By Linda Mapes
The Seattle Times
Have you looked at the web cams on the Elwha River lately? Have a look at this: the Elwha River, without the powerhouse, surge tank or transmission lines. The remake of the landscape is already incredible, just a few months in to dam removal.
As of mid-December, the transmission lines were gone, and now the powerhouse, a signature monument to the river’s use for hydropower for nearly 100 years, is history, too. The surge tank is toppled, and has been hauled away in hunks. Much of of the material will be re-used or recycled, according to the park service. Read more
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.
By Northwest News Network
Federal regulators have granted a short extension to complete the removal of Condit Dam on southwest Washington’s White Salmon River. Originally, demolition crews were supposed to be done with the nearly year-long project by Friday.
The hydropower dam’s owner asked for and received a two week extension from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Portland-based utility PacifiCorp now has until Sept 15th to take out the last bits of what was once 125-foot tall Condit Dam.
Utility spokesman Tom Gauntt says the dam is all gone except for some stubborn footings and an arch. Read more.
By Rocky Barker
Few projects carried the hope and hubris of the New Deal more than the Bonneville Power Act. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the law creating the Bonneville Power Administration 75 years ago tomorrow. His dream was to harness the Columbia River and turn nature’s flows into electricity to power industry, provide jobs to lift the poor out of poverty and transform the life and economy of the Pacific Northwest.
“This vast water power can be of incalculable value to this whole section of the country,” Roosevelt said in a speech in Portland in 1932. “It means cheap manufacturing production, economy and comfort on the farm and in the household.” Read more.
By Mike Faulk
PASCO — Using his hometown soapbox to hammer away at those who would remove hydropower dams, U.S. Rep. Doc Hasting on Wednesday gaveled a congressional committee to order on legislation that would dramatically limit the use of federal funds for dam-removal efforts.
Hastings’ “Saving Our Dams and Hydropower Development and Jobs Act of 2012″ would strip funding from environmental groups that want to remove hydropower dams and prohibit the use of federal dollars to remove them drew pointed comments at a field hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The threat to the Snake River and other dams is very real,” U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings said in opening statements. The measure is HB 6247.
But opponents of the bill, including environmental, fishing and American Indian groups, say it would punish advocates who call for the removal of obsolete dams that hurt traditional fish habitats. Consolidating oversight and decision-making over dams into the hands of Congress, as called for in the bill, would only lead to more gridlock of the environmental and economic impact of dams nationwide, witnesses said. Read more.
Vancouver — Washington’s 17 largest electric utilities, including Clark Public Utilities, have exceeded initial energy efficiency goals of the state’s voter-approved clean energy law and easily exceeded its renewables standard, according to a new report from the Northwest Energy Coalition. Read more.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt fulfilled a campaign promise when construction on the $88.4 million project started in 1934.
Named for Army Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, an early explorer of what became the Oregon Trail, Bonneville Dam boasted some unique engineering designs.
Colonial-revival-style architecture was featured in the administration buildings.
The powerhouse on the Washington side opened in 1981 and the modern navigation lock in 1993. The 97-acre district around the dam was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Read more.