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Congress Oks BPA Borrowing Increase; Salmon Spending

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - February 14, 2002

Congress has finally passed an annual spending bill to fund most departments of government for this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The catchall appropriations bill for FY2003 includes a $700 million increase in the Bonneville Power Administration's borrowing authority as well as funding for numerous salmon recovery programs that were sought by Northwest members of Congress.

House and Senate leaders and White House officials on Wednesday brokered a final agreement on the package, which combines 11 annual appropriations bills that have been stalled since last year by budget disputes between Democrats and Republicans and between the House and Senate. The $397 billion measure passed the House by a vote of 338-83 and the Senate, 76-20, on Thursday. President Bush is expected to sign it.

BPA's U.S. Treasury borrowing limit was increased to $4.45 billion, mainly to finance new electricity transmission lines and improvements. The power marketing agency, which expects to reach its limit next year, originally sought a $2 billion increase, and last year an energy bill authorizing $1.2 billion passed the Senate but died.

The Senate then approved the $700 million last month as part of its omnibus FY03 appropriations bill.

"I'm relieved that we prevailed over the House to retain BPA's borrowing authority," Murray. "BPA's transmission system is the backbone of our region's economy. This new authority will help us make critical investments in our transmission system and meet BPA's other statutory obligations."

Murray said improvements are needed because parts of the region's transmission system are operating at or beyond capacity. BPA recently announced it is beginning construction on the Hanford-Schulz line, which will help implement the Columbia River Biological Opinion's requirement to increase spill at Columbia River dams to aid salmon migration.

Due to the energy crisis of the past years and current low rainfall and snowpack, BPA is facing severe financial conditions, Murray noted. Without the increase in borrowing authority it would have had difficulty making needed transmission improvements, she said. The agency will repay the money to the Treasury with interest.

For big-ticket salmon recovery programs, Northwest members of Congress averted additional cuts in the final FY03 spending bill from beyond those made by the Senate to meet Bush's demand to limit growth in discretionary domestic spending. The final version includes $85 million for the Army Corps of Engineers' Columbia-Snake river mitigation program, $15 million for the Bureau of Reclamation's implementation of the Columbia-Snake recovery plan, $38 million for National Marine Fisheries Services Pacific salmon recovery programs, and $90 million for the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund.

The Pacific Salmon Fund, which provides matching grants to states and tribes for habitat restoration and other projects, will be allocated as follows: $28 million for Washington, of which $4 million will be used for implementing the state's "Forest and Fish Report"; $22 million for Alaska, including $250,000 to enable the state to participate in "discussions regarding Columbia River hydro system management"; $14 million for Oregon, with $1.1 million of that for mass marking at Columbia River hatcheries and $2.2 million for purchase of two new and one used mass marking trailers; $14 million for California; $9 million for Pacific coastal tribes; and $3 million for Columbia River tribes.

In addition, the bill provides $1.6 million for the state of Idaho to buy two mass markings in connection with Snake River endangered salmon recovery. Congress has not passed separate legislation authorizing Pacific Salmon Fund grants for Idaho.

Congress approved another $40 million to complete the implementation of the 1999 U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Other major Northwest projects related to salmon recovery that received funding in the bill include:

CBB Staff
Congress Oks BPA Borrowing Increase; Salmon Spending
Columbia Basin Bulletin, February 14, 2003

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