PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Bonneville Power Administration is proposing to hold down spending on wildlife programs, even as it faces court requirements to show progress in fish restoration.
The agency says it’s a blip in programs where spending is rising rapidly, and the belt-tightening won’t affect its commitments under court orders to preserve and restore populations of threatened fish.
The agency’s customers are worried about the rising spending, and low natural gas prices threaten to undercut the revenue BPA uses to reduce rates to the 140 public utilities that buy power directly from the agency, The Oregonian reported Friday (bit.ly/R0Zjif).
At a meeting of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council this week in Astoria, BPA executives said they have already added $13 million to the wildlife budget for the coming year.
But the agency said it is looking to trim spending by deferring land and equipment purchases, paring programs that aren’t specifically related to the impact of federal dams on salmon and steelhead, and suspending operations and maintenance that aren’t critical.
The agency has asked six of its largest partners, including Oregon and Washington and the Nez Perce Tribe, to cut their budgets by 10 to 15 percent. Read more.
By Rich Landers
Two major Bonneville Power Administration projects are tending to the welfare of Kootenai River fisheries, which have been starved for more than attention since Libby Dam went online in 1972.
The success of the multiyear, multimillion dollar projects is easy to confirm with an Idaho fishing license and a fly rod. Trout, whitefish and suckers are bigger in the river’s Idaho stretch, and their numbers have increased.
Floating the river’s 55-mile project area, mostly upstream from Bonners Ferry, and scanning data from fisheries research is even more convincing. Read more.
Conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest are paying off as record numbers of sockeye salmon are returning to the Columbia River.
So far this year, nearly 300,000 Okanagan sockeye salmon have swum up the fish ladder at Bonneville Lock and Dam, while chinook, coho, chums, pinks and steelhead are also expected to return in large numbers. Records show fewer than 9,000 of the above named species returned to the Columbia Basin in 1995, and the Okanagan sockeye – a type particularly difficult to rear in hatcheries – were quickly dwindling.
Although some of the fish population’s increase can be attributed to natural factors such as favorable ocean conditions, biologists say habitat improvements made at many hydroelectric facilities have also been a significant ingredient in the fish resurgence.
Not only have utilities and hydropower plant owners begun providing more natural spawning areas in their facilities’ designs, but also they have developed flow schedules that give roe a better chance of surviving.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and operates the 1,076.6-MW Bonneville project, currently is undertaking fish ladder improvements to address lamprey passage at the dam.
By Christine Pratt
WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD last month received an extra assurance that it won’t have to buy wind or solar power only to comply with new state targets for renewable energy, or pay an estimated fine of more than $2 million.
The state Department of Commerce confirmed in an Aug. 23 letter that the both the fish bypass and turbine/generator upgrades completed at Rocky Reach Dam after March 1999 create energy efficiencies that the utility can count toward its state renewable energy targets.
Both projects, PUD officials estimate, enable the utility to generate more electricity with the same amount of water for an estimated gain of more than 1 million average megawatt hours in 2012.
If Commerce had ruled that the efficiency gains from the two projects could not count toward the new targets, the PUD likely would not have met its targets with its own generation, Melissa Lyons, power resource analyst for the PUD, said Tuesday. Read more.