Invasive Mussels Discovered in Montana, Governor Declares Statewide Natural Resource Emergency

posted Dec 5, 2016

Tiber Dam in Central Montana

Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order on November 30 declaring a statewide natural resource emergency for Montana water bodies due to the detection of the larvae of invasive aquatic mussels at Tiber Reservoir and suspected detections at Canyon Ferry Reservoir and the Milk and Missouri rivers.

The signing of the Executive Order triggers an interagency rapid response team to address the emerging situation.

“Aquatic invasive species are a serious threat to Montana’s critical infrastructure and economy. The deployment of the multi-agency rapid response team will work quickly to identify and contain existing mussel populations, and prevent future introduction to other water ways,” Bullock said.

Bullock has directed the Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, to form a coordinated and immediate response to the situation.

“We’ve been working statewide and regionally for decades to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive mussels into Montana,” said incident commander Matthew Wolcott, who is leading the rapid response team. “With these detections we’re quickly transitioning from prevention efforts to a control and containment strategy to protect Montana water bodies and others within region.”

Last month, aquatic invasive mussel larvae were discovered in samples at Tiber Reservoir. Further testing at Tiber confirmed the presence of mussel larvae. Ongoing sampling and testing efforts turned up water samples from Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Milk River downstream of Nelson Reservoir, and the Missouri River upstream of Townsend suspected of containing mussel larvae. Additional samples from suspect water bodies are still being analyzed to provide further confirmation. Those test results are expected within the next two weeks.

Montana is a headwater state for three regionally significant river systems and the economic, environmental, and recreational impact of an invasive aquatic mussel infestation has national implications. While all these water bodies are in the Missouri River Basin, not the Columbia, their close proximity to the Columbia is extremely worrisome.

The location of the mussel detections near critical state infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams, municipal water supplies, and irrigation structures require an effective and coordinated response.

On December 1, the response team announced immediate temporary emergency restrictions on the launch or removal of all boats, docks, and other structures for Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs.

"The closure will remain in effect until ice-up on the reservoirs," said Wolcott. The response team will reassess whether to extend the closure following ice breakup in spring.

The Mussel Incident Response Team is giving weekly briefings on Thursdays at 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time to update interested stakeholders on the status of their rapid response to invasive mussels. If you're interested in receiving daily updates, please email

For the latest news on mussel detection, visit or follow on Facebook


Bullock Declares Natural Resource Emergency Due to Invasive Mussels

Council Letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Funding to Prevent Spread of Invasive Mussels

Building a 'Perimeter Defense' Against Invasive Mussels in the Northwest




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Wind Generation Today and Where It May Be Heading

posted Dec 2, 2016


Since the first wind turbine built for generating electricity began operating in the late 1880s, advancing technology has helped to make wind generation a growing part of the nation’s energy portfolio–although it took almost a full century for the industry to gain momentum. When oil and gas prices rose sharply in the 1970s, resulting in shortages of supply, interest in alternative energy sources such as wind power grew. 

In the decades since 1970, federal policies such as the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and the Production Tax Credit helped drive development of renewable energy facilities. In the late 1990s, states began to develop and adopt renewable portfolio standards requiring utilities to meet a percentage of their load with renewable energy. The 2000s saw a decade of significant growth for the industry, with installed wind capacity growing from 10,000 megawatts in 2006 to 60,000 megawatts in the industry’s most prolific development year to date, 2012. 

Today, wind generation supplies about 5 percent of the nation’s electricity through 75,000 megawatts of wind power capacity. Twenty-nine states have adopted renewable portfolio standards, including Montana in 2005, Washington in 2006, and Oregon in 2007. While Idaho doesn’t have a standard, its Idaho Energy Plan encourages development of cost-effective alternative energy resources. Though there was a lull in wind power development following the banner year in 2012 (due in large part to the expiration and uncertainty of the future of federal tax credits), development has picked up again. In 2015, Congress issued long term renewals of both the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, which grant developers tax incentives based on generation or upfront capital investments, ending years of uncertainty about future funding. 

