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Columbia River Treaty hearing set in Pasco Monday

RIVERS — Discussions on revising the Columbia River Treaty are picking up, as the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee plans a field hearing Monday, Dec. 9, in Pasco to learn about regional impacts of the treaty with Canada.

Changes in the treaty could have profound impacts on hydropower management and fishing.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the committee, has concerns about the upcoming renegotiation of the treaty and the United States’ draft recommendations for possible changes.

He scheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. in the Pasco City Council Chambers, 525 N. Third Ave.

Read on for more from the Associated Press:

Latest salmon recovery plan offers no major change in strategy

The AP reports that the Obama administration has released its latest plan for making 14 hydroelectric dams in the Northwest safe for salmon; the 751-page draft supplemental biological opinion is online here. The last plan was struck down in 2011 for depending too much on habitat improvements and failing to consider the possibility of breaching four dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington, but the new plan says that current dam operations are working fine, and habitat improvements are on track to be fully implemented by 2018; it also doesn't call for breaching the dams. A final version of the supplemental biological opinion is due out Jan. 1; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jeff Barnard.

High rivers a blow to wind farms

When the wind is blowing and the Columbia River is flowing, wind turbine operators in Washington have a problem they are looking to France and Germany for help.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is in Europe for a 10-day trade mission, said she met Thursday with the chief executive officer of AREVA, a French firm that operates wind farms around the Tri-Cities. The problem of wind power and hydropower peaking at the same time has been particularly bad this year, she said.

“There are concerns about BPA shutting down wind power because of excess hydropower,” she said.

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Power Council predicts adequate supply despite low river flows

The electricity supply in the Northwest will remain adequate this spring and summer despite low runoff levels in the Columbia River Basin, where hydroelectric dams provide more than half of the region’s electricity, an analysis by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council shows.

“Low flows will reduce hydropower generation below normal, but there is no danger of a serious curtailment to electricity service, according to our analysis,” Council Chairman Bruce Measure said in a press statement today. “The power available from generating plants, including hydropower dams, wind turbines, and power plants that burn fossil fuels, is more than adequate to meet the anticipated demand for electricity this year.”

The precipitation since last October is 79 percent of normal, and snowpack is 73 percent of normal, in the Columbia basin, reports the Northwest River Forecast Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A year ago, the basin’s snowpack was 91 percent of normal.

Based on snow and rainfall to date, the forecast for runoff through the end of August is much lower than normal — just 65 percent of average measured at The Dalles Dam. If that estimate proves accurate, this would be the second-lowest runoff year since 1992.