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
July 18, 2000