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Council to Develop Model
Showing Power Impacts to Fish

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

Staff for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council got the go ahead this week from Power Committee members to develop a model that would measure the impact of adverse power operations on fish and wildlife recovery measures similar to how BPA predicts risks to the power system's reliability.

During the 2001 drought that, coupled with an energy crisis, caused the Bonneville Power Administration to declare a power emergency, BPA pointed to the federal system's seriously rising Loss of Load Probability (LOLP) as a reason to cut off summer spill. Spill is used each year to help juvenile salmon and steelhead safely pass dams.

This week, John Fazio of the Council's staff proposed to develop a metric similar to LOLP for measuring impacts of power operations on fish and wildlife operations.

"I commend John (Fazio) for this," said Steve Weiss of the NW Energy Coalition. "Adequacy is a fish issue as much as it is a loss of load issue. Finally, we will have something objective, rather than shouting at each other."

Fazio asked whether Fish and Wildlife planning should influence power planning and vice versa, answering yes. He then asked, "How can we show that power operations are not leaning too heavily on fish operations?" Developing a metric for fish operations similar to LOLP may be the answer, he said.

LOLP is a measurement of the likelihood that the regional power system would fail to meet all power loads and would have to curtail usage. The Federal Electric Reliability Council sets the industry standard for LOLP at less than 5 percent. However, during the West Coast energy crisis in 2000 and low water conditions in the Northwest, the Council predicted that an LOLP of 24 percent, putting the federal power system at a huge risk of failing. The Council is reporting that LOLP for 2003 and 2004 is less than 1 percent.

Fazio's proposal, which was endorsed this week by the four members of the Council that make up the Power Committee, is to develop a metric parallel to LOLP that he calls the Loss of Fish Operations Probability. LOFP would measure how often fish operations, which are required by NOAA Fisheries' 2000 biological opinion of the Federal Columbia River Power System, are curtailed by power operations. However, while LOLP was used by BPA as the reason to cut spill in-season in 2001, the Council would use LOFP only for power planning.

"This metric is for planning only," Fazio said. "It should not be used when making operational in-season decisions." However, he did say that a modification of LOFP might be developed for those seasonal decisions.

For example, if the Council determines that the LOFP is too high (a level yet to be determined), it could suggest to BPA that it develop more generating resources to lower LOFP into a less risky range.

The difficulties with developing such a metric include defining fish and wildlife measures, such as spill and flow augmentation, or meeting elevation targets at storage dams, and determining where the Council should set the LOFP threshold. Should it be at 5 percent or less like that considered safe for the LOLP? Or, should it be something else.

Fazio said he will work through these issues with regional fish and wildlife people and already has begun discussing the idea with some Council members, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, NOAA Fisheries, BPA, Montana and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"I have a sense you are way out ahead of the (limited) information we have about the benefits of fish operations," said Tom Karier, Council member from Washington. "We need to ask NOAA to report to us about these benefits.

"That's the missing element from this," Karier continued. "Once we have that then measuring the potential loss in fish operations makes some sense. You have the right model, but the first step is to determine the value of those operations."

Dick Watson, Council staff, said the metric could help the region identify the cost of fish and wildlife operations on the federal power system.

"I share some discomfort with this," Watson said. "But, on the other hand, if we pursue this it could be beneficial."

He said the Council is responsible to tell fish managers how much fish operations cost the power system and to encourage them to control costs as best as they can.

"We could say, this is what you want and this is what it costs in terms of dollars and physical characteristics of the system," he said. "Yes, we can bring LOFP down to 3 percent or 5 percent, but to do so we have to come up with 1,500 gigawatt hours more energy," as an example. "That might be important information to bring into the debate."

John Hines, Montana Council representative, said he is unsure how to define an LOFP threshold. "We need to know the biological implications of misses and that piece of information is not available," Hines said. He also suggested that Fazio ask the Independent Science Advisory Board for a review of the LOFP project.

Karier said it is also important to define a miss. Is it 1-acre feet of storage? Or, is it something different? he asked. "At what point do you draw the line?" Karier said. "They (NOAA Fisheries) should know why they drew the line rather than us assuming they don't know."

Setting the threshold could "be the stumbling block that could kill this idea," Fazio admitted, but it's important to go through the exercise and to define what a miss is in order to eliminate "inconsequential events."

"For example, no one would argue that a refill miss of one acre-foot should be counted, but how much of a miss is significant?" Fazio said in his presentation. "Also, refill misses at one project may be more significant than at another."

"I think we have more information on the power side than we do on the fish side," said Oregon Council member Gene Derfler.

Related Sites:
Northwest Power and Conservation Council:

Mike O'Bryant
Council to Develop Model Showing Power Impacts to Fish
Columbia Basin Bulletin, December 12, 2003

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