Where I Used To Work Before I Retired

My old day job was at Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). I worked as an Applications Programmer / Web Admin / Client Support / Networking / Scdeduler / Applciations Troubleshooter / Client Support and Go fer person.

Bonneville constructed and runs most (55% in line miles, 45% of all power sold) of the high voltage transmission grid in the Pacific Northwest.

The 2004 BPA Fast Facts (Adobe PDF file) on the Corporate Web Site has various statistical information about BPA.

They own NO power generating plants at all. The Corps of Engineers (COE), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Reclamation own the dams / generators. BPA is the Federal Agency who has the sole rights to transmit and sell the power from them.


There is a Union in the Federal Government that I belong to (and still do after retireemt) which is Local 0928 of American Federation of Government Employees. Which is part of the AFT-Oregon organization under the master organization AFGE based in Washington D.C., which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

As a Union AFGE really has no bargaining leverage at all. No Federal Union is allowed to strike, create work stoppages, slowdowns, sickouts or any other normal job actions that are traditionally associated with union membership. This is because by law no Federal Employee is allowed to strike. This means the union's real - and only - value is in hiring lobbyists to promote the needs of the Federal employees who perform the work that the people of the nation want. So the Federal Government actually tells the Union what it is willing to bargain about - which is usually meaningless perks since everything governing work are in US statues based on laws passed by Congress and written up by various other Executive branch agencies into rules and regulations.

If all jobs are contracted out, like the current and every prior administration wants to facilitate (including the Democrats, but they were just more creative in doing it), then strikes against the government by the employees would be possible - since they are not DIRECT hires of the Government but are a contracted "service" so therefore the people can legally strike for more pay since they are striking a private firm and NOT the Federal Government.

So this means the AFGE union should really organize locals all the workers in the contracted firms who got contracts to do the everyday functions of the Federal Government. If AFGE did that they would then actually have power to influence how - and by whom - these jobs are performed.

Off Budget Agency

BPA is a differently type of Federal Agency. It does not get any money appropriated from the Federal Government — i.e.: no IRS generated tax money is used to operate the grid, pay people, purchase supplies etc. Thus, unlike say HEW, DOT, or the other Federal Agencies who would be affected if no budget is passed by Congress they would, by law, be forced to shut down all operations, and when that has happened in the past people employed by BPA just goes on working. This is because the people who buy the power fund BPA. The money earned does not flow into the Treasury - Congress - to be doled back out as it sees fit. The money earned is, by law, controlled by BPA to fund the grid, restore salmon, keep the dams repaired, and pay for the other Federal programs forced upon it by Congress to fund AND and to repay the loan that the Federal Government obtained when they built the hydro power dams starting in the 1930s.

BPA is like any private company: how much it earns determines if it can pay bills and stay in existence. It what is called a self sustaining agency.

BPA, like any other company, borrows money to pay for capital projects. By law they are forced to borrow from the US Treasury. All money borrowed has to be repaid (with interest).

One of the ironies of BPA is that the cost of building the dams on the rivers is assigned to BPA — BPA must pay for them — though they do not own, operate or have control over them.

The HQ building that BPA is in is not even owned by BPA — GSA owns it and BPA has to pay them rent on the building. BTW (By the Way), BPA used its own money to BUILD it — GSA would not build it at all — then it was forced to turn it over to GSA once built. BPA is now on the third "building" of the building. It has paid rent equal to 3 times the initial cost of the building to GSA since it was built. And BPA has to use its own money to maintain the building and pay GSA to get anything done to improve it too!

This building fact is true of any Agency of the Federal Government. No one has yet figured out where all the money paid to GSA really goes.

What BPA Funds

Unlike businesses though, BPA funds most of the fish projects in the region. Most of this was assigned to BPA to do back in the days when there was lots of money coming into the Agency with very little projects going on, they (past administrators and advisors) decided to be a "good neighbor" and earn some political points by saying that they would fund lots of items that no one else wanted to pay for but wanted done.

No "For Profit" company would ever do what BPA does to restore fish runs. since 1980 and subsequent years politicians (and in some cases BPA itself) assigned BPA all the responsibility for fish recovery efforts. This means BPA can get all the blame and problems with the whole project. Around 17% of the total BPA yearly budget is for fish projects. The yearly budget for every possible personnel costs is 7%. You will NEVER see any other power utility spending 17% of their total budget on fish restoration.

