Reducing Carbon Emissions From the Northwest Power System

posted Sep 22, 2015

Seattle at night

At its September meeting, the Council reviewed the draft resource strategy and action plan for its Seventh Power Plan. The regional power plan provides guidance to the Bonneville Power Administration and utilities on resource development to help ensure a reliable and economical power system over the next 20 years.

A key question for the plan concerned how the region could lower power plant carbon emissions and at what costs. The Council’s modeling found that without any additional carbon control policies, carbon dioxide emissions from the Northwest power system are forecast to decrease from about 55 million metric tons in 2015 to around 34 million metric tons in 2035, the result of retiring the Centralia, Boardman, and North Valmy coal plants by 2026; using existing natural gas-fired generation to replace them; and developing about 4,500 average megawatts of energy efficiency by 2035, which should meet all forecast load growth over that time frame.

In these circumstances, the region, as a whole, should be able to comply with the EPA’s carbon emissions limits, even under critical water conditions.

The Council also assessed alternative policies to further reduce emissions. With today's technology, emissions could be reduced to about 12 MMTE, almost 80 percent below 2015 emissions (under average water conditions). This would require retiring all the coal generation serving the region, which is responsible for more than 85 percent of system emissions; retiring the most inefficient natural gas-fired generation; and acquiring additional energy efficiency and demand response resources. The estimated cost of doing this is nearly $20 billion over the cost of other resource portfolios that comply with federal carbon dioxide limits at the regional level. Reducing the region's power system carbon footprint below that level isn't technically feasible without developing new technologies.

Other findings include: While wind and utility-scale solar PV are currently the most cost competitive renewable resources, because they lack peaking capacity and require within-hour balancing reserves, increasing state renewable portfolio standards is the most costly approach and produces the lowest reductions; and imposing a regionwide cost of carbon results in lower forecast emissions, but doesn't significantly increase energy efficiency or renewable resources.

The Council will make a decision on releasing the draft plan for public comment at its October meeting. The public hearing schedule is on our website.

Idaho Power Company Honors Council Power Planning Director Tom Eckman

posted Sep 16, 2015

Pete Pengilly, Customer Research and Analysis Leader for the Idaho Power Company, presents Tom Eckman, the Council's Power Planning Director, with a plaque honoring his work on the company's energy efficiency advisory board. In presenting the award at a Council meeting in Eagle, Idaho, September 16, Pengilly noted Eckman's expertise and humor, and thanked him for his 12 years of service.

In a Bad Year for Sockeye Salmon, Rescue Effort in the Snake River Continues

posted Sep 15, 2015

This sockeye managed to swim through the warm Columbia and Snake rivers to Lower Granite Dam, where it was captured and taken to the Eagle Hatchery.

Here, Dan Baker, manager of the Eagle Hatchery, describes captive Snake River sockeye in a tank at the facility.

From the brink of extinction, the world’s longest-migrating, highest-climbing, southern-most run of sockeye salmon is making a steady comeback, thanks to an extraordinary partnership of state, federal, and tribal fishery experts.

Snake River sockeye, which migrate 900 miles to and from the Pacific Ocean from spawning grounds more than 6,000 feet in the mountains of central Idaho, had declined to just a handful of fish by 1991 as the result of a variety of impacts such as overfishing, habitat alterations, and the impacts of dams including one that blocked the Salmon River for decades. That year, Snake River sockeye were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the rescue effort — already under way — accelerated.

From just 16 wild adult fish returning from the ocean between 1991 and 1998, plus 886 wild smolts that were collected from Redfish Lake and surrounding habitats between 1991 and 1993, and 26 “residual” (non-ocean-going) sockeye collected in the same area, fish habitat and production experts and geneticists mounted a program that today is on the cutting edge of species recovery in the world. As genetic techniques have improved over the last 30 years, the sockeye rescue effort is able to control individual fish parentage with such precision that fish fish produced today are nearly identical to the founding 16 wild fish.

To avoid the risk of catastrophic loss, annually equal brood lots of eggs — about 500 in each lot — from both captive-reared and ocean-return adult fish — are developed at the Eagle Fish Hatchery of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game near Boise. One group is incubated and reared at the Eagle facility and the other is raised at the Manchester Research Station of NOAA Fisheries in Port Orchard, Washington, on Puget Sound.

