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BPA Cash Shortage Could Hurt Salmon

by Associated Press
Spokesman Review, August 14, 2002

Agency seeking ways to cut expenses, including possible reductions in habitat spending

HELENA -- A cash crunch at the Bonneville Power Administration could force cuts to salmon recovery projects in the Northwest, officials said Tuesday.

The BPA spends about $150 million each year on fish and wildlife projects with the Northwest Power Planning Council, much of it studying salmon and working to restore native habitat.

But the council has been told to brace for cuts.

"Bonneville's cash situation is a huge concern for us," Doug Marker, director of the council's fish and wildlife division, said at a Tuesday meeting.

The BPA, which markets much of the Northwest's electricity, is getting about half the price it expected for electricity in recent months.

The agency is looking at ways to cut expenses instead of raising electricity rates, said Mike Hansen, a BPA spokesman.

"Our financial situation here at Bonneville is not good," he said. "We have been losing hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year or so due to the slumping energy market."

The BPA starts a series of public meetings Thursday in Portland to get comment on how the agency should save money.

Other meetings are scheduled for Seattle, Spokane and Heyburn, Idaho.

The agency spends $350 million a year on fish and wildlife, including programs for endangered species and the cost of releasing water to help fish runs.

Trimming the money it gives to the power planning council for similar programs could save money, while still ensuring fish restoration objectives in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana are met, officials said.

"We want to make sure we are still fulfilling all of our responsibilities in these areas," said Bob Austin, BPA's deputy director for fish and wildlife. "The goal is to keep things as whole as possible."

The Northwest Power Planning Council, charged with helping balance the needs of fish and wildlife against the region's demand for hydroelectricity, gets the biggest share of the BPA's fish and wildlife money.

"They're looking to us for help" to trim costs, Marker said. "We have to look at this very carefully."

Associated Press
BPA Cash Shortage Could Hurt Salmon
Spokesman Review, August 14, 2002

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