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New Agency to Guide BPA, Fish Sought

Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 17, 1999

SALEM, Ore. -- Gov. John Kitzhaber wants the four Pacific Northwest governors to join forces to develop plans for a new agency that would oversee the Bonneville Power Administration and coordinate fish and wildlife restoration efforts in the Columbia and Snake river basins.

Kitzhaber is expected to deliver his message to the governors of Washington, Idaho and Montana at a luncheon in Seattle today.

The new authority would give the region greater control over Columbia River Basin salmon recovery and block congressional efforts to change the way the region's low-cost hydroelectricity is managed.

These duties now fall to the 19-year-old Northwest Power Planning Council, which has an advisory role over how federal agencies oversee fish and wildlife policies in the two river basins.

Kitzhaber said he wants governors to begin work on the new agency immediately, because of the council's lack of progress in aiding the Columbia's 11 threatened or endangered fish species. The new organization also could more effectively deal with a movement gaining favor in Congress to end regional control over cheap hydroelectric power.

Washington state consumes 61 percent of the federal hydropower sold by the BPA.

The new organization might eventually acquire the BPA from the federal government, Kitzhaber suggested. Such a move would put an end to efforts in Congress to privatize the BPA or force it to sell power at market rates -- both scenarios would cause electricity prices to soar throughout the Northwest.

Acquisition of the BPA also could ensure continued spending on salmon and wildlife habitat restoration.

Kitzhaber said he is concerned that two of the region's greatest assets, Columbia River salmon and steelhead, along with low-cost hydroelectric power, may vanish.

"On the fish side, we don't have the capacity to develop a fish-and-wildlife plan that we can actually compel federal agencies to carry out," he said.

Although Kitzhaber has voiced his greatest concerns about the Columbia River's dwindling fish, he said a new governing body for hydropower could also help insulate the region's cheap electricity from outside forces.

"If the region doesn't develop a consensus for how to deal with these two issues, we're going to lose federal power," he said.

Associated Press
New Agency to Guide BPA, Fish Sought
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 17, 1999

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