Author offers his theories on how salmon affect PUD rates - Buchal offers possible remedies for high rates

By Theresa Goffredo
Everett Herald Writer


EVERETT, WA-- Instead of letter-writing campaigns and harsh words, Snohomish County PUD commissioners should just go on strike and refuse to pay any increase in power costs, author James Buchal told an audience in Everett on Thursday.

Or they could take over the state's hydoelectric dams, refusing to throw power away by spilling water over the dams, and also refusing to pay for salmon recovery.

Salmon don't need recovering anyway, said Buchal, because there's not a chance that all the salmon will disappear.

"These are radical solutions," he said, "but they must be done."

Buchal shared his theories loudly and at times with touches of sarcasm to about 50 people who attended a public meeting on power rates at the PUD auditorium. Buchal was trying to answer the question: Why are your PUD rates so high?

Buchal has spent the past six years researching salmon science and law while representing economic interests in salmon lawsuits. In his book "The Great Salmon Hoax," Buchal writes about how fishery officials have misrepresented the effects of the Columbia River dams on salmon to extract federal funding from the Bonneville Power Administration.

And, he says, BPA must pay billions of dollars a year to comply with biologists, such as the $1.5 billion BPA spent in 2000 to buy power from companies like Enron so BPA could spill water over the dams to save fish. The BPA, which operates the dams, can in turn charge exorbitant rates to its customers -- such as the Snohomish County PUD -- to cover its costs, Buchal said.

Buchal, who graduated from Harvard College with a physics degree and from Yale Law School in the early 1980s, lives on an Oregon farm. He specializes in civil litigation concerning energy and the environment.

Buchal maintained that spilling water over dams does nothing to help fish because dam turbines only kill about 2 percent of the salmon in the Columbia River system.

"That is like background noise," Buchal said. "And every dime of that (spill) is utter waste."

So to change the current rate system, it's going to take people like those in the audience, Buchal said.

"A bunch of angry people who make trouble," he said. "That's how the dams were built in the first place."

PUD Commissioner Kathy Vaughn responded to Buchal's comments by telling the audience that PUD is doing what it can to fight back and to keep rates stable.

Commissioners are currently reviewing the PUD's draft budget, which includes a $13 million cut to ensure that residential customer rates remain at current levels at least through winter.

Rates are expected to remain stable -- at 8.1 cents per kilowatt-hour -- through April, even though BPA is expected to raise its surcharges on power costs by 5 percent.

The BPA just raised those surcharges 2 percent on Oct. 1.

"We are trying to fight back and pushing hard to convince Bonneville not to raise rates," Vaughn said. "We still haven't decided yet whether we're going to pay the rates or not."


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site