Construction of BPA’s Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line begins in May

The Bonneville Power Administration will begin construction of the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line Project in May. The new line is expected to carry over 800 additional megawatts of renewable wind energy, enough to power about half a million Northwest homes when the wind is blowing. The 38-mile, 500-kilovolt line in Washington will connect the new Central Ferry Substation in Garfield County to the existing Lower Monumental Substation in Walla Walla County. It is expected to be energized in December 2015. “Building the right facilities in the right place at the right time is a key principle of our long-term transmission services planning process,” said Richard Shaheen, BPA vice president for Engineering and Technical Services. “Specifically, this project will add critical transmission grid capacity, support new transmission requests from generators in the Snake River area and be a welcome boost to local and regional economies.” For more than 75 years, BPA has been the major developer of energy infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. Electric utilities and electric power consumers depend on BPA to maintain reliable transmission service at low rates and meet growing demands for electricity. Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line ProjectOver the past several years, numerous power generation projects, including large wind projects, have requested interconnection with the BPA system in the Snake River area. After studying the transmission system and identifying where capacity is available, BPA determined that there is not enough available transmission capacity to accommodate the requests. Building the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental project will allow BPA to meet the requests for transmission and allow additional power to flow between areas east of the Cascade Mountains to heavily populated areas in the west. In August 2011, the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line Project was put on hold because of uncertainties regarding the need for the new line. However, in August 2013, BPA notified customers, landowners and stakeholders that it was moving forward with construction of the line. Existing customer need coupled with an agreement for Portland General Electric to acquire Phase 2 of Puget Sound Energy’s Lower Snake River Wind Project, which PGE renamed the Tucannon River Wind Farm, required construction activities to begin this spring. The Tucannon River Wind Farm is a key infrastructure investment that supports PGE’s balanced energy portfolio. Tucannon River will help PGE satisfy Oregon’s renewable energy standard, which requires the utility to supply 15 percent of the electricity its customers use from renewable resources by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. In early 2011, BPA completed an environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering design for the project. BPA issued a record of decision to build the line in March 2011. Since then, BPA has conducted additional environmental review of some access road modifications and a material yard. The contractor hired to build the new line is MYR Group, a leading specialty contractor serving the electrical infrastructure market throughout the United States. It has the experience and expertise to complete electrical installations of any type and size. MYR Group’s power line capabilities include transmission, overhead and underground distribution and substation projects. BPA also will be holding two “Meet the Builder” open-houses in late April so the public can learn more about the construction process and schedule, speak with representatives of the MYR Group and meet the BPA project team.  To learn more about the project, go to www.bpa.gov/goto/centralferrylomo.

BPA offering $20,000 in science and energy education grants

Portland, Ore. – The Bonneville Power Administration is offering $20,000 in science and energy education grants to nonprofit organizations, schools and others in support of work to educate

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Public input sought on potential habitat restoration project near Astoria

Portland, Ore. – The Bonneville Power Administration is seeking public input and comment on potential environmental impacts from a proposed project to restore a tidal marsh in Clatsop County

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BPA adopts higher wholesale power and transmission rates

The Bonneville Power Administration today adopted a 9 percent average wholesale power rate increase and an 11 percent average transmission rate increase. The transmission rate increase is the first in six years. The new rates support needed improvements to ensure the region’s federal hydropower and transmission systems can continue to reliably deliver carbon-free, affordable power to Northwest homes and businesses. The new rates take effect Oct. 1, 2013.      
“We recognize that rate increases are very challenging for customers, especially for those still in the throes of a slow economy,” said BPA Acting Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “But the increases are necessary so that we can preserve the long-term value of carbon-free federal generation and support the reliability of the high-voltage transmission lines that serve Northwest public utilities.”  

For Bonneville’s utility power customers, the wholesale rate increase will be an average of 9 percent higher than current rates. The power rate increase stems from higher costs to operate and maintain the federal hydroelectric system, higher costs to fund existing long-term agreements for the fish and wildlife mitigation program and reduced revenues from surplus power sales due to low market prices. 

BPA Proposes Fire Sale of Hydro Power During Springtime Oversupply

Portland, OR - The Bonneville Power Administration on Sunday announced a new approach to addressing situations arising when too much energy is available for delivery. In these situations, which usually happen in the springtime when there is a lot of water in the Columbia River system, some generators must be turned off. As the transmission grid operator, BPA is required to develop a method for determining which generators must be turned off first.

