LARGE RATE HIKES EXPECTED IN FALL
June 12, 2001 11:00 pm

Although energy and water conservation has not to date become major concerns for Curry County residents, consumers can expect to feel a pinch in the pocketbook this fall.

And water supplies on the South Coast could be strained this summer as Oregons water resources are down because of another dry winter.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is considering just how big a rate increase to impose on its clients and is expecting to pass the extra cost to consumers, according to Jim Arntz, general manager of Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative in Port Orford.

Our board is pretty well set on having to face a rate increase, he said on Monday. We will be subject to BPAs increase as we have a contract with them.

And we arent subject to their conservation savings program because of the wording in our contract with them.

The administration recently announced it is hoping to hold the increase to 75 percent, much lower than the 400 percent plus rate hike discussed earlier this year.

That expectation may not be realistic, according to Arntz.

A lot of things would need to fall into place in a short amount of time to reach the low-end number, he said. It may be closer to 150 percent.

Arntz said the administrations hopes to announce its final decision on June 20, and he believed they had to make a final decision no later than July 1.

He added the Coos-Curry Electric Co-op board is hoping the announcement can be made by June 20 so the increase can be announced and discussed at the organizations annual business meeting in Port Orford on June 23.

Arntz expects a rate hike would take effect on Oct. 1, although he said at this time we dont have any specific answers.

On the issue of energy conservation, Arntz said it appears the south coast of Oregon will not be impacted by any rolling blackouts or power shortages.

After a meeting back in April with the PUC (Oregon Public Utilities Commission) or Department of Energy, we are not terribly concerned through the summer about rolling blackouts, he said. Our focus probably will be toward late summer, going into the winter.

That seems to be the time when energy demands are at their highest on the south coast.

Arntz said that Coos-Curry Co-op and the other 14 members of the Pacific Northwest Generator Cooperative (PNWGC) in Portland are coordinating their efforts to ensure a steady power supply to their consumers.

We are looking at our system if we have to shift the load so we can do so without affecting necessary services, he said. We are comfortable we can deal with it if given the flexibility by the Department of Energy and PUC.

We are also coordinating our efforts in coming up with a plan with the other members of PNWGC.

The generation and transmission cooperative presently manages the power contracts of its 15 members.

Arntz said that will change this fall.

As of Oct. 1, PNWGC will manage us (the co-op members) as one contract, he said. Hopefully, it will save us some money and make it more efficient for us.

We can then pass all those benefits on to our customers.

Although Coos-Curry Co-op is not expecting power shortages this summer, Arntz said it still is important to practice energy conservation.

Use energy wisely, he said, but I dont think you need to start any major lifestyle changes at this point.

Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett said the water supply to the community is always a concern, and a plan has been formulated to deal with any potential crisis.

Theres a water conservation plan, he said Thursday, it just hasnt been adopted yet.

It will give us the ability to curtail water use if necessary.

Even though the city doesnt necessarily expect a water shortage, Blodgett said they are aware of the possibility.

It doesnt look good, he said. We probably are in as good or better condition than the rest of the state, but it still doesnt look good.

At this time, Blodgett hopes city water consumers will conserve on their own, knowing water could be in short supply by summers end.

We encourage our customers to use as little water as possible, he said. There is no way for us to make more water. There is only so much there.

It is up to the people to conserve as much as possible.

Oregon State University scientist and fisheries specialist Guillermo Giannico said the Pacific Northwest could be in for its driest summer since 1977. He said the circumstances should act as a wake-up call for consumers.

Our high water consumption rates are, to a large extent, due to water pricing schemes that do not reward efficiency and result in practices that use more water than is necessary, he said. Although many individuals and some industries may use water very efficiently, they still constitute a minority among us.

This trend needs to be changed if we want to ensure an uninterrupted supply of fresh, drinkable water.

In conjunction with potential water and energy shortages, the Brookings City Council on Monday signed on to a joint proclamation with other South Coast municipalities encouraging conservation practices.

To date the joint proclamation had been signed by mayors from Brookings, Coos Bay, North Bend, Lakeside, Bandon, Coquille, Powers, Gold Beach, Port Orford, Reedsport and Myrtle Point.