In the Pacific Northwest, wind power accounts for almost 10 percent of the annual electricity supplied to the grid. However, we haven’t seen much development in recent years, largely due to utilities being well poised to meet their near-term renewable portfolio obligations and relatively flat load growth. The region’s success in achieving energy efficiency has played a big role in enabling us to meet our demand. 

What can we expect going forward? 

The long-term renewal of federal tax incentives for wind development through 2019 provides some stability to developers. In addition, Oregon recently passed Senate Bill 1547, which updates its renewable portfolio standard to a new target of 50 percent by 2040 (and raised the intermediate years’ targets as well). Finally, several closures of baseload coal plants have been announced in the region within the next decade. All of these events will likely mean a second wave of renewable development in the region. This time around however, wind will be competing with the increasingly cost-competitive generation from solar photovoltaic technologies. 

Along with smarter controls in wind turbines, allowing for better communication and integration of its power into the grid, wind turbine components have also advanced. Increases in the hub height (the distance from the bottom of the tower to the top where the nacelle and gearbox sit), rotor diameter (the length of the radius created by the spinning of the blades), and the nameplate capacity of turbines have improved the efficiency and average capacity factors of wind projects, as well as unlocked opportunities to access areas with high wind speed (the higher up you go, the greater the wind velocity). These advancements are expected to continue, with larger and more efficient machines on the horizon. 

As technology improves, researchers expect the price of wind power to continue to decline long term. In a recent survey by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind technology experts from around the world projected the cost of wind over the next three decades. 

By 2030, experts predicted a 24 percent drop in the levelized cost of wind energy from today’s cost, and a 35 percent drop by 2050. In order to achieve these cost reductions, the study concludes that considering all aspects of the levelized cost of energy, rather than solely focusing on reducing the capital cost, is imperative. For example, investing in research and development to improve the performance and longevity of machines will increase the capacity factor and economic life of the plant, leading to an overall reduction in the levelized cost. 

What about potential new development? The U.S. Department of Energy released a report in 2015 that identifies future potential wind development and areas of growth and details a roadmap to support future achievements over the next 35 years. WindVision projects significant development of wind capacity in the U.S., including the introduction of offshore wind by 2020. By 2050, the report projects total wind capacity to be over 400 gigawatts--a significant increase over the 75 gigawatts installed today. In order to achieve this, the cost of wind must continue to decline; the developable areas with high wind potential must be expanded (for example, building transmission in the high wind resource state of Montana); and the resource as an alternative to fossil fuel resources and as a hedge against price volatility. 

Aside from building new wind plants, repowering existing plants is becoming popular. Repowering consists of replacing the entire wind turbine or parts of the turbine in order to increase its capacity and efficiency and extend its useful economic life. 

With a recent ruling by the IRS that allows repowered wind projects to qualify for the Production Tax Credit, there may be incentive to repower existing wind plants well before the end of their useful life. While repowering efforts in the region are unknown at this time, developers like NextEra Resources have announced intentions to repower parts of their existing U.S. wind fleet in the next several years. 

Modern-day wind turbines are more efficient and have greater capacities than their predecessors had. If technical advances continue and the cost of wind power declines, opportunities for new wind power development--and the ability to reach new markets such as those in offshore and repowering--are significant.

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Northwest Again Leads Nation in Energy Efficiency Investments

posted Nov 18, 2016


Based on the results of a new regional survey, the Council reported this month that the Pacific Northwest has reduced demand for electricity by 1,739 average megawatts over the last six years — enough saved electricity to meet the annual power demand of 1.25 million homes and avoid the need to build four new average-size natural gas-fired power plants. The annual Regional Conservation Progress survey found that in 2015 alone, 284 average megawatts were saved. The six-year savings were achieved through a variety of sources, including utility-funded programs, the proliferation of energy-efficient consumer products, and building codes that improve energy efficiency.

