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Commentaries and editorials

Salmon Coalition Blasts BPA for Summer Performance

by Kat Ricker
Capital Press - December 7(?), 2001

Runs will hit record lows in three years, enviro groups predict

The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition has released a report blasting the Bonneville Power Administration for sacrificing salmon to lower power rates, taking actions that led to one of the worst juvenile migrations in years.

The report says BPA erred by sacrificing gross salmon runs to save customers less than $1 a month, and that better choices would have been practical and affordable.

The federal agency markets power produced by federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

The report, titled "BPA and the 2001 Salmon Migration," concludes that BPA was wrong to declare a power emergency in April because of drought and the energy crunch at the time. The agency then used water to generate electricity instead of for spills to help migrating salmon through dams.

The SOWS coalition is made up of fishing and environmental groups. Glen Spain is the northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the largest organization of commercial fishing families on the West Coast.

Spain said BPA sacrificed most of this year's Columbia River juvenile salmon runs to save 35 to 75 cents per month on power bills.

"This was one of the most outstanding failures of BPA, a monumental failure, and it didn't have to happen," he said. The result will be record low runs in three years.

"Salmon and particularly steelhead runs will be pushed much closer to extinction," necessitating hundreds of millions of dollars in additional emergency efforts to prevent that. It will exacerbate pressure on landowners in the Upper Columbia Basin under the Endangered Species Act. It also set back salmon restoration efforts region wide "several years, if not more," he said.

Nicole Cordan of the coalition said, "If BPA had given salmon only half the spill this summer that the new federal salmon plan requires, it would have cost an average Seattle home 19 cents a month for one year, or $2.38 total for the whole year," she said.

"That spill would have helped migrating salmon that really needed help in a terrible drought year, and we could have afforded it."

The report states that the 2001 migration from the two rivers to the ocean was the worst since salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act.

While adult salmon and steelhead returns hit significant highs in 2001, juvenile migration hit record lows.

The report states that BPA's actions led to a "massive failure to implement the federal salmon plan in its first year."

Bill Arthur of the Sierra Club in Seattle said BPA failed "salmon and people of the Northwest by abdicating its responsibility to implement the federal salmon plan, including essential flow and spill for migrating salmon this past spring."

BPA had options and choices that would have benefited salmon. Rejection of those options sets the region up "for more costly and difficult actions in the future," he said.

The report ends by asking BPA to pledge that in 2002 it will comply with the river flow and salmon spill provisions of the federal plan.

Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited said, "We need to commit, and we need BPA to commit, no to repeat these same mistakes in 2002."

The report can be viewed on the web at

The report echoes the charge of a lawsuit filed Nov. 5 against BPA by many of the same groups who are members of the coalition, including the PCFFA.

The suit charges that the agency violated the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act by not managing federal dams to produce energy and restore salmon.

It's the result of "BPA's continuing willingness to sacrifice everything else for political expediency," Spain said.

by Kat Ricker Capital Press Staff Writer
Portland Port Tightens Security in the Harbor
Capital Press - December 7(?), 2001

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