The Northwest Power and Conservation Council released its draft annual report to governors on March 10, which spells out the Bonneville Power Administration's costs for implementing the Fish and Wildlife Program in fiscal year 2020, from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.

"Fish and wildlife costs account for a significant portion of the rate Bonneville charges its wholesale power customers," the report notes. "Approximately 25 percent of Bonneville's 2020 wholesale rate of $35.62 per megawatt hour is estimated to be associated with its fish and wildlife program. The Council understands the impact fish and wildlife costs have on rates and is working to keep its program as efficient and effective as possible."

Total costs in 2020—which include lost revenue from forgone hydropower sales and power purchases made to replace the power lost by spilling water for juvenile fish passage—totaled $611.5 million.

That's the third-lowest total cost compared to the previous 10 years. Total costs in FY 2017 and FY 2018 were both lower due to exceptionally low forgone revenues and power purchases. A high runoff year in FY 2017 actually resulted in a $20.5 million financial gain in power purchases for BPA for the first time ever.

In FY 2020, the cost of forgone revenue from fish operations was $33.4 million, and the cost of power purchases was $150 million, for a total of $183.4 million. It's the third-lowest cost for forgone revenue and power purchases combined since 2002.

The report notes that the amounts of forgone revenue and power purchases vary widely due to differences in stream flows, power prices and fish operations.

BPA's costs for the direct-funded Fish and Wildlife Program of $238.1 million in FY 2020 was also the third lowest compared to the previous 10 years, when direct program costs have ranged from $221.1 million in 2011 to $258.7 million in 2018.

Also included in BPA's total Fish and Wildlife Program costs for FY 2020 is $89.6 million in reimbursements to the U.S. Treasury for money spent by other federal agencies on fish passage, fish production, hatchery maintenance, smolt transportation and other fish-related costs; and $100.3 million to service debts for capital investments, such as hatcheries, fish passage facilities and other purchases.

The 20th annual report to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington is open for public comment through April 9. Comments can be sent to comments@nwcouncil.org.

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K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.