A Different OPALCO Resolution 2-2019 Solution | Letter

Before I lay out a resolution that I feel should be acceptable to both sides, I’d like to make a few observations.

First of all, utilities need dams for two major reasons: generation and regulation. The high voltage grid’s generation and load are balanced every 4 seconds to maintain frequency at 60 Hz +/- .05 Hz. This is done by sending control commands to generators to ramp up or down. Why hydro? You can ramp a 150-megawatt hydro unit from cold start to 100% in 60 seconds. Coal-fired power plants can only be moved at 3mw/minute, 6 if you declare an emergency. You can’t just plunk a wind farm or solar field down in eastern Washington and hook it to the grid; you have to purchase regulation. The 33 control areas in the Western grid that perform this function need hydro for grid stability. Green energy producers need it so they can purchase regulation.

Second, salmon are the heartbeat of the North Pacific marine ecology. The great salmon runs of the East Coast and Europe have been all but wiped out. Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Kamchatka’s are at risk. Hatcheries are a stop-gap measure that in the long run reduces genetic diversity and weakens the species. Fish ladders are a failed technology: salmon want to swim up a river, not be dumped into a string of reservoirs. Much worse, salmon fry want to be flushed down a river to the ocean. Being dumped into a reservoir whose outflow is 80 feet below the surface through spinning turbines is a recipe for decimation, not to mention reservoir predation.

My recommendation: a joint resolution supporting a “salmon by-pass.” Trench a canal around the four reservoirs that mimics a free-flowing river. Install pivoting gates at the inflow points to the reservoirs to allow diversion of water during critical salmon migration periods. Cover the canals to prevent predation.

Given even half a chance, the salmon will recover. We will preserve the great Snake River salmon runs; provide generation and regulatio; implement flood control and irrigation and regulation water; AND significantly help save the orcas.

Instead of wallowing in an endless legal battle, let’s solve the problem.

Dave Ambrose

WAPA SCADA manager for 27 years

San Juan Island