By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Water & Light accepts settlement

McMinnville Water & Light commissioners approved of a settlement agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration at its Tuesday meeting

Senior Power Analyst Jaime Phillips told commissioners the BPA “has been working collaboratively with its long-term transmission customers” for the last two months to reach an agreement on terms and conditions for 2019, avoiding a court fight.

She said the new agreement will “allow BPA to better respond to a changing energy transmission environment” and the agency is sweetening the deal by offering a lower rate increase to utilities that accept it: a 4 percent transmission rate increase, rather than the 9.5 percent increase it had originally proposed.

The BPA announced in 2016 it wanted to remove a requirement to obtain approval of any changes to its transmission tariff from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

It proposed new terms earlier this year, but customers raised a variety of objections, leading to  settlement talks.

McMinnville Water & Light is generally in favor of the resulting agreement. Phillips told the commission that “removing FERC from the transmission tariff process will [give] BPA customers more involvement and input in the process.”

In addition, she said, the new terms will lower risk and costs, and the concessions made by the BPA “are favorable to MW&L and its customers.”

Commissioners approved the settlement unanimously.

Commissioners also approved a logging plan for 2019, including sales of salvage wood and two sections in its watershed totalling about 70 acres of larger trees, with a decision to be made later in the season about whether to include pole sales, in which trees are selectively harvested specifically for utility poles.

Contract forester Brent Keller of Mason, Bruce & Girard told commissioners  the log market “has decreased significantly in the last few months” in part because saw mills now have plenty of logs to last them for several months. Lumber sales are down and “exporters are feeling the effects of tariffs.”

However, he said, he expects to see sales increase later in the winter.

The board also discussed whether to seek a new auditing firm on Tuesday.


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