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Tribes Threaten Lawsuit Over Salmon Plan

by Associated Press, April 20, 2004

A tribal confederation says it will sue the Bonneville Power Administration to prevent it from halting summer spills of water over four Columbia River dams.

The BPA says halting the spills could save $77 million by using the water to generate electricity instead, and that only a handful of salmon would be affected.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla say the spills are the safest way to get salmon downriver through the dams, and that stopping them would cost the lives of thousands of fish and retard salmon recovery.

The BPA did not return calls seeking comment.

However the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said survival rates for salmon that are "spilled" over the dams are only marginally better than that of those passed through turbines.

Plans to reduce or eliminate the spills this summer left the tribes with no choice but to sue, said Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Umatilla's board of trustees.

Jay Minthorn, also a board of trustee member, said ending the summer spills would affect chinook runs in the Umatilla River, which were wiped out in the early 20th century when federal irrigation projects took most of the river's water.

The government has since spent millions of dollars to restore the run.

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.

Associated Press
Tribes Threaten Lawsuit Over Salmon Plan, April 20, 2004

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