The value of that redundancy was clear this summer as the Columbia River turned lethally warm for salmon and steelhead during July when sockeye return from the ocean. More than a quarter million sockeye that were counted at Bonneville Dam failed to cross McNary Dam 125 miles upstream. Most of the Columbia River sockeye return to the Okanagan and Wenatchee rivers, but the run also includes the endangered Snake River fish.

So far this year, 101 Snake River sockeye have been collected. Of these, 51 were collected at Lower Granite Dam, the last dam sockeye pass on their way to spawn in Redfish Lake, as an emergency action and driven to the Eagle facility. Only 50 sockeye have been collected at trapping sites near Redfish Lake. In comparison, 1,516 were trapped near Redfish Lake last year.

This sockeye is one of 51 collected at Lower Granite Dam this year and taken to the Eagle Hatchery as an emergency measure.

Ocean-returning adults will be incorporated in spawning plans at the Eagle facility. Eggs from these spawn crosses will be divided between the Eagle facility and Manchester where some will be reared and reserved for the ongoing captive broodstock program, and others will be reared and released to spawn in the wild. To date, more than 10,000 adult descendants have been raised from the original 16 wild adults.

Over time, the goal is to transition from a hatchery-based recovery effort to one that relies increasingly on production in the wild, avoid extinction, and support sport and tribal harvest needs.


Idaho Department of Fish and Game Snake River Sockeye Program

NOAA Fisheries Manchester Laboratory Sockeye Program



After 87 Years, Salmon Return to the Shoshone-Paiute Reservation

posted Sep 10, 2015

Josh Coons, a Shoshone Paiute Fisheries staffer, releases a Chinook salmon into the Owyhee River. Tribal leaders held a spearing workshop to help younger tribal members learn the traditional method of fishing salmon. Photo: Shoshone Paiute Fisheries

This summer, for the first time since 1928, salmon swam in the Owyhee River on the Duck Valley Reservation of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, and tribal members fished for them – some using traditional wooden fishing spears.

It was an historic event, made possible by the collaboration of the tribe, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the Shoshone Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation, Idaho Power Company, and others. Tribal members and their families, including tribal youth, participated in the fishery, which began May 28 and lasted into July.

A total of 199 spring Chinook salmon were collected in a trap on the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam, held temporarily at the Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins, Idaho, then released into the Owyhee on the reservation. Weirs confined the fish to a five-mile stretch of the river. The organizers hope the 2015 fishery will be the first of many annual fisheries in the future.

Buster Gibson, vice chairman of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes Business Council, Jinwon Seo, the tribes’ fish and wildlife director, and Sam Sharr, anadromous fish coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, reported on the fishery at the Power Council’s September meeting this week in Eagle, Idaho.

“This was a hugely anticipated event,” Gibson said. “It brought new hope for a lot of people.” Gibson said four of his five children speared salmon, including his six-year-old son whose fish “was about as big as him.” Gibson added, “for me, it’s still hard to talk about; my father, grandfather, and great grandfather talked about salmon since I was a kid. It’s been my passion to work on this, I was there day and night.”

Idaho Council Member Jim Yost, who helped guide and coordinate the 2015 reintroduction, said, “we’re taking this a step at a time; it’s the collective effort of everyone working together, doing what you can. The important thing is we've got the tribe started.”

While the fishery was important to the adult tribal members, Seo said perhaps the biggest impact was on children who, wide-eyed and excited, had never seen anything like the release and capture of the big, greenish-brown fish. “There are no words to describe the happiness, the kids shouting,” he said. “They were the choir. It was a truly joyous day.”

The Shoshone Paiute Tribes occupy the 289,819-acre Duck Valley Reservation, which straddles the Idaho-Nevada border 130 miles south of Boise. The original reservation was established by presidential order in 1877 and expanded in 1886 and 1910. Salmon once migrated from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia, Snake, and Owyhee rivers into Nevada, a distance of nearly 900 miles. But construction of dams on the Owyhee and Snake rivers blocked their migration, and the last salmon run into the reservation was in 1928.

