Bonneville Power Struggles as salmon runs decline

KIVI Boise –

Salmon seasons have been open in Idaho since April, but you wouldn’t know it. Not a single spring Chinook has been caught according to Fish and Game records, and Tuesday the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to close the season on all rivers in the Clearwater Basin. Fisheries managers are projecting that the number of spring Chinook returning to hatcheries in the Clearwater Basin will not meet brood stock needs.

The closure comes in the midst of a salmon crisis for Idaho Anglers, and a financial crisis for The Bonneville Power Administration

BPA has thirty-one power-generating projects in the Columbia Basin. The dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers are major suppliers of carbon-free energy to the northwest, especially Oregon and Washington.

But all of that energy is expensive in today’s market, and Bonneville Power is losing market share to newer alternative energy sources. For decades BPA made millions selling surplus power, especially to California, but over the past decade the price of surplus power has dropped as natural gas, wind and solar have created an abundance of low cost electricity.

But BPA is still able to sell power for as much as twice the market rate, to public utility districts, who are contractually bound to buy it.

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