Fish Matter More Than Power Salesby Editorial Board
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - June 14, 2004
The Bonneville Power Administration has scaled back its plans for fish-killing changes on the Columbia River system. Now, it should drop an idea that remains bad at any size.
The power agency has made significant reductions in its plan to make money by generating more power during the summer. That's some progress.
The BPA still wants to send more water, and juvenile salmon, through dam turbines this summer, but it gave up on any immediate decisions about the following two summers. Bonneville also is reducing the amount of water it would use for power rather than spilling it to help fish move down the river.
Even with the reductions, the agency says it could sell enough extra power to other parts of the West to cut its charges to Northwest public utilities by 1 percent or 2 percent. That's a very modest savings. And it's not at all worth the cost in reversing commitments to operate the dam system in a more environmentally sensitive manner.
Eliminating the summer spill for fish would be business as usual. No matter how strong the promises to protect fish, there is always stronger pressure on the federal agency to use the dams to make money.
Just four years ago, the Clinton administration said proposals to tear down four dams could be put aside, as long as everything possible was done to protect fish. The BPA and dam supporters should keep that discussion in mind as the agency decides whether to dismantle its commitments in return for California cash.
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