Energy & Environment

Fish Boost NW Costs by $644 Million

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: May 15th, 2013

The price tag for protecting endangered fish in the Pacific Northwest remains hefty, a regional planning group says.

Protecting fish and wildlife added $644.1 million to Northwest electricity costs in 2012, a study says. (Photo By: AP Photo/Bonneville Power Administration)

Protecting fish and wildlife added $644.1 million to Northwest electricity costs in 2012, a study says. (Photo By: AP Photo/Bonneville Power Administration)

Bonneville Power Administration, which markets wholesale power to electric cooperatives and consumer-owned utilities, spent $644.1 million in 2012 on fish and wildlife enhancement.

The spending accounts for one-third of BPA’s power rates, which currently run about $30 per megawatt-hour, according to a draft report released May 9 by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The council, created by Congress to oversee the effects of hydroelectric operations on fish and wildlife, does not take a position on whether the costs are justified.

It did conclude, though, that BPA has spent $13.1 billion on fish and wildlife programs since 1978. That includes $4 billion in power purchased from outside providers at times when BPA had to reduce hydro generation.

“This amount does not include annual investments for capital projects in the direct program, such as construction of fish hatcheries,” the report said.

The council will accept public comments on the draft, submitted to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, through June 7.

Most of BPA’s expenditures stem from complying with laws and court orders aimed at improving the stock of endangered and threatened species of steelhead and salmon in the Columbia River basin.

In 2012, for example, BPA eschewed $152.2 million in hydropower sales revenue when it scaled back dam operations to create more favorable conditions for fish migration.

It also rang up $131.5 million in fixed costs on projects such as hatcheries, land purchases and fish passage facilities that bypass dam turbines.

The council’s report excluded an additional $172 million in capital investments from the $644.1 million total for 2012 because some of those expenses are funded by congressional appropriations and repaid by BPA.

“Including them in the same total as fixed costs would double-count some of the capital investment,” the report said.

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