Thus, BPA has become the biggest single funding source and thus focal point of problems for restoring fish from California to Canada to inland a thousand miles east of the Pacific Ocean.

Funding Outside Companies

BPA, has over the years, been tasked, taken up, or otherwise been told to fund not only its own operations but the cost of other governmental bodies (companies) using the money generated selling power from the hydro dams (and the one lone nuclear facility).

In 2003/2004 year they are paying to support a fishery organization with "an annual average of $139 million and total no more that $556 million for the FY 2003-2006 period". The true annual funding is really more like $350 million a year. (See below.)

The money is the minimum direct hard currency paid out. This is not count the lost income of spilling water over the dams to help migrate fish down the rivers which can vary from $60 to $120 million dollars a year of lost income.

The stated budget (there is always hidden costs in support of fish but they are never counted) are to help in fish transporting (barging mainly), studies (endless studies), and other programs that the State, Federal, and other Government Agencies as well as Indian tribes (due to treaty obligations) have all TOLD BPA to fund.


To work at most any Federal agency you have to have a sense of humor.

In December of 2001 this BPA article was published:

Council program just part of funding
BPA has increased funding for fish and wildlife for the 2002-2006 rate period from an annual average of $252 million to $345 million, an overall increase of 37 percent. The $345 million figure is based on the best available data from a number of sources including the Implementation Plan developed by the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and BPA, reasonable and prudent alternative actions called for in the 2000 Biological Opinions, the Council's sub-basin planning process, and currently planned off site mitigation projects recommended through the Council's Provincial Review Process.
The budget includes $186 million in expense and capital funding for the Council’s fish and wildlife program, and $159 million in capital investments to benefit fish and wildlife and direct funding of the hydroelectric share of Corps and Bureau operations and maintenance for fish and wildlife related activities. (Reported by Hugh Moore)

It has since been reigned back to around 301 million (and many are complaining that it is too low).

Now considering that the total salary budget for all  people in BPA comes only $165,000,000 — if each and every person was paid $55,000 (which they are not, remember BPA is a Federal agency!) it means that if every person in BPA was fired and no personnel costs were incurred it would not even equal what is spend on fish programs in ONE year!

Reducing the number of personnel — and the associated costs — at BPA has least impact on electric rates of anything that BPA does.

The local newspaper, The Oregonian, always ignores this fact when reporting about BPA. It always hammers on the notion that BPA has too many people on it and cutting people out would save money. The fact is that the only way to cut costs is to cut out all the "feel good" programs that BPA does. In many cases (many being over 70% funded by BPA) BPA has been forced to fund fixes and studies ordered by any number of Federal, State, and Tribal governments who are trying to atone for past policy mistakes they made. These government entities just transferred the burden and cost of fixing these past mistakes onto BPA them thereby putting the onus of failure and political fallout onto BPA.

The Head Quarters building is located in the Lloyd Center District of Portland, Oregon.

Course people who work at BPA MUST have a sense of humor to deal with working there.

I am not making this up about how a squirrel shorted out one of our 230kv power lines (the squirrel died). Here is what a creative BPA employee came up with after reading the newspaper story about the squirrel.

Suicide Squirrels Attack Northwest Power Grid
Ongoing Narrative Update

It wasn't a DC Intertie outage, but the carefully planned attack by small creatures that had a devastating impact on the critical infrastructure of the NW. A wildfire near Benton County in Eastern Washington was ignited by several squirrels that committed a suicide attack on a high-voltage line by using their bodies to short out (zap) the line. The fire burned 638 acres of brush and grass. It took nine fire departments, 75 firefighters, 32 fire engines, three bulldozers and a spotter airplane to put out the flames. This apparently unprovoked suicide attack has placed the whole region on alert.

Despite numerous reported squirrel sightings in and around the power grid, the Department of Highpower Security (DHS) has denied that any intelligence information received prior to the attack could have prevented the attack. However under intense questioning by reporters, DHS officials acknowledge that no procedures were in place to interrogate squirrels to identify plots in the planning stages. In addition, DHS has had difficulty recruiting undercover agents due to the height and clothing requirements needed to pass as a potential suicide squirrel.

No doubt some believe that the DHS should incarcerate and incinerate precedent and subsequent generations of these terrorist squirrels to keep the power lines safe for America. This type of thinking is being decried as species’ centric by the Squirrel Civil Liberty's Union.