This adds to a strong, four-decade history of energy efficiency in the Northwest that has saved enough electricity to light five cities the size of Seattle. It also saved Northwest electricity consumers about $4.06 billion in 2015, which is the estimated additional cost consumers would have paid, based on average electricity rates, if the region had not achieved that level of efficiency and had an additional 6,000 average megawatts of load. The efficiency also lowers carbon emissions by an estimated 23.5 million metric tons a year, the carbon output of 5 million passenger vehicles. And, these savings and carbon reductions will keep growing. The Council has recommended that an additional 1,400 average megawatts of efficiency investments can be made between now and 2021. This will ensure that the Northwest continues to be the leader in maximizing energy savings and reducing carbon emissions.

The Council was authorized by Congress in the Northwest Power Act of 1980. Its members are appointed by the Governors of the four Northwest states. The Council is required by law to develop and regularly update a 20-year, least-cost power plan for the region that emphasizes energy efficiency as the region’s priority new energy resource.

A significant part of the plan is identifying the amount of cost-effective energy efficiency that the region’s electric utilities and their consumers can acquire over the duration of the plan. For the 2010-2015 plan period, the Council recommended the acquisition of 1,490 average megawatts of efficiency. The release of the 2015 survey results shows that the six-year target was actually exceeded by 249 average megawatts.

Most of the savings in 2015 occurred in residential equipment, such as improved lighting, heating, air conditioning, appliances, and the proliferation of smarter technologies and devices such as connected thermostats. Residential improvements accounted for 47 percent of the total savings in 2015; commercial building improvements accounted for 33 percent; improvements in industrial buildings 16 percent; and the remaining 4 percent was in agricultural, irrigation, and other sectors of the economy.

The Council is unique in the nation by placing the cost of reducing energy usage (energy efficiency) on an equal footing with the cost of energy production so that saving energy is as much a measurable resource as energy generation. By this standard, energy efficiency is by far the lowest-cost energy resource, with the added benefit of being carbon-free. In addition, energy efficiency reduces the amount of expensive power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities needed to meet peak demands on cold winter days and warm summer afternoons. This lowers electricity bills for consumers.

“These results are more good news for the Northwest, continuing a nearly 40-year trend toward an ever cleaner and more efficient electricity supply,” Council Chair Henry Lorenzen said. “With hydropower as the region’s largest source of electricity, followed by energy efficiency, more than 70 percent of our electricity supply is carbon-free, ensuring that we in the Northwest enjoy the cleanest and lowest-cost electricity system in the nation.”

The region’s utilities spent $440 million on energy efficiency improvements in 2015 at an average cost of $16.50 per megawatt hour, a bargain compared to the cost of a new power plant fueled by natural gas ($71 per megawatt-hour) or a solar power plant ($61-$91) or wind ($102), according to the survey.

Each year the Council’s staff gathers energy efficiency data from more than 140 utilities, the Energy Trust of Oregon, and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a Portland based non-profit that works to drive market adoption of energy-efficient products, services, and practices for the benefit of utilities, consumers, and the region. The 284 average-megawatt total, along with savings from consumers purchasing energy-efficient products, surpassed the 290 target for 2015.

Total regional savings since 1980, when the Northwest Power Act made energy efficiency the primary resource to meet new demand for power in the region, is now nearly 5,962 average megawatts, more than the power demand of five cities the size of Seattle.

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Moving Fish Over High Dams

posted Nov 16, 2016

Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River does not have passage facilities

This month the Council reviewed a staff paper that explores the various ways that salmon and steelhead – juveniles and adults – are moved past tall dams, also known as high-head dams. The paper, written by Council staff, uses examples of fish passage at dams in the Northwest and elsewhere.

A presentation about the paper is posted here. The paper will be finalized soon and posted on the Council website.

