PORTLAND - Your utility costs will go up starting next Tuesday if you're an Inland Power and Light customer. Congressman Dan Newhouse and other federal lawmakers are desperately trying to stop a court mandated overspill from happening in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers on April 3.
The mandate was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon last year in an effort to spill more water through dam spillways for the purpose of protecting steelhead and salmon. Conservations say the extra water will help young salmon migrate to sea but Newhouse and many others say the negatives far outweigh the positives.
"In my humble opinion, this is not even based on sound science. That additional spill could have more detriment to the salmon we're trying to protect then benefit because of the increase of dissolved gases which are toxic to fish and then you add the extra burden of utility costs and to me its just something you just shouldn't have to do," said Newhouse.
Lawmakers say the spill will likely cost northwest rate payers an additional $40 million in utility costs this year. The cost increase will affect the Bonneville Power Administration and that increase in utility costs will be passed on to other utility companies that purchase power from the BPA. Inland Power and Light, a utility company that purchases 97% of its power from BPA confirmed Thursday that its customers will see slight increases in electrical costs as a result of the overspill. Though, the surcharge will cease when the overspill ends in June. Inland Power and Light supplies power to most of Lincoln County.
Critics also say the spill could comprise the structural integrity of the dams and could affect agricultural exports. Newhouse says he tried to place a pause on the spill in the recently passed Omnibus. Litigation to stop the spill has been running its course in a 9th Circuit U.S. District Court. With the spill set to happen next Tuesday, the realistic aim is to stop it early in order to minimize its impact.