The fishery of the summer of 2015 was an emotional as well as an historic event for the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, particularly for tribal elders who are just a generation removed from the last people to fish for salmon on the reservation. The day before the fish were released into the river, the tribe sponsored a spearing workshop to teach traditional fishing methods.

A beaming Buster Gibson, vice chairman of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes Business Council, dips a Chinook salmon out of an Idaho Department of Fish and Game truck to release into the Owyhee River on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation.

Photo: Jeff Allen, Northwest Power and Conservation Council


Shoshone-Paiute Tribes

Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation

Bureau of Land Management Press release

Idaho Statesman news story

Once Dredged For Gold, The Yankee Fork is Making a Comeback

posted Sep 10, 2015

The work includes realigning the river channel. Photo: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Council got a history lesson at its September meeting in Eagle, Idaho. Representatives of a multi-disciplinary team working to rebuild spring Chinook salmon and steelhead runs in the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River reported on their progress repairing the damage done by decades of dredge mining. The progress is impressive.

Danny Stone, policy analyst for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, told the Council that riparian vegetation is rebounding. “We are starting to see the bottom of the channel take shape with aquatic vegetation,” he said.

“With the help of our partners, we are improving instream complexity with the placement of large wood and rocks to create a more complex habitat that has ripples and pools and deep runs, trying to make this into more of a natural-looking stream,” Stone said. “We’ve taken a uniform channel and turned it into something that is much more complex, with the kind of features that an anadromous fish would be looking for when it comes back for spawning.”

The Yankee Fork holds a notable place in Idaho history. In 1866, one year after the end of the Civil War, a group of Montana prospectors explored the upper Salmon River Basin looking for placer mining opportunities and found a likely candidate in an as-yet unnamed large tributary. After several fruitless weeks they left without finding gold, but they left behind a name that sticks to this day. Everyone in the party was a Yankee.

Four years later, others found gold found on Jordan Creek, a Yankee Fork tributary, and soon a mining district was organized. Miners swarmed into the area, and a town was platted called Bonanza City. By 1879 the population had grown to 2,000. The placer deposits were rich but, dug primarily by hand, soon played out. Later, a small dredge had some success, but the dredge that became a fixture of the river, a monster at 112 feet long and 54 feet wide, was completed in 1940 and operated until 1952. In 1966, its owners donated it to the U.S. Forest Service as a museum.

While the Yankee Fork was rich with gold, it also was rich with spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and westslope cutthroat trout. Dredge mining completely rechanneled about six miles of the lower Yankee Fork, left hundreds of tailings piles scattered along the river bank, widened and straightened the river channel, and left the river bottom littered with boulders and cobble – and very little gravel for salmon spawning. Dredging also cut off fish access to the historic floodplain and riparian zone.

Outside of the dredged area, the Yankee Fork holds great promise as a place to boost Snake River spring Chinook and steelhead, which are ESA-listed species, and so for the last four years the multi-disciplinary effort has been underway to restore habitat and rebuild fish runs in the river. Members of the team include Trout Unlimited, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, Bonneville Power Administration, Idaho Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and property owner J.R. Simplot Company.

The work is underway on several fronts, including creating and maintaining resting spots in the river for juvenile fish by strategically placing large dead trees in the river to slow the flow, restoring natural river channel characteristics and floodplains, and improving aquatic habitat by redistributing dredge tailings piles from the floodplain.

So few trees were left along the river bank that in some places trunks like this one were brought to the river.


U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project

U.S. Forest Service Yankee Fork project

Trout Unlimited Yankee Fork Side Channel Project

J.R. Simplot Company: Restoring an Idaho Gem: Yankee Fork of the Salmon River

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

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Tagging Sturgeon in Astoria

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Habitat Tours Focus on Results

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Sustainability Is Success

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A Last Look at Condit Dam

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Changing Minds, Changing the Land

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Wind Power, Then and Now

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The Rebound Effect: Is It Real?

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An Update on Didymo

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Didymo: A New Kind of Invader

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A Good Year for Returning Salmon

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Building a Better Battery

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Using Batteries to Store Energy

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Growing Summer Energy Demand

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California's Energy Scene

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Ensuring Efficiency

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Making Wind Work

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Clean Tech Draws VC Funding

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And the Wind Came Up

posted Apr 6, 2010