sign something that was way off in left field.”

As expected fisheries issues dominate the draft agreement. In general, the agreement expresses support for a move toward more natural fish and less reliance on hatcheries.

In the meantime, however Tacoma would have to upgrade the hatcheries it operates on the Cowlitz River.

The agreement provides several complex so-called “triggers” that must be met before Tacoma would construct a fish ladder over Mayfield Dam.

As an example, one salmon or head species returning to spawn have to exceed a “predetermined abundance level” in at least three of consecutive years, and studies would have to show adult fish swimming through Mayfield Lake “are able choose their tributary of origin” and survive the swim across Mayfield at rates determined by federal fisheries agencies to be “sufficient to achieve effective upstream passage” through a fish ladder.

In the agreement, Tacoma also agrees to pay up to $4.5 million to up-grade a fish collection facility Cowlitz Falls Dam where workers capture, tag and truck sea-going juvenile fish around the dams.

Tacoma also offers to pay up to $2.5 million to buy land and restore wildlife habitat. Elsewhere, the document reiterates Tacoma’s recent pledges, made in a mitigation payment deal with Lewis County, to take over some parks operations from the county.

Bean, Tacoma’s consulting mediator, heralded the document as “an historic agreement” noting it does not represent “perfection.”

“But it is very, very strong and does, I believes hold the best hope for the fish,” she said.

Bean urged resource group members to sign the letter addressed to David Boergers, secretary of the federal relicensing agency, petitioning him for more time to submit settlement terms, conditions and recommendations.

“It was not intended to serve as a place holder that would simply provide more time for further negotiations” said Toby Freeman, Tacoma relicensing coordinator.

Failing to obtain more time for the settlement would effectively leave the decision in federal hands in Washington D.C., Bean warned.

Rob Masonis, American Rivers conservation director at the group’s Northwest office in Seattle, said he hasn’t signed anything or been asked to sign anything.

“The focus has been on and continues to be on the agreement in principle,” Masonis said. “I think we’re getting there.”

The Chronicle
Centralia, WA
May 4, 2000

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PacifiCorp Floats Proposal To Retain Dam

By Garret Jaros
News-Review

PacifiCorp officials have developed a new restoration package to improve wildlife habitat since leaving the settlement talks to relicense the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project in November.

They said they’re offering a viable alternative to removing Soda Springs Dam, a sticking point in the earlier talks.

All we wanted was an opportunity to go into talks without a precondition of dam removal,” said PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme this morning. He said that now all the parties have agreed to come back with everything on the table–including removal of the dam, located about 50 miles east of Roseburg.

PacifiCorp has increased the amount it will spend on restoration projects to $37 million.

During the two years of talks, PacifiCorp officials planned on spending $35 million to address fisheries, recreation, erosion, water quality and in-stream flows.

“We knew all along we’d spend a significant amount on all aspects of he river in relicensing, everyone knows that,” said Kvamme. “To be honest with you I don’t know why we upped the amount of money. When we exited talks they said if we came up with a plan as good as dam removal or better they’d consider it, and we have.”

PacifiCorp and Forest Service officials are trying to restart discussions to relicense the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, but it is uncertain if all members of the original settlement team will participate.

Umpqua National Forest Supervisor Don Ostby has said that he would only consider further discussions if all of the original settlement team members agreed to come back.

Diana Wales of Roseburg, a member of the original team and an attorney for Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, said PacifiCorp was not told it could return with a new proposal.

“They just walked,” Wales said. “They were not told if they came up with a restoration package that it would be considered. After FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) denied them additional extensions they’ve been telling the media they have these other packages.”

Wales said PacifiCorp sent letters to FERC saying talks were resuming and invited settlement team participants to return to discussions.

“They are dictating the terms, which are totally unacceptable to us,” Wales said. “We have sent a letter to PacifiCorp suggesting alternative terms for resuming settlement talks and we’ve received no response.”

Wales and the other participants have complained to FERC of further delays.

“Because the regular relicensing process has been delayed, PacifiCorp has been operating with an obsolete license for five years,” Wales said.

She said this is about more than just dam removal and that the dam’s owner, PacifiCorp’s parent company Scottish Power, is using this dam as a poster child.

With many dams to relicense in the near future, PacifiCorp officials have said that removing Soda Springs dam would set a bad precedent.

But Kvamme said that going through settlement talks will help the river much sooner than the FERC process.

“Through the standard process you have to go through all the steps before you can make changes and if there is a dispute you have to go court so it takes, even longer, Kvamme said.

Settlement talks were a way for participants to come to an agreement on a set of measures to implement sooner rather than later, Kvamme said.

“We’d prefer a settlement, that’s why we were involved in settlement talks for two years,” Wales said, but she adds the science hasn’t changed and it says dam removal is the best option.

Ostby is interested in PacifiCorp’s proposal, but could still opt for removing the dam, said Umpqua National Forest spokeswoman Cheryl Walters.

Removing Soda Springs Dam would allow salmon and steelhead to reach eight miles of extra spawning habitat in the North Umpqua River, as well as the tributary Fish Creek, considered prime spawning habitat.

It is an ecologically complex project that involves eight dams and 32 miles of open canals and the removal of most of the water from the river to run through these canals and pen stocks and it substantially changes the chemistry of the water, Wales said.

Besides blocking fish, the project violates federal water quality standards for acidity, dissolved oxygen and temperature, said Mikeal Jones, a Forest Service hydrologist.

PacifiCorp has proposed increasing flows to cool off water temperatures and improve oxygen, but can’t do much about the acidity problem but study it, Jones said.

Wales said that some groups are prepared to sue the Forest Service under the National Environmental Policy Act, and a watershed analysis produced for PacifiCorp offers ample scientific evidence for dam removal.

“The Forest Service is going to have a great deal of difficulty at this point walking away from that science,” Wales said.

News-Review
Roseburg, OR
May 4, 2000

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Soda Spring Dam Talks Back On Table

Relicensing: Discussions on North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project broke down between sids in November

By: Garret Jaros
The News-Review

Talks may soon resume in the relicensing of the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project.

The talks broke down in November after Pacificorp representatives walked out of negotiations in protest to the U.S. Forest Servicet a insistence that Soda Springs Dam, the farthest downstream dam, be removed as a precondition for the federal government’s relicensing of the project.

