I have long appreciated the fairness of the reporting in your paper and also your editorial opinions from time to time. Such is not the case however in the recent reporting you have done on the Enloe Electrification Project. It has been disappointing to see that your reporter has not done much to investigate, check and balance the claims made by the folks campaigning for the removal of Enloe Dam based on the bogus “study” by Rocky Mountain Econometrics.
Even a quick appraisal of that company’s website demonstrates that the basis of their studies is always the current energy market. To use that metric to make estimates on a project with a 50-year life is ludicrous for a few reasons.
First of all, the energy market is most influenced currently by the price of natural gas which, due to fracking, is now abundant in the USA. This forces down the price of electricity in our state even though very little electricity is generated in Washington that way.
Second, the market right now is also being influenced by the dumping of federally-subsidized and state-mandated wind power into the market. Investor owned wind turbines get federal tax credits while they are generating whether that power is needed at the moment or not. The law also requires that this power must be put into the system so that the investors get their money regardless of what it does to the market or the system. This suppresses the market price.
Third, the market can swing wildly. In my nearly twelve years as a PUD Commissioner, We have paid as much a $500 a megawatt and at other times have paid others to take surplus off our hands. As recently as the winter of 2015, your PUD was forced to buy power for $100 a megawatt which resulted in a temporary budget deficit of $1,000,000.
As you can now see, for PUD Commissioners to base a decision regarding Enloe Dam on the current market alone would be really irresponsible. In fact, a review of the PUD’s history would show that the commissioners have made their worst decisions when they have based them on current prices. A short list: Voting to not participate in the building of Wells Dam with Douglas PUD because BPA power was cheaper (now it is 50% more). Voting to decommission Enloe Dam for the same reason. Voting to buy diesel generators because the price of market power was so high and the supply short. Voting to keep rates low even as costs rose because the price we were selling power for was so high we could subsidize rates. This last one worked great, then the market suddenly went away. Just to name a few.
A good editor and a good investigative reporter could have researched and covered all these points and more. Such as, the motives of those people and agencies who want the dam removed, the tribal and international consequences of such an attempt, the cost of doing so, who would pay for it, and so forth. As it is, you have told only one side of the story. You can do better.
PUD Commissioner, District 3
Editor’s Note: The Gazette-Tribune contacted PUD Commissioner Bolz for his comments before going to press, as we did PUD Manager John Grubich and we appreciate his comments. We also forwarded a copy of the Rocky Mountain Econometrics report to the commissioner. Mr. Bolz had the opportunity to share his viewpoint at that time and only made a few comments based on an earlier report by RME. I’m glad he took the time to write this letter to point out why he is so resolved to re-energize Enloe Dam, I just wish it could have been included with the article. As to our reporter, she made every effort to get both sides of the story. G.D.