NW Fish Costs Hit $621 Million

The tab for protecting endangered fish in the Pacific Northwest reached $621 million in fiscal 2016 and accounts for one of every four dollars that electric cooperatives and other utilities pay for wholesale power.


Reducing hydropower generation to protect endangered fish means a revenue loss for Bonneville Power Administration. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

That’s one finding in the latest annual study of fish and wildlife mitigation costs incurred by Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams.

“Approximately 25 percent of Bonneville’s 2016-2017 wholesale rate of $33.75 per megawatt hour is estimated to be associated with its fish and wildlife program,” according to a draft report from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council based on BPA data.
The $621 million total represents a drop from $757 million that Bonneville reported for fiscal 2015. The agency has spent $15.9 billion on fish and wildlife programs since 1978.

A federal court in Portland, Oregon, is currently weighing whether Bonneville and other federal agencies are doing enough to enhance populations of salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Among line items most important to co-ops: Bonneville bought $50.3 million of more expensive power from outside parties in fiscal 2016 when it had to cut back on hydro dam operations to protecting migrating species of fish.

According to the report, Bonneville has purchased more than $4.3 billion of outside power to replace hydro since 1978.

The marketer also said it lost $76.6 million in forgone hydropower sales revenue in fiscal 2016 from dam operations that benefitted fish but reduced hydro generation.

In the report, the council said it is sensitive to the effect fish and wildlife programs have on power rates, though most of them are designed to meet with federal laws.

It estimated that the compliance costs alone associated with the fish plan under court review were $160 million in 2016.

As a result, the council said it has formed a cost-savings workgroup with Bonneville that will regularly identify and review fish and wildlife projects “for potential closeout or significant cost reductions.”