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Hydro Situation Worsens

by Steven DuBois, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - March 8, 2001

Salmon May Take the Big Hit

PORTLAND -- The acting chief of the Bonneville Power Administration told regional energy planners yesterday that continuing dry weather means emergency measures probably will be needed to ensure the Northwest has enough hydroelectricity this summer -- at the expense of federal salmon recovery programs.

Steven Wright told the Northwest Power Planning Council that near record-low runoff from mountain snowpacks is expected, forcing the BPA to curtail some of its salmon programs in order to meet electricity demand and debt payments to the U.S. Treasury.

Power production at federal dams is limited by a salmon protection plan which calls for water to be held in storage reservoirs for release during spring and summer fish migrations.

The plan also calls for some water to be sent through spillways instead of turbines to provide a safer way for young salmon to get past dams on their way downriver to the ocean.

But those measures would reduce power-generating capacity significantly.

Wright said Bonneville likely will have to reduce the amount of water diverted to spillways this summer.

Bonneville estimates that by September, there will be nearly a 50 percent chance the federal power marketing agency will be unable to meet its cash needs if it spills water for fish rather than use it for electricity.

"You really don't want a 50 percent chance of meeting your mortgage," Wright said.

A representative from the National Marine Fisheries Service -- which designed the fish recovery plan -- said reducing spills would certainly harm salmon.

"If we reduce spill, we reduce survival," said Brian Brown, the director of the NMFS hydropower program.

Steven DuBois, Associated Press
Share the Columbia's Riches, Bishops Ask
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 8, 2001

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