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Revised Dam Plans
Trim Cut In Summer Spill

by News Sources
The Bend Bulletin, June 8, 2004

Negotiations aim to balance fish protection, cut costs

PORTLAND -- After several weeks of reviewing public input and extensive negotiations with regional stakeholders, the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday released an amended proposal to adjust summer spill at four Columbia and Snake river dams.

The agencies seek comments from regional stakeholders to help determine whether to proceed with the plan.

The amended proposal includes a new biological impact analysis and additional actions (offsets) designed to fully mitigate the impact on fish. It maintains biological protections for salmon and steelhead while reducing overall costs. The proposal calls for more summer spill than an earlier alternative released on March 30.

“We believe this proposal would result in the survival of at least as many fish as the full summer spill program while reducing costs to Northwest electric ratepayers by approximately $20 million to $31 million,” said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. “If implemented, this action would reduce BPA wholesale power rates by 1 to 2 percent below what they would otherwise be.”

Under the current planning regime, summer spill continues through Aug. 31. Under the amended proposal, summer spill would be reduced during August after most of the migration has occurred and few juvenile salmon are passing the dams. The amended proposal calls for ending current spill operations at Ice Harbor and John Day dams on August 22 and at Bonneville and The Dalles dams at the end of July.

The proposal released Tuesday reduces spill by about 39 percent, compared to the March 30 proposed reduction of 55 percent. The current proposal is expected to save Northwest ratepayers $20 million to $31 million this year. The amount of power generated by this change is approximately 1,000 average megawatts for the month of August, nearly enough power to run a city the size of Seattle for 30 days.

Instead of a three-year pilot program called for in the initial proposal, the amended proposal now calls for a one-year reduction in 2004 summer spill. Similar spill operations will be sought for 2005 and 2006, but the associated biological offsets being considered will require additional development and negotiation.

The proposal includes elements to provide biologically sound mitigation for salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to maintain protection for nonlisted juvenile salmon.

The 2004 proposed biological offsets for ESA-listed fish provide for enhancing flow in the lower Snake River via an arrangement with Idaho Power Company that calls for an additional 100,000 acre-feet of water to be released from Brownlee reservoir from July 7 to 28 above operations previously planned at Brownlee this year.

The 2004 proposed biological offsets for non-ESA listed natural and hatchery fish include enhancing the northern pikeminnow predator control program, limiting flow fluctuations at Hanford Reach to provide better rearing conditions for fall chinook and funding additional actions to rear 200,000 hatchery sub-yearling fall chinook to the yearling stage. Also, funding would be made available for habitat and hatchery actions that will provide benefits in future years to populations affected in 2004.

The total cost of the offsets for both listed and nonlisted fish is estimated to be approximately $10 million. The Corps and BPA are seeking input from tribes and states on what actions are highest priority and how to implement them.

“We have thoroughly considered the input received on our March 30 initial proposal and believe this modified plan is a reasonable and sound means to meet biological objectives more efficiently,” said Brigadier General William Grisoli, commander, Northwestern Division, Corps of Engineers. “We now look forward to discussion with tribes, states and other regional stakeholders and getting feedback on the merits of the proposal.”

The amended summer spill proposal will be discussed by federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes and other regional stakeholders at a public meeting scheduled for June 14 in Portland. The public meeting will be held at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport, 7900 NE 82nd Ave., from 1 to 4 p.m.

After the regional discussion, a final proposal will be sent to NOAA Fisheries approximately a week later. After the proposal is finalized, NOAA Fisheries will respond with a findings letter, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will then issue a final decision near the end of June.

Spill is one component of a large program of actions under a federal Columbia Basin fish recovery strategy. Water is spilled as one of several means to help juvenile fish safely migrate past the dams. Water that might otherwise go through turbines to produce power is routed over the spillways instead, carrying fish with it. Juvenile fish also pass through bypass systems built into the dams, and many are collected upstream from the dams where spill would be reduced and then barged downriver to below Bonneville Dam under a federal juvenile fish transport program.

The 1,000 megawatts of additional hydropower generation that would result from the reduced spill in August would displace other generation, most likely fossil-fuel-fired generation within the West Coast electric power supply system, thereby reducing air pollutants. BPA estimates that this displacement will result in approximately 18 tons less sulfur dioxide emissions and 424 tons less nitrogen oxide emissions.

For additional information on the public process and the summer spill proposal, please go to the following Web site: You will also find the public comments on the proposal as well as the governors’ and the congressional delegation’s letters.

bluefish does the math for your convenience: BPA estimates that eliminating summer spill would provide 1.15 - 1.49 million Megawatt*hours (MWh) of "surplus" electricity to sell (typically to California) at an estimated average price of $32/MWh (yielding $37 - $46 million). Prices of course will vary with time of day and electricity market conditions. BPA estimates that elimination of summer spill could potentially provide a 2% electricity rate reduction. The new proposal scales back the potential savings.

News Sources
Revised Dam Plans Trim Cut In Summer Spill
The Bend Bulletin, June 8, 2004

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