After the original talks ended, the Forest Service no longer had to stand by the precondition that Soda Springs Dam come out. Other options have been reviewed and will be discussed during the talks, although Ostby has said dam breaching still seems the best solution for fish and wildlife, and the river’s health.

The project includes eight dams and generating plants connected by 44 miles of canals and flumes along the North Umpqua River, some 50 miles east of Roseburg.

It is hoped by Forest Service officials and Pacificorp that dam relicensing discussions will begin next week,” Cheryl Walters, spokeswoman for the Umpqua National Forest, said today.

No date has been set.

Pacificorp officials say they are looking at the third week in May. They are making calls today to see if that fits into schedules.

“It is a really good thing,” said Terry Flores, hydro relicensing director for PacifiCorp. “Almost everyone agrees that settlement is the best approach in relicensing.”

Officials with the Forest Service and Pacificorp are proposing that the group focus on four key areas instead of the whole package, Walters said. The issues are connectivity at Soda Springs Dam, erosion control, in-stream flows and 401 certification, which has to do with clean water.

The settlement group is comprised of representatives from 12 federal and state agencies and several non-governmental groups including fishing and conservation groups.

Umpqua National Forest Supervisor Don Ostby was clear that if talks were to continue, he wanted the same settlement group at the table.

Opponents of the dam who sat in on the original settlement talks said in a Wall Street Journal article today that the Forest Service is simply backing down.

“In November, the Forest Service said the dam should come out,” said Diana Wales, a Roseburg lawyer and member of the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society. “Now they don’t.”

Ken Ferguson, conservation director for the Steamboaters, a 350-member fly fishing group in Roseburg agrees with Wales.

“It’s a cave-in to PacifiCorp,” he said. “Removing the dam was the best alternative in November, and as far as we are concerned, it still is.

The first settlement discussions were confidential, but these will be more open so the press and agency representatives can be informed of progress.

The Forest Service sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that issues new licenses, in mid-April asking the agency to delay the issuance of FERC’s environmental review notice for 120 days to allow this latest round of talks to happen.

The state and National Marine Fisheries Service also sent letters of support asking for a delay. If FERC started the review, it would lessen the chance of settlement talks taking place, Walters said.

A new hydroelectric relicensing coordinator for the Forest Service, PamnSichting from Plumas National Forest in California, will replace Jim Wieman,na retired Cottage Grove district ranger.

The primary function of Soda Springs Dam is to smooth out the flow of water discharged by the upstream plants. It also produces 11 of the system’s 185 megawatts of electricity.

News – Review
Roseburg, OR
May 3, 2000

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Who Will Turn The Lights Back On?

You thought electricity deregulation would be good news? Think again.

By: Lisa Cohn
Oregon Business

It might happen like this, sometime next January: Arctic air will blow into the Northwest, sending residents and businesses to their thermostats. Regional utilities, caught shorthanded, start scrambling for extra electricity.

Most begin, as usual, by calling the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which markets the low-cost hydropower generated at 29 federally owned dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries. The utilities ask, How much hydro is available? For how long?

Unfortunately, sparse rain fall has left the reservoirs that feed water to the electricity-producing turbines too low. The BPA has no more kilowatt-hours available.

The temperature continues to drop. Demand increases.

Next the utilities turn to the second cheapest option: power from their own or other companies’ generating plants. But businesses and consumers have already gobbled up much of these plants’ output, and when one over-worked coal-fired plant suddenly stalls, there’s no remaining power on hand.

Now it’s back to the BPA for a last-ditch effort in emergencies, the BPA is allowed by law to lower the reservoirs behind dams enough to squeeze more water — and more hydroelectricity — out of the Columbia. It complies, but the emergency effort isn’t enough. All along the I-5 corridor, lights snap off. Furnaces fall silent; computer screens blacken. Traffic lights go blank. Angry residents telephone their utilities, complaining that their grandparents are shivering.

Far-fetched?

Not according to the Northwest Planning Council (NWPPC), which says there’s a 25% chance this scenario could happen as early as next winter.

If we don’t keep demand and supplies in balance, the entire system could become unstable and we could see massive blackouts,” says Oick Watson, director of the NWPPC’s power planning division.

It’s more likely a shortage would be less devastating, a series of short outages staged by energy suppliers to ensure the electricity system doesn’t snap under the weight of too much demand, much like controlled forest fires designed to reduce the potential after a catastrophic burn. But the problem remains, and, right now its solution isn’t clear.

“Something needs to be done immediately,” says Perry Gruber, a spokesman for the BPA. Even though the BPA is the region’s largest player – it supplies regional utilities with nearly 50% of the Northwest’s power – it’s not the agency’s job to build new generating units, says Gruber. It’s up to the region to decide how to meet this issue head on,” he says.

The problem, for the BPA and for investor- and consumer-owned electric utilities, is that the laws of supply and demand are temporarily out of whack in the kilowatt-hour sales business: When demand is high, regulated energy prices don’t necessarily spike. As a result, independent power plant developers and utilities have little incentive for investing in new electricity generating facilities – even though there aren’t enough of them to meet the needs of increasing numbers of residents and businesses.

“Nobody is going to build plants,” says Robert McCullough, head of Portland’s McCullough Research, a utility industry consultant. “It’s not rational to build plants today.”

It’s not rational because Northwest utilities are moving toward deregulation, anticipating the day that all electricity customers will shop for suppliers rather than purchasing energy from a monopoly utility. In a deregulated market, customers will choose among competing energy suppliers in the same way they now choose among competing telephone long distance carriers. So utilities currently preparing for deregulation, which want us to keep costs as low as possible while their industry is in transition, are reluctant to invest in multi-million dollar ventures.

No one knows how the competitive market will work,” says Walt Pollock senior vice president of power supply for Portland General Electric (PGE)

Part of the problem is the slow transition to deregulation. In Oregon, for example, commercial and industrial customers will not be free to seek out alternative electricity suppliers until October 2001. For now, of course, prices don’t spike, even in periods of high demand. In fact, regulated retail prices remain relatively stable even when wholesale prices experience a 10-fold increase, said Paul Barber, vice president of transmission and engineering for Boston-based Citizens Power, at a recent conference. “Keep The Lights On”, sponsored by the BPA and the NWPPC.

“The industry reminds me of animals in Australia. You separate them from the rest of the world long enough, and they begin to look weird,” he said. “You can’t saddle a kangaroo and expect it to run like a racehorse.”

