(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- As part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, the United States Senate today agreed to an amendment that increases the Bonneville Power Administration's borrowing authority by $700 million. The Senate passed the bill 69-39.

The amendment was sponsored by the eight Pacific Northwest Senators (Senator Craig, Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Senator Crapo, Senator Wyden, Senator Smith, Senator Baucus, and Senator Burns).

"I'm very relieved that this amendment has passed," said Murray. "BPA's transmission system is the backbone of our region's economy. This new authority will help us make critical investments in our transmission system and meet BPA's other statutory obligations. It is a credit to the entire Senate Northwest delegation that this amendment has passed. We now must fight to keep it in conference with the House."

Under the amendment, BPA's current borrowing authority of $3.75 billion would be raised by an additional $700 million. BPA's borrowing authority was first established at $1.25 billion in the 1974 Transmission System Act and has been subsequently raised in 1983 and 1984.

Borrowing authority allows BPA to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury for the purpose of making long term financial obligations such as investment in transmission and other statutory obligations. BPA then repays the Treasury with interest.

The new borrowing authority will allow BPA to make urgently needed investments in the region's transmission system. Points in the region's transmission system are operating at or beyond capacity. One part of the transmission investment will be the Hanford-Schulz line which will help implement one part of the Columbia River Biological Opinion that calls for more spill.

Due to the energy crisis of the past years and current low rainfall and snowpack, BPA is facing sever financial conditions. Without the increase in borrowing authority BPA would have had difficulty making these necessary transmission improvements.