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Save Our Wild Salmon

Managing Northwest hydropower interests puts the Bonneville Power Administration into local frays and national skirmishes.

January 28, 2013

THE Bonneville Power Administration bids farewell to a good steward of a major Pacific Northwest institution and asset, as it welcomes a new administrator.

Steve Wright is stepping down as chief executive of BPA at the end of January. He has been in the top job since November 2000, in a long career that began with the power-marketing agency in 1981.

BPA was 75 years old in 2012, which means its role in the regional economy has long been taken for granted. The availability of cheap hydropower has driven everything from the development of an atomic weapon to the aerospace industry, aluminum plants, agricultural irrigation, server farms and, now, the bright lights to grow marijuana.

BPA’s dams have provided electricity, enabled the development of inland ports and caused havoc with salmon populations.

Wright has been in the middle of all the fights. He gets credit for doing a good job under difficult circumstances in the wake of the West Coast energy-marketing crisis in the early 2000s.

He also receives praise for reviving BPA’s energy conservation and efficiency efforts.

Wright earns lower marks for BPA’s stunted efforts to restore endangered salmon with a mantra about improving habitat.

Wright leaves his post after recent tensions over integrating wind power into the region’s menu of energy options.

His successor is Bill Drummond, who comes on board as an epic federal court battle over salmon, which has been in a court-ordered hiatus, will return to life.

Drummond joined BPA in October 2011 as deputy administrator.

He was manager of the Western Montana Electric Generating and Transmission Cooperative in Missoula, Mont., for 17 years.

He led the Public Power Council, representing the Northwest’s publicly owned utilities, from 1988 to 1994.

Drummond knows the region, BPA and its customers. That was Wright’s strength, along with an affable manner.

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