In Fiscal Year 2017, the Bonneville Power Administration reported fish and wildlife mitigation costs of $450.4 million, according to data compiled in a report to the Governors of the four Northwest states by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The report is posted on the Council’s website here.
2018 is the 17th year the Council has reported to the Governors on Bonneville’s fish and wildlife expenditures. Under the Northwest Power Act of 1980, the Council is required to prepare a program to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife, and related spawning grounds and habitat, that have been affected by the construction and operation of hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin. Also under the law, Bonneville is required to pay for the program.
Here is a breakdown of the expenditures for Fiscal Year 2017, October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017, as reported to the Council by Bonneville:
- $254.7 million in direct (expense) costs for the direct-funded program, which pays for projects such as habitat improvements, research, and some fish hatchery costs.
- $85.2 million in reimbursements to the federal Treasury for expenditures of appropriated funds by the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for investments in fish passage and fish production, including direct funding of operations and maintenance expenses of federal fish hatcheries; this category also includes one-half of the Council’s $10.8 million budget in Fiscal Year 2017 (the other half is assigned to Bonneville’s Power Business Line budget).
- $121.4 million for debt service (interest, amortization, and depreciation) of capital investments for facilities such as hatcheries, fish passage facilities at dams, and some land purchases for fish and wildlife habitat.
- $9.6 million in forgone hydropower sales revenue that results from dam operations that benefit fish but reduce hydropower generation, such as spill at Snake and Columbia river dams in the spring and early summer when juvenile salmon and steelhead are migrating to the ocean.
- Negative $20.5 million in power purchases. The negative figure is an anomaly. Bonneville buys power in the wholesale market during periods when dam operations to protect migrating fish reduce hydropower generation below firm loads, such as by spilling water over dams in the spring or storing it behind dams in winter months in anticipation of flow augmentation. The 2017 Fiscal Year exhibited an unusual and unintuitive result for both replacement power purchases and forgone revenues. According to Bonneville, one of the reasons these “cost of fish operations” were lower in 2017 can be attributed to the modeled reservoir operations in the previous year as well as an unusual runoff. Bonneville’s calculations show that operations for fish pushed some generation into months with higher power prices, and the value of that generation more than offset the fact that Bonneville lost approximately 210 average megawatts of generation due to operations for fish in 2017.