Snake River Dams
by Alan Schonefeld
Snake River fish numbers are hitting record lows
The Bonneville Power Administration screws ratepayers with rising electricity prices due in part to years of mismanagement. The federal agency also screws Idaho’s salmon and steelhead by supporting a failed fish management system. The Corps of Engineers screws taxpayers by subsidizing private corporations that ship wheat by barge rather than rail, costing the public more than $20,000 per barge load. Finally, politicians like Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., lie to the public when they claim Snake River salmon are doing just fine, while actual Snake River fish numbers are hitting record lows. Her claims that the lower Snake River dams are vitally important to the Pacific Northwest’s power supply are equally hogwash. BPA has not needed one kilowatt of lower Snake River dam power to meet its customer demands for the past 10 years.
BPA Administrator Elliott Mainzer could become a hero by walking away from those dams. BPA would save around $100 million annually by not selling lower Snake River dam surplus energy for prices far below the cost of production. BPA would likely save another $50 million annually in reduced fish mitigation expenses.
While BPA is a federal agency, it is required by law to be self-supporting. Revenues must cover costs. The agency has raised rates nearly 30 percent over the past eight years while it exhausted its $900 million reserve account. If BPA does make major changes within the next few years, it won’t be only the Snake River salmon and steelhead that go extinct.
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