In the kangaroo world of regulation, utilities generally build power plants in times of shortage. The facilities are paid for by rate payers and sanctioned by regulators. In the deregulated world, utilities have no such assurances about paying off their investments. And even if they were interested in building plants, another factor might force them to think twice: The BPA holds prices artificially low by churning out extra low-cost hydropower during shortages.

“Since there is no hard and fast line about when BPA does this, it distorts the market,” says Steve Weiss, Oregon policy associate for the Northwest Energy Coalition, an environmental group. Energy prices don’t reflect the shortage of power plants, he says.

Complicating matters further is the BPA’s current controversial renegotiation of its long-term contracts with utilities, which will determine who gets coveted hydropower from federal dams. That creates uncertainty, says Jason Eisdorfer, attorney for the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board, because its unclear how much power will be allotted to long-term customers-and for how long.

It’s harder for independent developers to judge what the market will look like and decide whether to build power plants,” Eisdorfer says.

If the BPA didn’t rush in to fill the void during periods of short supply, power plant developers might come forward, Weiss says. They could build new electricity generating facilities, sell the energy to utilities1 and reap the benefits of price spikes during periods of high demand. “There are times prices would skyrocket, which would allow power plant developers to get their investment back,” says Weiss.

(Filling the void can create environmental challenges as well, says Weiss: If the BPA relies too much on its hydroelectric facilities in late summer, the Northwest’s rivers might be depleted of water needed to speed the salmon’s springtime journey to the ocean. “If there’s not enough water, salmon move slower, don’t get to the ocean and don’t survive as well,” he says.

Given that independent developers and utilities aren’t stepping forward and the Northwest could experience shortages soon, policy makers need to act quickly, says the NWPPC. So regulators, policy groups and utilities are searching for potential electricity sources in their own back yards: They want to find customers willing to reduce their use of electricity when supplies are tight. Customers amenable to shutting down computers or stalling assembly lines for a few hours would be compensated for the kilowatt-hours they saved.

“We’re talking about relatively infrequent, relatively short periods of time when supplies can get tight,” says Watson.

Rather than waiting to be socked by a blackout, utilities that anticipate electricity shortages would begin to strike deals with their customers, Watson explains. If, on our cold January day, no BPA electricity was available, and power from coal, nuclear or gas-fired plants could not meet demand, utilities would turn to customers.

“We would tell XYZ Company, ‘I will pay you so much to bring your demand down.’ We’d tell owners of commercial office buildings, ‘Could you drop the temperature of your building a few degrees?’ ” says Watson.

It’s not new idea, says Bill Pascoe, vice president of transmission services for Montana Power Co. in Butte. In the deregulated Montana electricity market, customers can opt to conserve energy during shortages and sell it back to suppliers–at market prices. In 1999, when prices jumped from $30 per megawatthour, or unit of energy, to $200, customers could have charged about $150 per megawatt hour–five times more than what they would typically pay for the energy. In Oregon, customers could do the same if suppliers and regulators established a pricing mechanism that would allow for the transaction, Pascoe says.

All this talk of conserving energy is good news to environmentalists lobbying to protect the Northwest’s salmon, whose numbers have plummeted since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries in the 1930s. If people use less energy, the region will produce less hydropower and fewer salmon will be chewed up in the hydroelectric facilities’ giant turbines, says Larry Tuttle, director for the Portland-based Center For Environmental Equity, an environmental group.

And conservation can go a long way toward solving the region’s power shortage dilemma, said Ralph Cavanagh, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, at the BPA’s “Keep The Lights On” conference.

“This has given us all a powerful new reason to revive energy efficiency and to do it well,” he said. “I have been responding for 20 years to warnings about power outage problems. I think this time, it’s real.

Oregon Business
Portland, OR
May 1, 2000

Posted in Hydropower, News | Leave a comment

An Innovative Rural Power Plan Announced

Staff
Island News

Un April 11th, an innovative plan for long-term funding of the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) program was introduced to the legislature by Governor Tony Knowles. Using the sale of the Four Dam Pool hydroelectric facilities as its centerpiece, the plan creates a $120 million endowment that will provide at least half of the $16 million annual cost of the PCE program.

This plan achieves the twin goals of finalizing the sale of the Four Dam Pool & securing a stable, long term source of funding for PCE, two long-standing issues of critical importance to rural & SE Alaska,” said Knowles.

“It’s also good news for rural Alaska, because we’ll be able to guarantee the future of the PCE program,” Knowles added. “PCE serves Alaskans in 193 rural communities who don’t benefit from hydropower and other large, state-funded energy projects and, as a result, face some of the highest energy costs in the country. These costs not only burden individual rural Alaskans, but it also hampers rural economic development.”

The plan consists of a memorandum of understanding for the sale of the hydroelectric facilities to their respective communities, legislation to create the PCE endowment, and a needed appropriations measure to accomplish those goals.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the Four Dam Pool communities will purchase their respective hydroelectric facilities for $73 million. Another $20 million originally allocated for a Southeast intertie, as well as $13 million insurance fund for the facilities will be releasednto the state. The state will also collect approximately $10 million in debt service revenues over each of the next 2 years. The Alaska Industrial Development & Export Authority (AIDEA) will provide financing of up to $110 million to complete the sale.

The sale will generate a minimum of $120 million for a PCE Endowment Fund, from which the annual proceeds will help to fund the program. Based on an annual return of 7%, the endowment will generate about $8 million each year for PCE.

The initial endowment won’t fully fund the $15.7 million PCE program, so this legislation also contains provisions that any shortfall be met from the annual AIDEA dividend to the state, up to $9 million annually. This legislation also lets other funds like federal funds, gifts, & appropriations go to Endowment. The state will work with our congressional delegation to secure additional funding.

The PCE program was created in ’85, as the state was investing hundreds of millions in the Four Dam Pool and other hydroelectric facilities. The program pays a portion of the rural electric bills in recognition that reliable and affordable electric service was a necessary ingredient of modern society and a developing economy. The Legislature established a PCE Fund in 1993 with about $67 million, but those funds have since been exhausted.

“Two years ago, I appointed the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Committee to recommend ways of addressing long-term PCE funding,” Knowles stated. “Representing urban & rural Alaskans, utilities, state agencies, & legislators, it unanimously concluded that the PCE program is essential to the lives of residents & economic development of rural Alaska. The Committee’s work provided a sound basis for the long term solution that we present today to solve the dilemma of reliable and affordable energy for rural Alaskans under the Power Cost Equalization program.

