Court-ordered spill and your PUD bill
Earlier this year, Federal Judge Michael Simon again ruled that increased spill of water (to the maximum dissolved gas amounts) over dam spillways as opposed to through electrical generators through the Columbia and Snake River Dams would be needed to aid downstream fish migrating to the ocean, although the science behind that decision is questionable at best.
That decision has costs, and they are being borne by you and the rest of the consumer-owned utility rate payers in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t forget that the taxpayers are the owners of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). Dams like The Dalles, John Day, and Bonneville, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the power generated as marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), is paid for through rates charged to consumer-owned utilities like Northern Wasco County PUD (your PUD). Many people receive the benefits of the flood control, recreation, and navigation provided by this infrastructure, but Northwest Public Power pays for it.
Recent high-water events in our area can be attributed to this increased spill as well as runoff and a warmer than average Spring.
Your PUD buys most of its electricity from BPA, so as BPA’s costs increase so does what the PUD must collect through your cost-based rates. BPA officials have previously estimated that the increased spring water spills could cost $40 million per year. Through the hard work of your PUD management, Board of Directors and many regional partners, we were successful in influencing BPA to find cost cutting measures ultimately lowering this year’s total to just over $10.2 million dollars.
Since lowering the total costs for this year, BPA has shared what each utility must pay. The total for your PUD is $129,000 of unbudgeted expense. Your Board of Directors and PUD Management are working hard to ascertain how to best recover these extra costs. We have worked diligently to improve the PUD’s financial outlook, tools and resources, so we are confident that we will do so in the most financially prudent manner possible.
Northern Wasco County PUD also works very hard to support a healthy aquatic eco-system. Our hydroelectric facilities at The Dalles Dam and McNary Dam are used solely to maintain fishway attraction water in the fish ladders. Please see www.mcnary.fish to learn more about our joint project with our neighboring consumer-owned utility Klickitat County PUD #1. We try to use science-based approaches to solving problems rather than emotionally charged, politically motivated ones.
If it wasn’t clear, our opposition to the court-ordered increase in water releases from the dams is based on both economic and environmental matters. I do hope we can improve on both in the future.