BPA’s plan allows for displacing generators after all other reasonable actions are taken. While BPA operates the transmission grid, it also is responsible for generation units. In times of high water, federal system operators must run the federal hydroelectric plants in order to comply with environmental regulations to protect fish. The plan, which was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today, is based on input from regional stakeholders. In formulating this plan, BPA sought to balance multiple competing interests by equitably sharing oversupply costs and limiting total cost exposure. BPA’s objective was to create a set of rules that is fair to all parties and that can help to avoid protracted litigation.

BPA submitted the filing to meet the deadline set in a Dec. 7, 2011, FERC order. If accepted by FERC, the plan – referred to as the Oversupply Management Protocol – will be in place for one year. BPA received almost 90 comments on the proposal after releasing it for public comment on Feb. 7. Details about how the final submission differs from the initial proposal are available at the link.

Grays Harbor PUD Commisioners Say No To Proposed Settlement

ABERDEEN, Wash. - The Grays Harbor PUD Commissioners yesterday adopted a resolution rejecting a proposed settlement from the Bonneville Power Administration that sought to not only settle litigation surrounding the Residential Exchange Program, but to lock rate payers into a set fee structure for the next 17 years. Commissioner Tom Casey told the few that attended last night's meeting "Without binding arbitration, in effect, BPA doesn't have to follow any of their contracts, unless you want to sue them." The BPA proposal would require 91% of their Preferred customers to agree, with a deadline of April 15th, the commissioners last night said they don't think enough Public Utilities will sign the agreement.

Grays Harbor PUD Seeks Input on Possible Settlement

ABERDEEN, Wash. - A meeting next month will discuss a possible settlement with the Bonneville Power Administration regarding the Residential Exchange Program. Liz Anderson with the Grays Harbor PUD tells us following a court victory, over BPS rates in 2001, for consumer-owned utilities including Grays Harbor PUD the litigation is continuing over the amount due and how the exchange payments are calculated going forward.  In an effort to settle the litigation, some representatives of investor-owned utilities and consumer-owned utilities developed a “Settlement” that is currently under consideration by consumer-owned utilities throughout the region.

The Settlement would obligate customers of consumer-owned utilities to pay fixed amounts for the Residential Exchange for 17 years, ranging from $182 million (total for public power) in the first year to over $286 million in 2028. The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners is reviewing the Settlement terms and considering the best option for ratepayers. The forum Thursday, April 7, 2011 from 6pm-8pm will provide an opportunity for a dialogue with ratepayers to discuss the proposal and Grays Harbor’s position.

Local Partners Help Salmon Return to Historic Tidal Wetland

Explorers Lewis and Clark documented the wetlands on a map, above, as the series of streams and pools at the middle top. The river and tides are now returning to the wetlands for the first time in about a century. CHINOOK, Wash. - Large numbers of salmon may soon make their way into a tidal wetland that’s been closed to migrating fish on the Columbia River for more than a century.

The wetland near Chinook, Wash., is the type of habitat that is vital to the survival of migrating juvenile salmon and is clearly marked on the historic maps of explorers Lewis and Clark.

Since the 1890’s, railroad tracks and a highway, now US 101, disconnected the river and tides from the 96-acre marsh.  During construction, crews installed an enormous new culvert with a natural stream bottom that will once again connect the river to the wetland.

Wednesday, Feb. 16, crews removed a large cofferdam.  The temporary structure kept water from entering the new culvert during construction.  Once the dam is removed, the Columbia River tides will flow into the marsh for the first time in more than 100 years.

Grays Harbor PUD Approves 2011 Budget

ABERDEEN, Wash. - The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a budget for 2011 which anticipates a possible 7% rate increase in the coming year. The PUD says 4% of the rate increase would cover the rising cost of renewable resources, and conservation mandated under Initiative 937, as well as anticipated cost of power purchased from Bonneville Power Administration. The remaining 3% will be set aside to fund future capital improvement projects to reduce long term debt. Relations Director Liz Anderson tells KBKW the Commissioners passed the budget at Monday's meeting, but will address the rate increase proposal at a later date.