Island News
Thorne Bay, AK
May 1, 2000

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EPA Leans Toward Breaching Dams

By Les Blumenthal
The News Tribune

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday became the first federal agency to officially suggest that breaching four dams may be the best way to improve water quality and restore endangered salmon on the Snake River.

While the EPA did not call for breaching outright, it criticized a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study of how best to rebuild the runs as inadequate.”

“The environmental impact statement must acknowledge the effects of existing dams on water quality,” the EPA said in a letter to the corps. “Water quality impacts are particularly important because they pertain directly to the biological requirements of the fish that the feasibility study is intended to address.”

The EPA letter underscored the deep divisions among federal agencies over how best to restore salmon stocks and made clear the White House likely will become the final arbitrator.

Chuck Clarke, the EPA’s regional administrator in Seattle, wrote the letter to Lt. Col. William Bulen Jr. He heads the Corps’ district office in Walla Walla, which has jurisdiction over the Snake River dams.

Corps officials said they were surprised by Clarke’s letter.

“We will definitely work with them and have been working with them,” said Col. Eric Mogren of the Corps’ Walla Walla office. “Frankly, we were surprised at the severity of their rating. They gave us no indication it was coming.”

Environmentalists said Clarke’s letter bolstered their case for breaching the dams, while river user groups said there were other alternatives that would work just as well, if not better, to recover the salmon runs.

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, EPA has the power to enforce water quality standards. The agency has argued the four lower Snake darns have created water temperatures and levels of dissolved gases that violate those standards.

Biologists long have known high water temperatures can jeopardize a salmonπs survival and too high a level of dissolved gas, in this instance nitrogen, can kill the fish.

In its environmental review, the Corps outlined four alternatives for restoring the salmon runs, including maintaining the status quo, barging more fish downstream to avoid the dams, improving the fish passage facilities at the dams and breaching.

While Corps officials were prepared to dismiss dam breaching as a viable alternative, the White House stepped in and ordered the Corps not make any recommendations or pick a preferred alternative.

The EPA found that three of the four alternatives were “environmentally unsatisfactory.”  Though the EPA said it had concerns about the fourth alternative – dam breaching – Clarke noted in his letter it was the only one that would “likely result in the attainment of water quality standards in at least the midterm.”

The EPA said claims in the Corps’ environmental study that the four dams actually lowered water temperatures in the river were based on “selective” data. The study also understated the impact of the dams on the levels of dissolved gases in the river, the EPA said.

Clarke’s letter came less than two days after the National Marine Fisheries Service indicated it would consider dam breaching only if salmon runs couldn’t be recovered in the five to 10 years by such actions as improving salmon habitat or limiting fishing.

The fisheries service will issue a draft of its plan for improving the runs, known as a biological opinion, by the end of May. A final version will be adopted later this summer.

Critics of breaching have said such a step would reduce the region’s supply of low-cost electricity, cut back on the amount of irrigation water available to farmers and end barge traffic which carries wheat downstream from as far away as the Dakotas.

Supporters say the dams supply only 5 percent of the region\’s electricity, water from dam’s reservoirs irrigate little land, and the barges can be replaced by truck and rail. They argue the only way to restore the runs is by once again creating a free-flowing river.

EPA officials were quick to insist they hadn’t endorsed dam breaching but added that it needed to be considered in addressing water quality concerns.

“Absolutely it needs to be on the table,” said Mary Lou Soscia, the EPA’s Columbia River coordinator in Portland. “We need to look at all the options. We need full disclosure.”

Environmentalists who have filed a federal court lawsuit in an effort to force the Corps to comply with Clean Water Act, said EPA was on the right track. “The EPA seems to understand you can’t comply with the Clean Water Act without taking the dams out,” said Bill Arthur, Northwest director of the Sierra Club in Seattle. “The EPA won’t let the other agencies hide.”

Bruce Lovelin, executive director of the Columbia River Alliance, a group of river-users, said he was concerned the EPA’s position might push the administration in supporting dam breaching.

There is no way to sugarcoat it,” Lovelin said. “This is not good news.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
April 29, 2000

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Feds Consider Restricting Dams To Help Salmon

By Rocky Barker
The Idaho Statesman

Federal officials may place restrictions on Idaho irrigation dams like Lucky Peak in the salmon protection plan slated for release in May,

If they do, farming, housing development and other activities that affect water quality or even raise its temperature could be regulated by the federal agency in charge of salmon recovery instead of by the state.

And it could make it harder for state officials to challenge the transfer of water from Idaho reservoirs downstream to speed salmon flows.

They are trying to take control of state water management through the Endangered Species Act,” said Lyn Tominaga, Idaho Waterusers Association policy analysis.

Ric Ilgenfritz, Columbia Basin coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, revealed the proposal Thursday under questioning from Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho during a House Resources subcommittee hearing.

The fisheries service plans to release a draft biological opinion on the federal hydropower dams May 22. Ilgenfritz acknowledged the agency was looking at adding irrigation dams and projects that reach all the way to the Wyoming border to the opinion, but he said the issue was still under discussion among federal officials.

“I wish I could be more specific,” he said.

Fisheries service officials said Wednesday they would recommend delaying a decision on breaching four hydroelectric power dams on the Snake River in Washington until they have tried alternatives for saving endangered salmon and steelhead. One of those alternatives is augmenting flows through the Snake dams by draining water from the Idaho reservoirs behind irrigation dams.

Each year Idaho already sends 427,000 acre-feet of water – 130.4 billion gallons – which is enough to keep Niagara Falls rolling for 2 1/2 days. Currently, Idaho farmers irrigate 3.6 million acres of cropland. But the fisheries service has suggested it may want another 1 million acre-feet. That could require drying up 643,000 acres, costing the Idaho economy $45 million to $210 million and 2,500 to 6,500 jobs, the U.S.Bureau of Reclamation estimated.

“Idaho is being asked to make tremendous sacrifices, at an immense financial cost, even though the actual biological conditions in the state have little to do with the salmon problem,” Chenoweth-Hage said.

Ilgenfritz said research shows increasing flows with Idaho water helps salmon.

“It’s a more obvious benefit for fall chinook and a less obvious benefit for spring-summer chinook,” he said.

Jim Anderson, a salmon biologist from the University of Washington, challenged that view. Increasing the flow of warm water from Brownlee Dam during the summer may actually hurt the salmon and make migration harder.

