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Monday, October 17, 2005

Power Lines

Posted by on October 17 at 11:16 AM

Last week, I wrote a pretty technical story about a pending Seattle City Light contract that could have negative consequences for the Kalispel Indian reservation in Northeastern Washington.

The council is going to approve the contract anyway, but the Kalispel’s legal team was happy about this accompanying statement from the city council’s City Light chair, council member Jean Godden, which may be used to hold the city accountable if the Kalispel continue to get a bad deal:

Councilmember Jean Godden Full Council Talk Pointsó

C.B. 115344 ó Boundary Project Agreements with the Pend Oreille Public Utility District

Council Bill 115344 authorizes the Superintendent of City Light to execute three agreements relating to the Boundary project. Two of the three agreements included in C.B. 115344 will replace now expired agreements between City Light and the Pend Oreille Public Utility District (PUD) relating to the delivery of power and compensation for impacts of the Boundary Project on the PUD’s Box Canyon generating facility. The third agreement among the Bonneville Power Administration, City Light, and the PUD will result in the addition of a new transmission path.

These agreements jointly will enhance grid reliability in the Boundary area and provide transmission cost savings for the City. Reliability will be enhanced by the addition of equipment at the Boundary substation and creation of a new transmission path increasing transmission capacity.

As you may be aware, concerns have been raised by the Kalispel Tribe regarding these agreements. Council action on this bill was delayed to provide sufficient time for Tribal representatives to meet with City Light executives and for review by the City Council and the City's Law Department.

Councilmember Compton and I met with the Vice Chairman, Kurt Holmes of the Kalispel Tribe this morning. It was a very productive meeting. I know that I came away with a better understanding of the issues they are facing in relationship to the Box Canyon dam re-licensing.

Like a good friend does, they came to warn us of potential pitfalls in moving forward with these agreements. While we believe the 2005 Memorandum of Agreement does not appear, in and of itself, to directly or indirectly affect tribal resources, I appreciate their willingness to bring these concerns to our attention.

I want to assure everyone of the great value the City of Seattle places on its relationship with the Kalispel Tribe, and it is our intention to work with the tribe to improve communication and cooperation between our governments. Just as they have been a friend to us, I hope that, over time, we can prove to be a good friend to the tribe as well.

We have consulted with the City Attorney regarding possible amendments to this legislation that would encourage the Pend Oreille County PUD to comply with the conditions of their re-licensing agreement at the Box canyon Dam. However, the addition of such language could prove to be problematic and, on the advice of the Counsel, we determined not to pursue this option.

I recognize that the tribe has certain rights they will need to protect. The tribe has raised legitimate issues that deserve careful consideration. I want to encourage City Light and Superintendent Carraaco to work co-operatively with the Kalispel Tribe in resolving any issues relating to the re-licensing process of the Boundary Dam. Further, I expect that City Light will meet all the conditions of the current and future Boundary license and follow all applicable lawsójust as other utilities are expected to do the at their hydro projects.

As for the encroachment losses compensation agreement and the Boundary transformer agreement, the City continues to view these as standard business arrangements that provide for enhanced grid reliability and cost-effective transmission service for the City of Seattle in the Boundary Project area.

The committee urges passage of the bill.