Murray Kill Risch's Salmon Efforts,
by Rocky Barker
Free Lance writer Ken Olson has a good overview of the Columbia River salmon debate in this week's High Country News. There isn't a lot new here for regular Idaho Statesman readers but it does a good job of giving the big picture.
Olson does bring up one interesting point that I forgot. The Bonneville Power Administration was created to produce power for Pacific Northwest public power customers and industries at cost. The Northwest Power Act of 1980 was written to provide balance with fish and wildlife responsibilities as well.
But when a whole series of nuclear reactors defaulted in the Washington Public Power System in 1983 when demand dropped far below BPA estimates, the federal agency picked up a big part of the tab and began aggressively selling its power to California to pay back part of the $2 billion cost. So as Olson reported, BPA sells surplus power to California at premium prices in July and August when as Rod Sando, former director of both Idaho Fish and Game and the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, is quoted "exactly the point in time the fish need the water the most."
The man who first raised this issue was former Attorney General and now Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones who sued BPA to protect Idaho steelhead saying the federal government was using Idaho water to turn hydro turbines to heat California hot tubs instead of allowing it to flow down river and help Idaho's fish.
Olson also identifies accurately the Northwest politician who has taken away Larry Craig's crown as the most anti-Idaho salmon leader in the Pacific Northwest, Washington Democrat Patty Murray. Murray was responsible for killing, at least for now, Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch's ambitious efforts to begin a regional forum on resolving the salmon issue before U.S. District Judge James Redden takes it in his own hands.
Murray was convinced that Redden was going to rule in favor of the federal dam managers including BPA. Now it is in the hands of the Obama Administration, which has asked the judge for more time.
That's good news for salmon advocates who always have higher hopes when the issue is decided in Washington instead of in the region. But a national debate about Pacific salmon also empowers California's powerful congressional delegation that likes its access to the region's cheap low-carbon power.
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