“Our model shows negligible benefits from flow augmentation” he said.

But reducing summer temperatures in the Snake River could require regulating return flows from irrigation canals. Stream-side habitat programs could be required to restore shade trees to desert streams and canals.

In earlier documents, fisheries service officials recommended efforts to improve the quality and quantity of water flowing downstream from southern Idaho. Tominaga worries if Idaho’s irrigation projects are placed under the biological opinion, those recommendations could become requirements.

Most of the hearing was devoted to alternatives to dam breaching and flow augmentation for saving salmon. The most popular with the congressmen was reducing the number of fish eating Caspian terns living on islands in the Columbia downstream from Bonneville Dam near Portland, Ore.

A lawsuit by the Audubon Society prompted a federal judge to halt efforts to move the birds. The injunction was based in part on a scientific opinion that the predation of an estimated 600,000 juvenile wild salmon did not impact salmon recovery.

“How dare the federal government tell Idaho and the world that preventing the outright slaughter of hundreds of thousands of endangered young salmon in the Columbia River estuary will have no impact on the problem,” said Michael Bogert, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s counsel, “and then in the same breath tell us more water from our state is needed to get the fish out to sea.”

Idaho Statesman
Boise, Idaho
April 28, 2000

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NMFS Will Push For Saving Dams As Well As Salmon

By Union-Bulletin and AP
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

Federal fisheries officials are expected to say that if salmon recovery progress in the Columbia River Basin can be shown over the next 10 years, the Snake River dams may survive as well.

The announcement is expected to be included in the details of the federal government’s most comprehensive plan yet for recovering salmon in the region protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s draft biological opInion, due May 22, will be released side-by-side with the socalled “All H” paper, which examines the role of hydropower, habitat, hatcheries and salmon harvests in recovery of the fish.

“We will construct an opinion which we hope will lay out measurable performance standards by which we can measure progress across the H’s in improving survivals,” said Will Stelle, regional director of the fisheries service.

“If we are not able to make substantial progress in the other H’s, then it will leave the region with little choice but to look at dams,” he said.

Michael Gorman, spokesman for NMFS, said the performance standards will essentially serve as triggers that will indicate whether the dams should stay or go.

Both sides of the dam breaching issue – environmental and economic development organizations – find fault with the NMFS recommendation, however.

Port of Walla Walla officials are wary about performance standards.

“What if ocean conditions turn out to be the major factor – not dams?” sald Jim Kuntz, Port. executive director. “We still believe the Corps has served as the fair broker and it was going to recommend leaving the dams intact before it was pressured to drop that recommendation.”

The NMFS’ opinion would serve as a forceful statement on the near-term future of the dams.

The plan would invite the region’s government leaders, businesses and residents to work to avoid dam removal by taking steps such as leaving buffers along streams, covering irrigation intakes, spilling water over dams, increasing stream flows and improving water quality.

“There has been a food fight in the Pacific Northwest on some of these issues – it’s time to end the food fight,” Stelie said. “People are tired of the bickering and tired of the failure of the state and the federal government to come together with a Lohesive.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is conducting its own Snake dams study and plans to make a final recommendation on breaching in the late fall, is expected to follpw the fisheries service’s lead and recommend a course that keeps the dams operating – at least in the short term.

The opinion could cool some of the redhot political debate about the dams in a critical election year.

But it may not. Environmentalists and industry groups are likely to harpoon the proposal.

Environmentalists say any biological opinion that does not make dam removal an immediate priority ignores what science says is the best short-term help for the fish.

“It sounds like NMFS is stuck in manana mode,” said Todd True, an atorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “The science is in and there is an overwheiming consensus that the cornerstone of salmon recovery requlres dam bypass. A second point is that NMFS\’s own scientists agree that the extinction risk is extreme. Why put off to tomorrow what needs to be done today?”

True said that if NMFS continues delay tactics, the likelihood of a legal challenge will increase.

Glen Spain, northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen\’s Associations, said he has suspected the service might try to avoid dam breaching in the short term. “But we’re not gomg to let them,” he said.

Dam defenders, on the other hand, want to see the issue settled quickly and permanently – not tied to the progress of salmon across the region.

Removal “has to stand or fall on its own merits,” said Bruce Lovelin, executive director of the Columbia River Affiance, a coalition of industry groups.

“Breaching the dams would only be appropriate if there were a scientific certainty it would actually help salmon”, he said.

“Frankly, I’d rather see a decision now, based on what we know now,” Lovelin said. A performance based strategy is “prone to fallure,” he said.

But Stelle said the four dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – should be viewed in the context of overall salmon recovery.

When the service first ordered the Corps in 1995 to study breaching the dams, three salmon stocks were listed – all on the Snake. Now 13 fish stocks are listed in the Columbia Basin.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Walla Walla, WA
April 27, 2000

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Reprieve For Dams Expected

By The Associated Press
The Seattle Times

The National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to say next month that 4 Snake River dams should remain standing for at least five or 10 more years.

After that, if not enough progress has been made in recovering endangered salmon, the dams should be breached, the agency is expected to say in a draft opinion, due out May 22.

The plan would invite the region’s Government leaders, businesses and residents to work to avoid dam removal by taking steps such as leaving buffers along streams, covering irrigation intakes, spilling water over dams, increasing stream flows and improving water quality.

The Army Corps of Engineer which is conducting its own study and plans to make a final recommendation on breaching in the late fall, is expected to follow the fisheries service’s lead and recommend a course that keeps the dams operating in the short term.

The opinion could cool some of the red-hot political debate about the dams in a critical election year. But it may not.

Environmentalists say any biological opinion that does not make dam removal an immediate priority ignores what science says is best short-term help for fish.

Environmentalists are likely to file a lawsuit, claiming the service has not met its obligation under the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

Dam defenders, on the other hand, want to see the issue settled quickly and finally, not tied to the progress of salmon across the region.

Removal has to stand or fall on its own merits,” said Bruce Lovelin executive director of the Columbia River Alliance, a coalition of industry groups.

But Will Stelle, regional director of the fisheries service, said the four dams in southeastern Washington-Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite should be viewed in the context of overall salmon recovery.

When the service first ordered a 1995 study of the option of breaching the dams, three salmon stocks were listed, all on the Snake.

Now 13 fish stocks are listed throughout the Columbia Basin. Stelle contends the stocks at most risk are in the upper Columbia and Willamette rivers.

