I just had another talk with Michael Milstein at the BPA about the question of how much spill is too much for salmon. He reiterated a key point in the dilemma of having too much water in the Columbia. Namely, that BPA is not making money off the hydropower it’s generating now. And in some cases, it’s costing them money to generate it because they have to pay for transmission costs to get people to take free electricity.
Because of the limit on how much water can be spilled over the dams to protect salmon, Milstein said, the BPA is stuck putting water through turbines and generating more hydropower than the region needs. The agency has even offered to pay the transmission costs to send the power to California to make sure somebody takes it off the grid.
“To suggest there is some economic benefit to us sending power through turbines is wrong,” he said. “We’re not making any money on this power – in fact there’s an economic loss. There’s no benefit. We have all this power and nobody wants it. We’re just trying to get that power to somebody who will take it.”