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Save Our Wild Salmon

Friday, March 15, 2019

John Day Dam fish ladderThe Bonneville Power Administration spent nearly $260 million in direct costs for its Fish and Wildlife Program in fiscal year 2018, according to a draft report approved for public comment by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Since 1981, the region has spent a total of $16.8 billion for fish and wildlife programs, the draft report says.

The “2018 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Cost Report,” also known as the Governor’s report, is the 18th annual report to Northwest Governors. It will be out for public comment until April 15, according to the Council’s John Harrison, the report’s author.

In the report, the Council lists all the fish and wildlife costs associated with its and BPA’s program expenditures between Oct. 1, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018. It is prepared solely for informational reasons, it says, and is not required by the Northwest Power Act.

Total direct expenses of the program during the fiscal year amounted to $258.7 million. That is the amount that pays for projects such as habitat improvements, research, and some fish hatchery costs. Of that, $5.4 million goes to capital projects, $176 million to anadromous fish, $55 million to resident fish, $24 million to wildlife and $23 million to program support.

Of the $258.7 million, $47 million or 18 percent goes to the Columbia Basin Fish Accords for projects that do not directly support the FCRPS biological opinion, while $57 million (22 percent) is for Accord BiOp projects.

In addition to the direct expenses, some $89.9 million goes to reimburse the federal Treasury for expenditures of appropriated funds by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The reimbursement is for investments in fish passage and fish production, such as the O&M expenses at federal fish hatcheries, but it also includes one-half of the Council’s $11 million budget.  The other half of the Council’s budget is assigned to BPA’s Power Business Line budget.

Debt service amounted to $105.1 million. That includes interest, amortization, and depreciation of capital investments for hatcheries, fish passage facilities at dams and some land purchases for fish and wildlife habitat.

For BPA, spill at the dams results in lost revenue for the agency. The cost of foregone hydropower sales was $2.9 million in FY2018.

But the agency also at times of spill or when it stores water during the winter in anticipation of increasing flows for fish later needs to supplement its power requirements with purchased power. That cost to BPA was $24.3 million last fiscal year.

The total of these numbers -- $480.9 million – doesn’t include borrowing from Treasury ($83.2 million). That is repaid by BPA, so including them in the total as debt service on capital investments would double count some of the costs, according to the draft report.

The total also does not reflect a credit of $70.1 million from the federal Treasury related to fish and wildlife costs in 2017. BPA is required to take the credit by the Northwest Power Act. Subtracting that credit reduces BPA’s total fish and wildlife program cost to $410.8 million.

The $480.9 million total program cost comprises 19.5 percent of Bonneville’s entire Power Business Line costs of $2.450 billion. In addition, about one third of Bonneville’s 2017-2019 wholesale rate of $35.57 per megawatt hour is estimated to be associated with its fish and wildlife program.

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