The paper responds to a strategy in the Council’s 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program addressing mitigation of the impacts of hydropower dams on anadromous fish (those that are hatched in freshwater and spend most of their lives in the ocean) in areas where dams block fish passage to historic habitat. The first phase of the three-phase strategy calls for studies and evaluations to inform what is known generally about fish passage and specifically about the quality of the habitat in the Columbia River and its tributaries above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams. Neither dam was built with fish-passage facilities. The habitat evaluation is being conducted for the Council by the Spokane Tribe of Indians and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017. A decision about whether to implement the second phase of the strategy will be informed by the staff paper and the habitat analysis.

In the paper, the Council staff evaluates information from existing passage studies at Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee, and at other dams where fish passage has been studied or completed. Included in the evaluation are dams in Washington and Oregon, on the border of Oregon and Idaho, and in California and Pennsylvania. In order to better understand each location, the staff compiled standardized information into case studies, summarizing information gleaned from design documents, annual reports, and from personal communications with project staff.

The paper explores six themes that could apply in planning and providing fish passage at high-head dams such as Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee:

  1. Allow adequate time for evaluations and feasibility studies
  2. Do not evaluate or compare existing fish-passage projects on the basis of cost, as variations in site characteristics and the age of passage systems make cost comparisons inaccurate
  3. Understand and account for differences in site characteristics
  4. Stay up to date with passage technologies, as fish passage technology is evolving and improving
  5. Collaboration among project owners, regulators, fish and wildlife agencies, scientists and interested parties is critical to successful, large-scale anadromous fish passage projects
  6. Consider developing a science-based decision framework for new projects to help organize and assess all the biological, environmental, hydraulic, technical, and economic data for a range of passage alternatives under consideration at each site

The paper recommends that fishery managers working on and studying passage should consider the following:

  • What is the end goal or objective for fish? For example, the goal could be to achieve a natural, self-sustaining population, or it could be to gain cultural, biological and economic benefits as the result of passage.
  • Where should the juvenile fish collector be located? Possible options are in the forebay near the dam, in the reservoir, at the head of the reservoir, or in tributaries upstream of the reservoir; the presence or absence of predators would be a factor in selecting a site
  • What types of fish passage systems should be evaluated at each project?

Juvenile fish collector at Swift Dam on the Lewis River in Washington, a high-head dam that was built without fish passage.

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Megawatt? A Powerful Question.

posted Oct 20, 2016

Graphic courtesy of PJM Learning Center

When I used to go to the store to get a 60-watt light bulb, it was a pretty simple experience. I could purchase any bulb that had “60 W” on the label and knew what I was getting and how bright it would be. Now when I go to the store and get a similar LED bulb, the label informs me that the 8 to 12-watt bulb has the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. If both light bulbs produce the same amount of light, why do they use a different number of watts?

A watt is a measurement of power. In the case of an incandescent light bulb, it measures the electrical energy used to heat the bulb’s filament, which in turn produces light. An LED bulb requires less power to produce the same light, mostly because it produces a lot less heat. That’s why LED bulbs are more energy efficient than an incandescent light bulb.

You may be familiar with the power required to run other appliances like a washing machine (500 watts) or a water heater (5,000 watts). If you run that washing machine for an hour, it requires 500 watt-hours of energy. The energy requirements of all such appliances make up the usage in a household. In 2014, an average household in the Pacific Northwest used about 11 million watt-hours, or 11 megawatt-hours of energy over the year.

Commercial and industrial sectors often use more appliances that are more energy intensive than in homes. That same grocery store where I bought my light bulb might use around 2,500 megawatt-hours annually. To get a feel for the difference in usage, an average commercial customer uses almost seven times as much electricity in a year as a household. An average industrial customer uses nearly 40 times as much electricity in a year as a household.

How does this translate into the need for new power plants and energy efficiency?

Power plants generate electricity to meet demand. A 1-megawatt power plant could produce 8,760 megawatt-hours a year powering about 796 average regional households. If that same plant generated power 70 percent of the time, like some natural gas fueled power plants, it would produce about 6,132 megawatt-hours powering about 557 households. If that plant generated only 32 percent of the time, like a wind plant in the Columbia Gorge, it would produce 2,803 megawatt-hours powering about 254 households.

