Manager’s Report – February 2018

Save a Salmon, Drive an Electric Vehicle

Did that get your attention? Being provocative isn’t my strong suit, but it seems to be the preferred tactic for use in media today, so I thought I’d give it a try.

What do I mean by this? Well, your utility district and our regional partners have been closely watching our elected officials in Salem and elsewhere on these two connected topics.

First, the State of Oregon is moving aggressively toward some sort of carbon legislation, maybe even in this short session. If you were to ask folks around the region what the largest carbon emitters are in Oregon you may hear “power plants.” That would be incorrect. The largest carbon emitter in the PNW is the transportation sector. And largest by a lot.

The Pacific Northwest is powered primarily by non-carbon emitting hydroelectric power. Wind energy, nuclear power, and solar power are some other non-emitters. I fully acknowledge that there are pros and cons to any energy source. For salmon and other aquatic species, dams, and hydropower catch a lot of negative press.

Facts are facts though: Over 95 percent of downstream passage survivability for juveniles, and adults use fish ladders very, very well through our publicly owned dam and power system. Go tour Bonneville Dam and see it for yourself. Hundreds of millions of dollars each year from your rates fund research, infrastructure improvements, wetlands, and many other things for the 20 percent of the time the various species spend in the river system(s), and passing through our system of dams. Yes, 20 percent of their lifecycle is all they spend here. Where do they spend the rest of their lives? In the ocean.

That brings us back to carbon. There is seemingly a direct correlation between ocean conditions and successful fish returns to their natal spawning rivers (above the dams). The healthier the ocean, the better the fish return. I’m not a fisheries biologist, but if something spends 80 percent of its life in one location, and we can improve the quality of that location, I’d probably want some attention spent there.

I don’t know whether carbon is the only thing negatively impacting the oceans. I do know that reducing carbon from the largest emitting sector in the region (transportation) by shifting to EV’s can’t hurt—especially if you charge them from hydroelectric and other non-carbon-based sources like we have here. The Oregon Governor recently signed an Executive Order on EV’s so perhaps future incentives could prove fruitful for you. We can help provide electrical information to support charging infrastructure.

Perhaps this type of discussion can continue around the region and our State can decide if increased spill through our dams is really the right thing to do for fish. Especially when the lost energy is likely made up for by carbon-emitting sources. The Board of Directors and I will keep working on that aspect.

Roger Kline
General Manager