This weekend marks the Bonneville Power Administration’s 75th anniversary. While Bonneville celebrates, the salmon are not.
BPA has accomplished positive things for the Northwest over its 75 years. In recent years, for instance, BPA has a good track record supporting and in some cases leading the Northwest’s strong performance in delivering energy efficiency.
But BPA does not have a positive track record in restoring salmon. Most wild salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin are endangered or threatened with extinction, and the major reason salmon are in that crisis state is operation of the federal hydro-electric system which BPA oversees. Indeed, under Steve Wright’s tenure, the salmon community has had to fight for just about every positive salmon policy coming from the agency - whether in court or in the public arena.
In the last 13 years, Bonneville has been the primary architect of three illegal plans for restoring wild salmon and steelhead on the Columbia-Snake. In the process, they have ignored and resisted the best salmon science. Resisting increases in spill at the federal dams is just one example of this failure.
During this period, Bonneville has barely acknowledged that salmon and salmon fishing are one of the Northwest’s major economies. As a result, it has failed to seek or implement strategies to boost Northwest job growth by boosting salmon job growth. The credit for protecting, and more recently even creating, salmon jobs goes to citizens, some states, and Indian Tribes. BPA has opposed, and still opposes, the salmon measures that best create jobs.
It must not be this way in the future. To be a true partner in restoring Columbia-Snake salmon, Bonneville must become more transparent in its salmon policies, more open to genuine dialogue with salmon advocates and businesses, and above all more faithful to the law and the best science. It’s time for a new approach to salmon restoration in the Northwest, and Bonneville should stop opposing and instead should support a new, comprehensive stakeholder discussion regarding salmon in the Columbia-Snake River Basin.