The Gray Squirrel Panthers has offered the opinion that the martyred squirrels probably mistook a utility logo as a nut marker and were zapped for the error.

DHS is constructing a profile to aid in identifying potentially suicidal squirrels. Once it is completed agents will be assigned to look for squirrels fitting the profile. SWAT teams are being trained to respond to sightings. DHS is anticipating a significant collateral damage to innocent squirrel community members from the planned squirrel interdiction procedures. DHS considers this a reasonable cost for preventing these suicidal attacks and keeping the lights on.

In breaking news, agents of a local squirrel hunting club picked up five squirrels fitting the suicide profile in the last three days. Now known as the "Hunt Club 5", they were turned over to the DHS are being held in a military brig. It is feared that the Squirrel Liberation Front (SLF) will attempt to free them and plans launch additional suicide squirrel attacks. The DHS has stated that under no circumstances will it negotiate with the SLF.

In a news release, the SLF has issued a warning that the DHS should Free the DC three.

In related stories, a small number chipmunks have been taken into custody in the panic resulting from the suicide squirrel attack. Local law enforcement personnel state that errors of this type are to be expected considering that both squirrels and chipmunks are small furry animals. In other areas it is reported that armed civilians are shooting at any squirrel, even those which don’t fit the suicide profile, in their concern for the security of the power system. When interviewed these individuals have stated that they always have and always will react with “extreme prejudice” toward all squirrels. This appears to be a common attitude expressed by people living in more rural areas.

Under interrogation the “Hunt Club 5” have admitted that further attacks have been planned. In the most chilling scenario these squirrels have described their compatriots taking SCUBA lessons so that they could chew their way through various dams. They have admitted that Grand Coulee Dam is a prime target. There has been no indication of the number of squirrels trained for this mission. Engineering firms have been contacted to provide an estimate of the number of suicide squirrels needed for a successful attack.

Recent sighting of squirrels around college and medical nuclear labs has raised fears that they may be plotting to use radioactive nuts to contaminate local food supplies. Officials state that contamination could be achieved by sneaking these nuts into stores where they would be purchased by unsuspecting mothers.

Flying squirrels have reported a significant increase in the number of ground squirrels seeking flight training in various locations around the country. Flying squirrels have also indicated that the ground squirrels have shown an unusual interest in procedures for landing on high voltage towers. Many of these squirrels are apparently from Canada where the borders have been closely watch since foreign squirrel involvement is suspected in the squirrel suicides.

Computer security and networking officials have refused to comment on possible squirrel involvement in recent networking failures. Many employees have stated that something smelled about the recent outages. Unidentified sources believe that this smell indicates complete squirrel incineration suicides and recommend that all employees remain alert for signs of squirrel activity. Employees are encouraged to check with the janitorial personnel to obtain a description and training on the visual and odor characteristics used to identify squirrel sign.

The DHS has requested that utilities establish a special fund to finance the costs associated with identifying and removing squirrel tunnels under high voltage tower legs. This previously unanticipated attack strategy was revealed during intensive interrogation of the “Hunt Club 5”. It is widely believed that the squirrels involved will not fit the suicide squirrel profile. The DHS is making every effort to develop a ground squirrel profile to aid in interdiction efforts.

The development of a ground squirrel profile has led authorities to a possible prairie dog connection in their on going investigation. It seems that ground squirrels are frequently mistaken for prairie dogs and the “Hunt Club 5” have frequently referred to prairie dogs when discussing ground squirrels. DHS has now issued a combined ground squirrel/prairie dog profile.

All "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Squirrels" (SPCS) nuts have been frozen. While trying to “follow the nuts” to determine the source of support for suicide squirrel activities the DHS obtained evidence that the SPCS has been funneling nuts to support the families of suicide squirrels. Luckily nuts will last longer when frozen.

The Gray Squirrel Panthers issued a press release stating that it is inappropriate and cruel to punish squirrel families for the actions of their martyred relatives. They pointed out that these families have already been subjected to intensive DHS interrogation and that no charges resulted.

The now aging Rocky of the famous Rocky and Bullwinkle duo was questioned today by DHS agents to determine if there was any sort of moose connection to the suicide squirrel attacks. Subsequently, agents commented that their pursuit of the “Bullwinkle Connection” had been a dead end. However, they have not ruled out the possibility of a “Boris and Natasha” connection. They also confirmed that Rocky and Bullwinkle, although aging, had volunteered to help ferret out any “Boris and Natasha” involvement.