The Seattle Times
Seattle, WA
April 27, 2000

Posted in Environment, Hydropower, News, Relicensing | Leave a comment

Rural Power Funds Shrink In Senate

By Svend Holst
Juneau Empire

Power Cost Equalization couldn’t make it all the way over a Republican wall in the Senate on Wednesday.

Today, probably, it’ ll scale the wall after losing some fiscal weight.

Two bills that would set up an endowment to pay for the $15.7 million annual program, which subsidizes electric bills for rural residents, were approved on the Senate floor, but without a key funding source.

The Senate approved a sale of state hydroelectric projects to help pay for the power program, referred to as PCE, but a required three-quarters vote to move $100 million from a state savings account fell four votes shy. Sen. Jerry Mackie, a Craig Republican, called for reconsideration, which kept the door open for another vote soon.

Interest earnings on a $100 million endowment, which would come from the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, would be about enough to pay for the program.

PCE kind of half-passed,” said Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles. “They moved forward with parts of it, but the funding is integral.”

He said Knowles, a Democrat, stood by the administration’s original proposal, which used dividends from a quasi-state agency to help cover PCE, along with setting up an endowment account.

The $100 million draw from savings was what made Sen. Loren Leman balk at the bill that enables a deal between the state and communities buying the Four Dam Pool, a collection of hydroelectric projects for $73 million.

Knowles’ proposal to the Legislature included a $20 million piece, which was paid for from the budget reserve.

Rep. Alan Austerman, a Kodiak Republican, pushed the House to make the transfer higher–$100 million– to keep PCE out of the annual budget debate.

He said at least $20 million was needed for the hydroelectric project agreement to fly.

“If under reconsideration they put $20 million in there, we’re fine,” Austerman said. “If not, it’s moot.”

Leman, an Anchorage Republican, said the Senate’s GOP caucus has pretty much agreed that the $20 million draw is acceptable. It would “probably” get the 15 votes it needs in the senate, he said.

“We’ve talked about it, but we haven’t taken a vote,” he said.

Unlike Austerman, Leman said PCE should face the same annual budget review as other state programs, to keep pressure on program managers to contain costs.

“That’s the same thing we do with everything in the budget,” he said.

Juneau Empire
Juneau, AK
April 27, 2000

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Dams Spill More Water For Fish

By Staff
Skamania Co. Pioneer

The volume of water spilled at four federal dams – Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and Lower Monumental – will change to increase fish survival, according to the Bonneville Power Administration.

The decision was the result of consultations between BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS.)

A complete biological opinion on operations of the federal dams will not be released until later this spring. But the agencies decided to revise operations immediately to maximize survival of depressed salmon and steelhead runs.

This is the spill plan we will include in the upcoming biological opinion,” said Brian Brown, director of hydro operations for NMFS.

The more difficult issues of potential dam breaching, increased spring and summer flows, improving water quality and definition of performance standards to recover threatened and endangered salmon are still ahead.

The Corps and BPA agreed April 4 with a fish agency request to begin spill at two Snake River dams. Spill also began at Lower Granite and Little Goose Dams as a result of an agreement reached earlier this month.

Changes at Lower Monumental began April 13. Spill at other affected projects will begin as determined by the technical management team.

At Bonneville Dam, daytime spill will be increased from 75,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the current dissolved gas cap (120-150 kefs) for half of the time.

This operation is part of a two year study to evaluate the benefit of improved juvenile passage against the increased risk that adult salmon might fall back over the spillway and have to reascend the ladders.

At The Dalles Dam, spill will be reduced from 64 percent 24 hours per day to 40 percent. Since the reduction in spill will result in more fish passing through the sluiceway bypass and through the turbines, this operation will be evaluated to determine the effect on overall project passage through all routes.

At John Day Dam, the daytime spill study initiated last year will continue for another two years. The study includes alternating every three days between no daytime spill and 30 percent total flow spill.

At Lower Monumental Dam spill hours will be increased to 24 hours per day in an attempt to increase the proportion of juvenile fish passing the dam by way of the of the spillway.

Most experts think spilling fish over the dams is the safest and most effective way to move migrating threatened and endangered fish through the hydro system.

Fish survival increases because fewer fish are subjected to passage through the hydroelectric turbines. While spill increases the risk of gas bubble trauma, moderating the volume of water spilled helps reduce that threat.

Skamania Co. Pioneer
Stevenson, WA
April 26, 2000

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Dam Re-licensing Bill Provides Balance

Editorial By Sen. Larry Craig
Post-Register

After reading the Post Register’s April 19, 2000, editorial, Craig’s one-sided bill,” three questions immediately come to mind: Did anyone from the Post Register attempt to discuss with me or my staff what my bill attempts to do? Did anyone at the Post Register read my bill? If someone did, was there any attempt by that person to check his or her understanding of the bill with someone outside my office who knows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s relicensing process?

The first question I can answer – no one from the Post Register attempted to discuss with me or my staff what my bill attempts to do. The answers to the other two questions I leave to the Post Register.

Clearly, the editorial exposes a lack of knowledge of what is in my bill and of the law that currently rules the commissions re-licensing process. But it may also expose something far worse for a newspaper – a reckless disregard of facts that results in misleading the public on an important issue. Many years ago Bernard Baruch said: “Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” For a newspaper, this admonition should be the foundation on which all reporting is based. A reverent respect for facts by newspaper journalists and owners is not only expected by our citizens, it isnnecessary for the continued vitality of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Now, let’s look at some of the facts that should have been reported about my bill.

The fundamental purpose of my legislation is to ensure “balance” in the commission’s hydropower licensing process. Currently, federal resource and land management agencies have the authority to impose conditions without being required “balance” other environmental, recreational and economic interests associated with hydropower projects. There is simply no accountability for the consequences of federal agency action.

Federal agencies have not always exercised this authority. It was not until 1984 when the Supreme Court ruled that they had the authority and that the commission could not modify or balance the content of agency conditions. Although the agencies only modestly asserted this authority immediately after the 1984 opinion, they have much more aggressively done so since 1992, when the commission began to become more frustrated with the intractability of agency positions in the hydropower licensing process.

My legislation was in response to commission opinions and federal court of appeal opinions that expressed concern bout the practical application of the Supreme Court’s decision. The current application of this decision skews the entire licensing process because there is no legal requirement forcing the federal agencies to balance or even consider the impact of their conditions on other important interests, including the need for power and creational uses.

