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Relationship of BPA Transmission to Fish Opeartions Discussed

by Mike O'Bryant
Columbia Basin Bulletin - September 12, 2003

Representatives of the Bonneville Power Administration's transmission group told the multi-agency Technical Management Team this week that operations to protect endangered fish at dams impact the transmission system -- and transmission system emergencies can also affect fisheries operations.

But they said construction and system improvements over the next few years will largely eliminate the problems.

Regardless of the fixes, however, they said that the decisions on operations at the dams in the spring and summer made by TMT also affect the transmission system's operations and BPA's transmission group will likely get involved in TMT next year.

"We can only plan for operations we can anticipate," said Brian Silverstein of BPA's Transmission Business Line. "When you make changes, we scramble to determine how we will operate today. We can't plan for stuff you can't describe ahead of time."

To illustrate how the federal transmission system can impact fisheries operations at dams, Silverstein pointed to a system emergency this summer that could have cascaded into a power blackout in some Northwest regions, but instead for a short period impacted dam and fisheries operations.

The transmission system experienced June 4 a "near miss" that began in the Spokane, Wash., area when the transmission system to the east experienced heavy power flows at a time when Grand Coulee Dam was not generating, throwing the system into imbalance. Coulee generation is needed to generate in order to provide voltage support on the transmission system when the lines east of Spokane (a constrained path on the transmission system known as West of Hatwaii) are at capacity. That required the transmission group to order Libby Dam in Montana and Idaho's Dworshak Dam to back down on generation, Silverstein said, an operation that briefly lowered outflows at the dams needed for sturgeon at Libby and salmon at Dworshak.

On the other hand, Tracy Rolstad of the TBL said that fisheries operations can affect the transmission system. For example, he said spill in the lower Snake River tends to weaken the transmission system by lowering generation at those projects. "When there's spill and the units aren't generating, there is nothing to support the reactive requirements of the transmission system," Rolstad said. "Spill comes with a cost and weakens the transmission system." A machine spinning is better than spill, he added.

Silverstein said the transmission organization is working on a 20-project, $1.5 billion plan to build new transmission lines and upgrade the transmission system. The TBL has asked Congress to increase its borrowing power to cover the costs, but has received just $700 million so far.

Some of those projects would fix congestion that affect fish operations. Those congested transmission paths (known as cutplanes) are West of Hatwaii cutplane, which is a path congested when power flows east to west from Montana and Idaho generators into eastern Washington. That, Silverstein said, limits the transmission system's ability to move power from Hungry Horse, Libby and Albeni Falls dams. The other is the North of John Day cutplane, which limits the movement of power from northern Washington south to the Columbia River in the summer (basically between the upper Columbia River and the lower Columbia River).

Two projects are in the works now that when completed are expected to fix most problems along these two paths: The $150 million Grand Coulee-Bell 500 kilovolt transmission line runs from Grand Coulee Dam to Spokane. It increases from 2,400 megawatts to 4,000 MW the ability of the system to carry electricity and goes a long way to completely fixing the West of Hatwaii problem, Silverstein said. BPA will complete that line in December 2004.

The other project is the Schultz-Wautoma 500 kV line from Ellensburg, Wash., to Hanford. It addresses the North of John Day problem in the late spring and summer when generation in the upper Columbia is high and generation in the lower Columbia River is low, such as during spill. That line is scheduled to be completed in Dec. 2005.

Related Sites:
Technical Management Team:
BPA Transmission Business Line:

Mike O'Bryant
Relationship of BPA Transmission to Fish Opeartions Discussed
Columbia Basin Bulletin, September 12, 2003

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