In the next 20 years, the Seventh Power Plan forecasts that regional demand might grow as much as 38.5 million megawatt-hours. One way to help meet that need might be to plan to build a few more power plants. However, an essential part of the Council’s
energy strategy is finding better ways to use the power we already produce, like changing that 60-watt incandescent to an LED lightbulb.

Join the conversation on LinkedIn.

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Fuel Of The Future?

posted Oct 18, 2016

Powering the Internet of Things

posted Oct 17, 2016

Storable Power

posted Oct 17, 2016

The Blob Is Back

posted Oct 11, 2016

Old Door, New Opening

posted Oct 6, 2016

Fun With Sturgeon

posted Sep 20, 2016

Cool Relief

posted Sep 15, 2016

Upper Columbia Salmon Habitat

posted Sep 14, 2016

No Gain

posted Sep 14, 2016

The Invasion Strengthens

posted Sep 13, 2016

Cold Water Refuge

posted Aug 11, 2016

Building on a Legacy Resource

posted Aug 5, 2016

Salmon Smorgasbord

posted Jul 14, 2016

Tapping Into Geothermal Energy

posted Jun 21, 2016

Fish And Warm Water Don't Mix

posted Jun 20, 2016

Going, going, almost gone

posted Jun 7, 2016

Early Warning System

posted May 27, 2016

In the (Efficient) Spotlight

posted Apr 25, 2016

The Mystery of Swan Lake

posted Apr 13, 2016

A boost for northern pike removal

posted Apr 13, 2016

They're back, and they're hungry

posted Mar 23, 2016

Warm ocean, small salmon: Why?

posted Mar 7, 2016

Seventh Power Plan Homestretch

posted Dec 15, 2015

Touring Baker Dam

posted Jul 8, 2015

Forest Fires and Fish Habitat

posted May 19, 2015

This Plan Is Your Plan

posted Apr 30, 2015

Lunch and Learn With the Council

posted Mar 31, 2015

Scenario Analysis Begins

posted Feb 11, 2015

Scenario Analysis Is Coming!

posted Jan 22, 2015

"The Objectives Process" begins

posted Dec 11, 2014

Why We Plan for Uncertainty

posted Nov 19, 2014

Why We Have a Regional Power Plan

posted Oct 29, 2014

Estimating Energy Efficiency

posted Oct 24, 2014

Seventh Power Plan 101

posted Oct 6, 2014

BPA Energy Efficiency Funding

posted Mar 12, 2014

Weathering a Cold Snap

posted Jan 17, 2014

The Seventh Power Plan

posted Dec 11, 2013

Designing for Efficiency

posted Nov 12, 2013

The Flexibility Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2013

Northwest Q & A: Robert D. Kahn

posted Oct 29, 2013

Tagging Sturgeon in Astoria

posted Aug 22, 2013

Habitat Tours Focus on Results

posted May 31, 2013

Sustainability Is Success

posted May 29, 2013

A Last Look at Condit Dam

posted Oct 24, 2011

Changing Minds, Changing the Land

posted Jul 26, 2011

Wind Power, Then and Now

posted Apr 18, 2011

The Rebound Effect: Is It Real?

posted Feb 1, 2011

An Update on Didymo

posted Jan 27, 2011

Didymo: A New Kind of Invader

posted Jan 18, 2011

A Good Year for Returning Salmon

posted Sep 30, 2010

Building a Better Battery

posted Aug 11, 2010

Using Batteries to Store Energy

posted Jul 28, 2010

Growing Summer Energy Demand

posted Jul 26, 2010

California's Energy Scene

posted Jul 23, 2010

Ensuring Efficiency

posted Jun 21, 2010

Making Wind Work

posted Jun 7, 2010

Clean Tech Draws VC Funding

posted May 3, 2010

And the Wind Came Up

posted Apr 6, 2010