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Economic and dam related articles

Study Indicates Dam Changes
Would Boost Cost

by Associated Press
The Oregonian, November 18, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Electricity rates would increase along with the risk of power failures next year in the Northwest if recommendations in a lawsuit are followed to aid juvenile salmon migration to the ocean, according to a new study.

The analysis released Thursday by the Northwest Power Council estimates the increased cost could range from $125 million to $560 million in 2006.

U.S. District Judge James Redden in October ordered the Bush administration to rewrite its plan for ensuring that threatened and endangered salmon are not harmed by the federal hydroelectric dam system on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The ruling came after the National Wildlife Federation sued the federal government, arguing that dam operators need to spill more water over dams in the Columbia Basin next year to help young fish migrate to the ocean. But the Northwest Power Council analysis suggests those proposed changes in dam operations would reduce the reliability of the regional power supply and boost the cost of generating electricity.

Average Change in Hydro Generation
and Cost/Benefit

Period Change in Generation
Average Cost
(cents per kwh)
November 441 -$22 6.9
December -486 $26 7.2
January -4,638 $348 10.1
February -355 $27 11.3
March 1,490 -$65 5.9
April 1-15 -900 $49 15.1
April 16-30 -527 $28 14.7
May 1,459 -$53 4.9
June 320 -$12 5.2
July -868 $40 6.2
August 1-15 12 -$1 n/a
August 16-31 -523 $30 14.9
Total -4,605 $395 this column by bluefish

Melinda Eden, chairwoman of the four-state council, said the study was not an opinion on the lawsuit.

"The council is a regional planning agency -- neither a utility nor a fish and wildlife agency," Eden said. "We are in the best position to provide this analysis because we have expertise in modeling the Northwest power system and because we are neutral in this matter."

The Portland-based council was created by Congress in 1980 to plan for energy development and fish and wildlife conservation in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington state. The study said water storage would have to be increased this winter in order to provide the extra river flows and spills over dams next spring and summer.

The primary storage dams are Grand Coulee on the Columbia River and Dworshak Dam on the North Fork Clearwater River, a Snake tributary. Additional water releases would mean that Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam would be 10 feet lower by the end of August and Dworshak would be 6 feet lower than under existing hydroelectric operating plans, according to the council analysis.

The cost of boosting spills for juvenile salmon is high because new power plants could not be built in time to make up the lost hydropower this winter, and so the utilities would have to rely on expensive temporary generators, the council said.

Redden has scheduled a hearing in the case on Dec. 15.

Associated Press
Study Indicates Dam Changes Would Boost Cost
The Oregonian, November 18, 2005

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