Tab for Saving NW Fish
by Steven Johnson
Bonneville Power Administration incurred $682.4 million in fish and wildlife expenditures in fiscal 2013, primarily to rebuild the region's endangered fish populations, according to a draft report.
The study by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, released June 3, said BPA has spent at least $640 million on fish and wildlife every year since 2005, when the tally was $576 million.
The power marketing administration has now spent $13.75 billion on fish and wildlife since 1978. That includes $4.1 billion in outside power purchases to replace hydro generation cutbacks.
The council noted that a federal tax credit effectively lowered the amount for which 2013 ratepayers were on the hook, from $682.4 million to $598.3 million.
Still, the bulk of the costs are passed on to electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and BPA customers in their wholesale power rates, the council added.
"Approximately one-third of Bonneville's wholesale rate of approximately $30 per megawatt-hour is estimated to be associated with its fish and wildlife program," it concluded.
BPA has to comply with several laws and court opinions aimed at improving the survival of young salmon and steelhead as they migrate to sea. That can include spilling excess water over dams to reduce hydro production but abet fish passage.
"Regardless of how Bonneville handles the reduced generation, fish operations to comply with these federal requirements affect Bonneville rates for utility customers. Bonneville customers pay the cost of power Bonneville purchases to meet regional loads," the council said.
For fiscal 2013, the council said BPA reported $135.5 million in lost hydropower sales revenue from its dam operations.
Another $143.4 million went to fixed costs associated with capital investments in hatcheries, passage facilities at dams, and some land purchases for fish and wildlife habitat.
The council will accept public comments on the draft, submitted to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, through July 11.
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