As the Post Register editorial correctly notes, the 1986 amendment to the Federal Power Act requires the commission to weigh environmental considerations equally with power generation needs and safety issues. There is absolutely no good or fair reason why the federal resource and land management agencies should not be held to the same bedrock standard of Part 1 of the Federal Power Act. My legislation requires that, and does so without diminishing any environmental authority these agencies currently have.

By requiring all federal agencies with the authority to impose conditions on hydropower licenses to take into account the economic consequences of their actions, my legislation will help ensure responsible government decision making. Accountability is the cornerstone of responsible government.

My legislation has been endorsed by a large coalition of interests that includes not only power developers but municipalities, labor, environmental, consumer, recreational and farming groups from around the country.

My legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Adolphus Towns, a Democrat, and enjoys significant bipartisan support.

These are some of the important facts that were inexplicably missing from the Post Register’s editorial, facts that were easily ascertainable if J. Robb Brady or some other employee of that paper had only completed the research.

Post-Register
Idaho Falls, Idaho
April 26, 2000

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Proposed Hydro Projects Effect On SSRAA Hatchery Unclear

By Darren Friedel
Daily News

The City of Ketchikan and the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association are attempting a project that hasn’t exactly worked in other Pacific Northwest communities – having a hatchery and a hydro facility share a water source.

The proposed hydroelectric facility would operate near SSRAA’s Whitman Lake Hatchery, which is south of Ketchikan near Herring Cove.

SSRAA and the City of Ketchikan have been discussing the proposed power source and its possible effects on the established hatchery for several months.

Two weeks ago, both sides wrapped up their latest discussions, which centered on where the hydro facility would be located at the lake, said Assistant City Manager Jim Voetberg. And now the city is in the process of filing for a Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission license for the hydro facility.

We wanted to make sure that where the facility would be located wouldn’t affect their (hatchery) operations,” Voetberg said.

John Burke, SSRAA’s general manager, said the hydro facility and the hatchery can share Whitman Lake; however, there are still some concerns that need to be addressed.

“This has kind of been tough for us, because, as everyone knows, hydro projects and fish don’t always work together,” said Burke. “But I think our board unanimously supports the hydro project in the sense that it will help Ketchikan. But I also think they are concerned that it would diminish our production at the hatchery.”

But the city has assured SSRAA that the proposed hydroelectric facility wouldnnot ruin the hatchery’s production, said Burke.

Because the city has other hydro facilities at Beaver Falls and Swan Lake, along with diesel generators, there would be no reason to dry up Whitman Lake, said Voetberg.

With all the other power facilities, we will be able to ensure that the lake level does not drop so low that it would affect their hatchery operations,” he said.

SSRAA, which is a private, non-profit organization, has operated the Whitman Lake hatchery for more than 20 years. Coho, king and chum salmon are reared there.

SSRAA also operates the Neets Bay hatchery north of Ketchikan, the BurnettnInlet hatchery near Wrangell and several remote release sites throughout southern Southeast Alaska.

The majority of the salmon caught by Ketchikan sport fishermen originate from the Whitman Lake Hatchery, said Burke. And those are the fishermen who would be affected the most if something were to disrupt the hatchery operation.

SSRAA is funded with money it receives from a 3 percent enhancement tax on commercial catches and its cost recovery harvests.

The city plans to use the hatchery’s pipe system for energy production, said Voetberg. Water from the hatchery’s pipe would flow through the hydro facility’s turbines, creating power. The water would then be routed back to the hatchery and used to run the fish-rearing facility.

Burke said SSRAA has concerns that the water pressure will not be adequate to run the hatchery after the hydro facility runs it through its turbines. However, he said the pressure problem could be easily resolved by the engineers.

According to a city document, the Whitman Lake hydro facility would produce 19.6 million kilowatt hours at 5.1 cents per kilowatt hour for rate payers. The project is designed to eliminate additional diesel generation at the south end of Ketchikan Public Utilities’ system and would cost more than $6.8 million.

Although Voetberg said the two facilities are compatible, SSRAA still wants assurances that the hydro facility will be designed and operated so as not to ruin the hatchery.

“The city needs to understand the recharge capabilities of that basin so that they don’t drain the lake sometime in the winter and then say, ‘We don’t have any water for your raceways,”‘ Burke said. “If we had assurances that they had the right information and that wise people were operating this project with their eyes on both the hatchery and power generation, I think it could work fine.”

Daily News
Ketchikan, AK
April 22, 2000

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Tacoma Power Turns A Bit Greener

Kim Echart
The News Tribune

Its nickname sounds like a political movement: Green power. What it stands for–electricity generated by renewable resources–is available in relatively few markets nationwide. It costs more than the traditional stuff. It has been embraced in some communities, ignored in others.

Tacoma Power customers are about to test it for themselves.

Beginning in June, the utility will launch a 16-month pilot program, called “EverGreen Options” for residential and business customers.

If enough people participate, Tacoma Power officials say, the utility will consider not only continuing the program but could expand it.

The program, in essence, involves making a pledge: For an extra $3, $6 or $10 a month, a residential customer helps the utility pay for its $433,500 contract with the green-power provider, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation in Portland.

Customers may begin signing up online Friday, although they won’t be billed for it until June.

But don’t expect to receive green power directly; it is really a show of financial support on your part.

“As a practical matter, it takes an affirmative act to do this,” said Angus Duncan, president of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

“Look at it this way: Generating units put power into one side of a pool, and you draw electricity out the other side. As green power catches on, when you look at those energy sources, they’ll start to look a lot less like smokestacks and a lot more like wind turbines.”

The foundation uses what it calls a “blend” of renewable energy for its contract with Tacoma. Wind from turbines in Wyoming is one source.

Small dams, one on Packwood Lake in Southwest Washington and one in Idaho Falls, are the other.

In order to earn the “green” label, the energy sources must pass muster with three environmental organizations: the Northwest Energy Coalition, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Renewable Northwest Project.

The hydropower projects in Idaho and Washington, for example, “rest lightly on the watershed,” Duncan said.

They hold little water compared with larger dams on the Columbia or Snake rivers and don’t sit in the path of salmon or steelhead.

The wind turbines must be situated away from eagle nesting area or other significant bird habitats.

Tacoma Power will buy 1 megawatt, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the power the utility purchases each year.

Its $433,500 contract with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation compares with the $70 million to $100 million the utility spends each year buying power from other sources.

