Customers Irked at BPA's Call for
RiverPartners' director Flores was not impressed with the new push for more collaboration
BPA has taken some heat for inviting representatives of the fish-advocacy community to a Jan. 17 presentation of recent hatchery research by the Columbia Basin Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Some invitees were plaintiffs in long-standing litigation over hydro operations.
The emailed invitation from Steve Weiss, BPA's constituent account executive for public interest, seems to have excluded most members of the public. BPA customer groups were not aware of the upcoming meeting, nor, it was reported, were most other federal agencies involved in Columbia Basin salmon recovery.
"RiverPartners was surprised and stunned to hear that BPA is meeting independently with a number of the organizations that are suing them in the federal hydrosystem litigation," said Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, a large group of BPA customers and other river users. "Outreach and collaboration are good; however, it is unclear what BPA hopes to accomplish."
The invitation said BPA Administrator Steve Wright and Lorri Bodi, VP for environment, fish and wildlife, hope it leads to other discussions on science topics that relate to dams and salmon recovery.
"[Wright and Bodi] believe BPA (and the other action agencies) need to initiate more dialogue with the fish-advocacy community," wrote Weiss. "We hope this will lead to more collaboration on a number of fronts. At the least--but this is also very important--we hope to use these discussions to give all parties interested in salmon recovery a common scientific underpinning. Agreeing on the facts and understanding why the various parties have come to their conclusions regarding those facts is fundamental to any real dialogue."
The invitation said the workshops are not a substitute for other recovery or BiOp processes, nor "the forum for broad policy discussions. But we hope that they will provide some additional understanding of the complex issues related to fish."
To facilitate a free-flowing discussion, BPA has requested that participants "agree that they can use nothing said in these meetings in public statements or court filings. We'd also prefer that any lawyers involved in litigation on the BiOp, etc., not be present if at all possible."
The invitation said that if the workshop "goes well," BPA would like to conduct more of them to discuss hydro passage, survival studies, benefits of spill and flow, estuary and tributary habitat, and harvest.
"Finally," said the invitation, while these workshops "are focused on developing scientific understanding, we also know that dialogue on the big policy issues around salmon recovery, outside the courtroom, could be useful. We understand that for a great number of reasons, this has not taken place enough over the past few years. We would like to try again, so to speak, by setting up a number of meetings between our executives and your key people. More to follow on this, but we'd appreciate your thoughts."
RiverPartners' director Flores was not impressed with the new push for more collaboration with parties that have supported breaching lower Snake dams for many years. "There are so many other processes," she told NW Fishletter, "where all affected interests have an opportunity to share their views including the BiOp remand, the Power Council's fish and wildlife amendment process, and NOAA Fisheries' recently proposed salmon stakeholder process. It's hard to see what this can possibly add and why these groups are being singled out."
The groups invited to participate include the Sierra Club, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, American Rivers, NW Energy Coalition, Snake River Salmon Solutions, Idaho Rivers United, National Wildlife Federation and various representatives of sportfishing and commercial fishing groups.
BPA staffer Weiss said by email Jan. 11 that the Jan. 17 meeting was cancelled for scheduling reasons, but the process will continue.
"We still wish to reinstitute our quarterly dialogue with fish interests and public interest groups on topics of mutual interest, and will be in touch to set those up going forward," he said.
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