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Columbia River Conference: Learning From Our Past to Shape Our Future

posted Oct 14, 2014 by John Harrison

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This sculpture by Virgil "Smoker" Marchand, a well-known artist and a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, is at the base of Spokane Falls below the Monroe Street Dam. The sculpture captures some of the major themes of the 2014 International Columbia River conference October 21-23 in Spokane: water, hydropower, ecosystems, and restoring salmon to places blocked by dams downstream. For information, check out the conference website

Revised Fish and Wildlife Program Focuses on Ecosystems and Wild Fish

posted Oct 8, 2014 by John Harrison

Restoring ecosystems and wild fish throughout the Columbia River Basin is a major theme of the latest Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which the Council approved on October 8, 2014.

The new program comes on the heels of a truly historic year for salmon. This year more salmon were counted at Bonneville Dam as they returned from the ocean than any year since 1938 when counting began. 2014 saw a record return of sockeye, a near-record fall Chinook run, and an impressive and building coho run.

“The great salmon returns of 2014, which continue a trend going back more than a decade, suggest that the extraordinary is becoming the ordinary,” Council Chair Bill Bradbury said. “Our fish and wildlife program supports the restoration of ecosystems and wild fish by addressing a broad spectrum of the fish and wildlife life cycle including habitat, hatcheries, river flows, dam passage, invasive species, and climate change impacts.”

Through the program, the Council works to restore healthy ecosystems and healthy populations of wild fish — including those that go to the ocean, like salmon, and those that don’t, like bull trout — throughout the entire Columbia River Basin. This work involves connecting areas of good habitat, removing fish-passage barriers, and improving water quality by reducing toxic substances. Much of the work designed to boost wild fish also helps wildlife in the same ecosystems.

The program also supports using hatchery programs as tools to help rebuild fish populations that spawn in the wild. The program integrates hatcheries with habitat improvements, and works with fish and wildlife agencies and Indian tribes to define the scope and purposes of fish propagation, as well as appropriate management techniques consistent with current and evolving scientific principles.

By law, the Council revises the fish and wildlife program at least every five years. The process began more than a year ago and involved more than 400 recommendations, extensive public comments, and public hearings in all four Northwest states.

The Council’s program is the biggest of its kind in the nation, directing more than $250 million a year to mitigate the impacts of hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin — our region’s primary source of electricity — on fish and wildlife. The program is authorized by the Northwest Power Act of 1980, the federal law that also authorized the four Northwest states to create the Council. The program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.

Energy Efficiency Improvements in 2013 Add to Impressive Regional Savings

posted Oct 7, 2014

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The Pacific Northwest improved its electric energy efficiency in 2013 by 268 average megawatts, an amount equal to the annual electricity demand of about 180,500 Northwest homes.

Adding that accomplishment to regional energy efficiency improvements since 1980, when the Northwest Power Act made energy efficiency the primary means of meeting new demand in the region, the total now stands at 5,600 average megawatts, enough to power Oregon and western Montana. In terms of savings, 34 years of energy efficiency improvements mean that Northwest ratepayers are spending about $3.5 billion less per year for electricity today.

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Energy efficiency is now the second-largest resource in the Pacific Northwest, behind only hydropower. Total regional investment in energy efficiency in 2013 was $375 million (2006 dollars). The investment was a bargain compared to the cost of building new power plants. The average cost of efficiency improvements was about $17 per megawatt-hour, about five times less than the cost of power from a new gas-fired plant.

“The 2013 savings add to a tremendous legacy of achievement for the region over last 34 years,” Council Chair Bill Bradbury said. “It's phenomenal to achieve so much in terms of reducing demand for power at such a low cost to our region’s ratepayers.”

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council compiled the savings estimates from data gathered by the Council’s Regional Technical Forum from 80 electric utilities, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Energy Trust of Oregon, Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, and others.

The 2013 achievements exceeded the target in the Council’s Sixth Northwest Power Plan by eight average megawatts. Annual targets have been exceeded every year since 2005.

In 2013, efficiency improvements in commercial buildings continued to grow, as they have in recent years, residential efficiency investments remained stable, and investments in agricultural energy efficiency grew slightly.

 

Seventh Power Plan 101

posted Oct 6, 2014

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The Council will be holding a webinar to give stakeholders and the public an overview of the process we use to develop our regional energy plan.

We'll describe the major components of the plan and how each element is developed. Staff will present an overview of the methods we use to develop and vet the data and assumptions, including the role of our advisory committees. Staff will also describe the major analytical models we use, how they interrelate, and their role in plan development.

We hope you'll join us.

Council Chair Joins Celebration of Record Salmon Return

posted Sep 30, 2014 by John Harrison

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Council Chair Bill Bradbury joined representatives of federal dam operators, tribes, and other river users today in celebrating the huge return of salmon to the Columbia River in 2014 — a record return of sockeye and near record returns of fall Chinook and coho.

The total count at Bonneville Dam is expected to be about 2.3 million fish by the end of the year, exceeding the previous record of 2.1 million in 2011. Bonneville is the first place where fish can be counted as they return from the ocean. Counting began there in 1938 when the dam was completed.

“Salmon runs are cyclical and their success or failure depends on so many factors, every single year,” Bradbury said. “Some of those factors, like ocean conditions, are beyond our control. But many are not, and they are critically important to salmon survival. Through our Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, we are working to improve conditions for salmon in the places we can impact — connecting areas of good habitat, removing fish-passage barriers, improving water quality, and carefully using hatcheries with our tribal and state partners to boost depleted stocks and, over time, rebuild naturally spawning runs. In short, we are working to provide a welcoming place for the salmon to come home to."

The leaders assembled in the visitor center on the Washington side of the dam today also celebrated the collaboration that is helping boost the number of salmon returning to the river and its tributaries. According to the speakers, who represented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest RiverPartners, and the Council, the strong collaboration continues to improve habitat and future prospects for many species, including those listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“We who enjoy the benefits of the largest hydropower system in the nation responsibly pay to mitigate the damage it does to fish and wildlife through the Council’s fish and wildlife program, the largest of its kind in the nation,” Bradbury said. “The impressive 2014 runs demonstrate the incredible resiliency of salmon and give us hope that our collaborative efforts to improve salmon habitat and build up salmon runs will be successful in the long run.”

Weathering a Cold Snap

posted Jan 17, 2014 by Carol Winkel

The Seventh Power Plan

posted Dec 11, 2013 by Carol Winkel

Designing for Efficiency

posted Nov 12, 2013 by John Harrison

The Flexibility Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2013 by Carol Winkel

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