Tacoma Power estimates it will break even on the contract if 3,000 customers participate. That’s about 2 to 2.5 percent of the utility’s customer base.

It may sound small, Duncan said, but that’s typical of most green power programs. A participation rate of 5 percent is considered a success.

“We see a major falloff between people who say they want environmentally preferred power and those who want to open their wallets to pay for it,” Duncan said.

“It’s hard for people to see what they’re getting. You wish something would flash in the air that says, ‘You’re doing the environmentally correct thing.”‘

That’s exactly what the Snohomish County Public Utility District wanted to be known for when it bought 10 megawatts of green power last fall.

The utility didn’t give customers a choice.

It just did it and spread the $1.4 million extra cost for green power among all of its 250,000 customers in Snohomish County and on Camano Island.

It figures out to $2.95 per year, per customer, stretched out on monthly bills.

“All customers are getting some of that power, and all customers are paying for it,” said Coe Hutchison, the Snohomish County PUD’s assistant general manager for power and business services.

The utility district’s board has debated launching a program like Tacoma’s, Hutchison added, but “generally, the board’s position is that we need to take a leadership role in supporting green power.”

Orcas Power & Light, which serves the San Juan Islands, bought half a megawatt from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation a year ago. The utility allows customers to sign up for 100 kilowatt-hour “blocks,” which go for $3.50 per month.

Before the utility actually purchased the power. Orcas Power & Light manager Doug Bechtel said it offered customers the chance to sign up.

“We anticipated 100 people. If we didn’t get 100 people, we weren’t going to do it,” Bechtel said. “We had 250 people sign up within a week.”

Today, about 5 percent, or 400, of the utility’s 8,000 customers participate.

Tacoma Power’s interest is two fold: To head off an exodus of customers once deregulation hits the market and to regain the faith of environmentalists.

Part of Tacoma Power’s contract with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation includes a “premium,” which utilities such as Snohomish County and Orcas pay for the green power.

That money, in part, is dedicated toward the foundation’s efforts to find additional renewable energy resources.

“What we have is a tremendous opportunity for goodwill and education,” Tacoma Power Superintendent Steve Klein told the Tacoma Public Utilities Board last week. “We have relatively little credibility out there” on the environment.

Dams helped tarnish that credibility, said Scott Hansen, a volunteer in local environmental efforts who pushed the utility to preserve a small piece of its property along Puget Creek for salmon habitat. Tacoma Power will dedicate the parcel on Friday.

“As long as they don’t use this as a purely political and sincerely develop the issue–look for more energy efficient means, create more salmon habitat–it’s a step in the right direction,” Hansen said. “They’re acknowledging that they have to do more environmentally.

Bill LaBorde, board president for the Tacoma Audubon Society, agreed.

“My one reservation is that it will require customers to pay extra for it,” LaBorde said.

“I know the money goes to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, but ultimately, I’d like to see us get to a point where people just simply check off (on a form) that they want green power and that’s it.”

The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA
April 20, 2000

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Administration May Be Putting Off Dam-breaching Ruling

By Robert McClure
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Clinton administration appears to be ducking the most contentious issue in the salmon-rescue debate–dam breaching–until after the November election.

A decision on whether to restore Southeast Washington’s Snake River by disabling four dams will not – and should not – be made on my watch,” Clinton’s interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, told Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., earlier his month.

And this week, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it will not make a recommendation in late spring, as previously expected.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Army Corps of Engineers official said in congressional testimony last week that postponing a decision on the dams until after the election “is a distinct possibility.”

This week, a Corps spokeswoman promised a tentative recommendation “in the October-November time frame,” leaving enough wiggle room that the announcement could come after Al Gore faces George W. Bush on Nov. 7.

The Corps of Engineers was to show the Clinton administration’s hand last December, but the agency unexpectedly balked and made no recommendation.

Yesterday, The Washington Times reported that the corps had been prepared to recommend leaving the dams in place, but senior officia1s in the Department of Defense ordered that recommendation erased. A Senate task force has begun an investigation, the newspaper said.

“It’s greatly disturbing,” said Gorton spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman who accused the administration of “suppressing scientific evidence to further their political agenda.”

In an Oct.22 memorandum obtained by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joseph Westphal, assistant secretary of the Army, decreed that “The Army does not at this time have a preferred alternative” on dam-breaching. He ordered two chapters of the draft recommendation removed.

The four dams on the lower Snake turned what was once a free flowing, cool river into a series of warm, somewhat stagnant ponds, thus killing salmon as they migrate.

But the dams bring economic benefits: low-cost transportation to market for goods such as wheat and timber products and about 5 percent of the Northwest’s electricity. One dam provides water for 13 farms.

Breaching the dams–punching holes in their earthen flanks to allow the river to flow freely–would make the river too shallow for barges. More-expensive truck or railroads would be required.

Environmentalists, Indian tribes, and sport and commercial fishermen are virtually unanimous in calling for the dams’ demise. Lining up in the dams’ defense are agriculture interests, most Southeast Washington residents and high-ranking politicians.

The emerging picture of the administration’s handling of this critical decision is one of disarray.

“It looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” said Chris Zimmer of Save Our Wild Salmon, an environmental group.

Although a cost-benefit analysis apparently swayed the corps away from dam-breaching, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional administrator called breaching “a no-brainer” when biology is concerned.

And a third agency involved, the National Marine Fisheries Service, has abandoned plans to issue a recommendation in May or June.

“It’s highly unlikely we would make a decision this year,” said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the fisheries service. “We simply don’t have enough science.”

The federal government has promised, as a result of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists in the mid-1990s, to make a decision in 1999. Then the fisheries service planned a recommendation by late this spring.

Gorman compared federal scientists to emergency-room doctors. In some cases, they face a patient so badly hurt they must make instant decisions without waiting for diagnostic work such as blood tests.

“We’re not in that situation now he said. “We have time to let the patient recover enough so that when we do make our decision, it’s going to be the right one.

“We don’t know yet if the dams must be breached in order to avoid extinction.”

Environmentalists, meanwhile, are getting a different story.

“Administration officials I talked to bristled at the notion that they are punting,” said Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United. “This administration over the last 7 1/2 years has such a pitiful history of delaying any meaningful action that it’s hard to believe.”

It is a tough issue for Gore, who has presented himself as the administration’s leading environmentalist. But he needs the labor vote to win.

Labor solidly backs the dams. And the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, repre