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Kitzhaber Wants BPA to Help Salmon

by Jim Camden
Spokesman Review, April 26, 2001

Agency says it's already doing what Oregon governor suggests

Extra money that a federal agency makes from the sale of electricity should be set aside to help salmon, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said Wednesday.

The Bonneville Power Administration also should buy as much electricity as possible from outside sources as a way to keep water in reservoirs, Kitzhaber told the Northwest Power Planning Council meeting in Spokane.

Kitzhaber said neither the council nor BPA have given enough thought to ways to protect dwindling fish runs during the expected drought.

Both have plans heavily weighted to ensuring the region has enough power in the coming months, he said. BPA expects to raise its rates, pay off debt and build up reserves, but salmon recovery efforts would be curtailed.

"We must be candid in admitting the real biological impacts and uncertainty associated with our actions," Kitzhaber said. "This will not be a bloodless coup."

More young salmon and steelhead will die trying to get to the ocean because of poor water conditions in the river or because they will be put on barges and trucks to move them around dams, he said.

Those losses could be cut if BPA sets aside more money to help the fish runs, Kitzhaber said. It should buy back more water from irrigators and purchase water from reservoirs owned by private utilities. It should also buy more power from other regions, which would keep more water in the reservoirs behind the dams on the Columbia River system, he said.

A spokesman for BPA said the agency was already doing most of the things Kitzhaber is suggesting.

"We have been on the market purchasing power and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to purchase power to keep more water in the river for fish," BPA spokesman Ed Mosey told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

If Kitzhaber had any other suggestions, "we'd be very anxious to hear them and implement them if we can," Mosey said.

After the meeting, Kitzhaber said he would support a change in the way electricity is sold. Residential customers should pay a lower rate for the first 80 percent of the electricity they use, and more for the final 20 percent, he said. He declined to say whether he would support such a "tiered rate" for aluminum companies, who say it may be the only way their electricity-intensive smelters can stay in the region.

Kitzhaber said he and Gov. Gary Locke would soon send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urging what he called "cost-plus pricing" for electricity. It would allow utilities to charge the actual cost of generating electricity from a power plant, plus a profit, but not allow for large markups.

Jim Camden
Kitzhaber Wants BPA to Help Salmon
Spokesman Review, April 26, 2001

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