The costs of this spring's flexible spill regime will not be passed onto Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) customers, according to a spill surcharge plan Bonneville approve on May 16.
The agency will instead use $34 million from cuts and reductions in the Fish and Wildlife Program to pay for most of the cost of the spill. Last year, customers were charged $10.2 million for the cost of spring spill, and the Fish and Wildlife Program was charged $20 million.
BPA will lose about 223 average megawatts valued at $34.9 million, based on the average amount of lost generation from 80 historical water years under this year's spill scenario, agency officials said.
Adjustments reducing the surcharge to zero include a $34 million cost-reduction permitted at the BPA administrator's discretion; a credit that will not be received due to Fish and Wildlife Program reductions; a formula adjustment to account for electricity going to non-Slice customers; and the impact that more spill has on market prices for remaining power sales.
Bonneville received five public comments on its proposed spill surcharge before issuing the record of decision. Most supported the proposal to avoid passing costs on to customers. "Although these costs are significant at approximately $34.9 million on a forecast basis, we appreciate BPA's commitment to implement cost control measures with its strategic priorities and the best available science related to fish and wildlife mitigation," a comment from the Public Power Council states.
Tom DeBoer, assistant general manager of generation, power, rates and transmission management at Snohomish County PUD, also commended elimination of the spill surcharge, and said the PUD hopes the spill program can be used "as an interim measure" to achieve its objectives of protecting salmon while managing hydropower costs throughout the implementation period.
Scott Levy, of Bluefish.org, did not approve, writing that it is "troublesome" that cost reductions should come only from fish and wildlife projects. "Cost reductions should come from all departments whenever and wherever cost cutting is available," he wrote.
Levy also indicated that, instead of flexible spill, a more effective way to help fish would be to breach the lower Snake River dams. He wrote that by removing the dams, Idaho's salmon and steelhead could be delisted, and BPA would be able to pay for the cost of dam removal and save money by closing the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan hatcheries.