FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 9, 2023
Bill Arthur, Snake River Salmon Campaign Chair, Sierra Club, 206-954-9826
Mitch Cutter, Salmon & Steelhead Associate, Idaho Conservation League, 541-280-8474
Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, 206-300-1003
Bonneville Power Administration woefully underfunds the needs of endangered fish, in spite of urgent requests from Northwest States and Tribes.
SEATTLE, WA – On January 6, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) finalized its decision on how to distribute more than $500 million in surplus revenues gathered from power sales in 2022. The decision affirms the agency’s earlier proposal to spend just 10% ($50 million) of these revenues on fish and wildlife projects. Most of the revenues (70%) will be returned to BPA’s customers to reduce rates, while the remaining share (20%) will be used to reduce the agency’s multi-billion dollar debt load.
The meager share dedicated to fish and wildlife is a serious failure, as urgently needed salmon and steelhead recovery projects continue to go underfunded and most wild populations in the Northwest slide closer to extinction. The Biden Administration, despite its oversight of BPA and involvement in long-running litigation around salmon and dams, also failed by allowing BPA to stick with its proposed allocation of these funds.
“BPA continues its historic approach to short-changing imperiled Northwest salmon as they slide toward extinction in no small part due to the fish-killing dams that BPA operates that generated this huge surplus of funds,” said Bill Arthur, Chair of Sierra Club’s Snake River Salmon Campaign. “We are surprised and disappointed that the Biden Administration did not require more of BPA given the commitments made to break from its costly, failed approach that has helped to drive our region’s emblematic fish to the brink of extinction. We must do better if we are going to break this cycle of failure and it is clear BPA will not lead the way.”
“This year, the Biden Administration committed to effective, creative solutions to begin restoring salmon and steelhead to abundance," said Idaho Conservation League's Salmon & Steelhead Associate Mitch Cutter. "But what we’ve seen with this recent decision is more business-as-usual. BPA is nickel-and-diming the Northwest’s iconic fish to extinction, profiting off of the very dams that are killing the fish, and the Administration is letting them get away with it.”
BPA’s preliminary proposal last year received comments from multiple conservation organizations, sovereign Tribes, and the states of Oregon and Washington. These comments uniformly asked for a larger share of surplus revenues for fish recovery programs, which the states and Tribes manage. Many of these programs have been strategically defunded since 2018, as the agency sought to “control costs” by maintaining flat spending levels for fish and wildlife projects. This strategy and inflation have had devastating effects on the states and Tribes, forcing employees to work under substandard pay and undermining the effectiveness of recovery projects. Some new priority projects, like reintroducing salmon into the Upper Columbia River – from which they’ve been blocked since the 1930s – have gone completely unfunded.
“The Northwest and the nation need clean, affordable energy and healthy, harvestable fish populations. It must be ‘both/and’ not ‘either/or’. It’s wrong for BPA to continue to pit low-cost power against healthy salmon runs”, said Joseph Bogaard, Save Our wild Salmon’s executive director. “We need BPA looking forward rather than backward - a leader who will work with the region to both seize opportunities and solve critical problems. Northwest people need BPA working constructively with states and tribes and embracing its multiple public responsibilities – including protecting and restoring endangered salmon and steelhead populations and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to our communities and ecosystems."
Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/washington
Idaho Conservation League: http://www.idahoconservation.org
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition: http://www.wildsalmon.org