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BPA Slashes Conservation, Renewable Energy Budget

by Steve Ernst
Puget Sound Business Journal, December 6, 2002

The Bonneville Power Administration is cutting its budget for conservation and renewable energies.

The Portland-based power marketing agency is slashing its spending on renewable energy and conservation programs by $21 million through 2006.

The cuts are part of $350 million worth of budget cuts that the administration is implementing to help trim the projected $1.2 billion deficit BPA is facing.

In November, BPA announced it was thinking about hiking wholesale power rates, which are charged to utilities, by 12 percent.

The cut in conservation spending could be just the beginning of cuts to BPA's salmon restoration programs, environmentalists fear.

Save Our Wild Salmon, a Seattle-based environmental group, expects BPA to slash additional funds from salmon programs. Those cuts would be over and above the $350 million in cuts.

"We've heard from BPA and federal sources that BPA is planning to cut $150 (million) to $200 million from salmon over the next four years," said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, in a prepared statement.

Counting fish on Columbia
While environmentalists worry about the effects BPA cuts could have on future fish runs, adult chinook and steelhead have been returning to the Columbia River in record numbers.

Both the fall chinook run and steelhead runs are listed as endangered species.

This year an estimated 474,000 adult fall chinook have been counted at the Bonneville Dam. That's the highest number of fall chinook counted since fish counting started in 1938.

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service attribute the high fish count to good ocean conditions.

Combined with the chinook returns from spring and summer, the 2002 fall run provided the highest returns of chinook on record.

An estimated 269,000 spring chinook passed around Bonneville Dam. There were also an estimated 127,000 summer chinook.

Steelhead also had a good year. This year an estimated 480,000 steelhead made it to the Bonneville Dam, down from a record 680,000 last year.

New senior position at BPA
Potential restructuring of the wholesale power markets has prompted the BPA to create a new senior-level position.

In November, the BPA appointed Allen Burns to executive vice president for industry restructuring.

Burns and his staff will have responsibility for restructuring initiatives raised by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Congress.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is pushing for formation of regional transmission organizations and recently released a proposal for its standard market design plan, which would be a blueprint for creating a nationwide wholesale market for electricity.

"It has become increasingly obvious that national restructuring issues require our full-time attention given their complexity and their importance to the future of the region's federal assets," said Steven Wright, BPA administrator, in a prepared statement.

Burns was formerly vice president for requirements marketing in BPA's power Business Line.

Steve Ernst
BPA Slashes Conservation, Renewable Energy Budget
Puget Sound Business Journal, December 6, 2002

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