Chinook run increases, and so do sea lions

posted May 3, 2016


Sea lions, particularly the California species, have increased in the Columbia River immediately below Bonneville Dam in recent weeks, and so far they are killing more salmon than in recent years.

According to the latest report by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which coordinates observations of sea lion activity at the dam, the average daily number of California sea lions seen at the dam increased from four in March to 22 in April. The maximum was 39 on April 22. Adding Steller sea lions to the mix, the maximum was 82, also on April 22. Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife biologists brand the most problematic sea lions, and so far this year observers have documented 79 uniquely branded individual animals – 77 had been seen at the dam in previous years.

As the number of sea lions rose, so did the number of spring Chinook salmon arriving at the dam as they migrate to spawning grounds and hatcheries upriver. As of April 29, the date of the most recent report on sea lions by the Corps, 28,029 spring Chinook salmon and 3,659 steelhead had been counted passing the dam. By May 2, the total had grown to 58,602 adult Chinook (59,664 including jacks) and 5,367 steelhead.

At the same time, observed catches of Chinook by sea lions more than doubled in the two weeks before April 29, exceeding the 10-year average, the Corps reported. The estimate through April 29 was 4,970. The 10-year average is a little over 2,000; the number by this time last year was 4,420.

Non-lethal, boat-based hazing of sea lions by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission began in early March and is continuing three days a week. Dam-based hazing by the US Department of Agriculture also began in early March and is continuing seven days a week. According to the Corps report, hazing has short-term effectiveness but the hazed sea lions quickly return.

Meanwhile, sea lions have taken fewer sturgeon than usual through the end of April – just 28, with most being between two feet and four feet in length but one exceeding seven feet.

California and Steller sea lion combined maximum daily count (interpolated for weekends) at Bonneville Dam through April 29, 2016 compared to the 10-ten year average.

Figure:  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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Northwest Efficiency Exchange 2016 in Coeur d'Alene

posted Apr 28, 2016

Lake Coeur d'Alene

The premier conference for energy efficiency professionals in the region and beyond was held this week in Coeur d'Alene, and we were able to talk to a few people about their work to get an idea of what the future holds for energy efficiency.

Kicking off the event were our own distinguished efficiency experts, retiring Power Division Director Tom Eckman, Conservation Resources Manager Charlie Grist, Senior Energy Efficiency Analyst Tina Jayaweera, and Senior Energy Efficiency Analyst Kevin Smit. Here's their presentation (video and slides) on energy efficiency from a historical perspective and where we see it headed in the Seventh Power Plan, which found that almost half of residential efficiency will come from new measures.

The areas with the most potential are in lighting, heating and cooling systems, and internet-based control systems that manage those home and building HVAC systems. Keshmira McVey, energy efficiency program manager at the Bonneville Power Administration, talks about their potential:

One of the exciting developments in energy efficiency is the growing collaboration among all the various players in the field, both in the private sector and in government. Jodi Bellacicco, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is program manager for a pilot project that aims to connect clean energy small businesses with National Lab expertise, facilities, and equipment to help them overcome commercialization barriers. It's a joint project led by Department of Energy Labs: Berkeley Lab, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.

Simple, non-tech changes like window coverings can also have a significant impact, as Katherine Cort of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory explains. Honeycomb designed shades, for example, could lower energy use 10 to 18 percent.

We also heard about the potential of plug-in electric vehicles to enhance the power system from John Morris, Morris Energy Consulting. PEVs could help reduce emissions while improving the efficiency and stability of the power system.

The conference, which continues to grow each year, illustrates why the Northwest has become a hub for energy efficiency development: When you have the opportunity to share the knowledge of so many people, progress is possible. 






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In the (Efficient) Spotlight

posted Apr 25, 2016


The Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, in partnership with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and utilities throughout the Northwest, are hosting the fourth annual Efficiency Exchange conference this week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. See the joint agency press release.

The regionwide event focuses on promoting technical innovation and new ideas in utility energy efficiency programs. This year’s conference kicks off with a general session on energy efficiency in the Seventh Power Plan, which the Council adopted in February. The plan concludes that energy efficiency is the key to meeting our region’s future demand for electricity.

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We’re Kicking Off a Photo Contest on Instagram!

posted Apr 20, 2016

Proxy Falls by Tony Grover

We’re kicking off a photo contest on Instagram and invite you to share your photos of sights around the Columbia Basin — maybe hiking on a trail or even in your daily life. Follow us and tag your photos #nwcouncil to share them. We'll pick the top ten photos to highlight online and in our printed brochures. Help tell the story of where we live and why we love it.

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Taking Stock of the Solar Power Boom

posted Apr 19, 2016


Solar power has taken off in the U.S. thanks to improving technology, which has lowered the costs of photovoltaic installations for utilities and homeowners. Over the past eight years, installations have grown from around 1 gigawatt to just over 22 gigawatts, according to Department of Energy data--and most of it just in the last four years.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab just released a study of utility-scale PV performance across the U.S., looking at generation data for 2014 from 128 projects from 18 different states, mostly in California and Arizona. They found that the projects have performed as expected which, along with the extension of the federal tax credit and advances in storage technologies, should encourage solar power development. The study also found that designing panels with the ability to adjust direction to capture solar energy helped improve their performance.

As for the status of solar in the Northwest, there are a number of PV installations totaling about 220 megawatts underway in southern Idaho; Idaho Power has contracted to purchase its generation. There are several projects in southern and southeastern Oregon at various stages of the planning process; a few small projects planned in Montana; and very little development in Washington for now.

One way to increase access to solar power is through community solar, where consumers share the costs and benefits of a generation project. It gives consumers an affordable way to participate in renewable energy while also enabling the utility to provide the service while maintaining the customer's load. Overall, it increases access to solar developments to a greater share of the market.

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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