Finding the Next Right Leader for BPA
by Editorial Board
You could argue the most important job to Oregon is the governor and probably be right. But the list narrows quickly after that, and among the few top contenders is the chief of the Bonneville Power Administration.
Steve Wright, a career civil servant at BPA who's in his 12th year as administrator, retires soon after a deft run in balancing the needs of Northwest utilities, tribes, Beltway politicians, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, conservationists, shippers and irrigators dependent on the Columbia River and a growing but uncertain renewable energy sector.
But the job, like Wright, is heading into territory as unknown as Oregon's energy future. And the choice of Wright's successor will be consequential to Oregon's economy, quality of life and energy security in the growth decades ahead.
Things to keep in mind: The hydropower system of the Columbia River Basin, from which BPA markets abundant and cheap electricity, is the largest in North America and the core reason Portland and its surrounding region prospered over the last seven decades. Ballooned by dams into a series of slackwater lakes, the Columbia and its tributary Snake River allow for shipping that last year moved $20 billion in cargo and supported 40,000 jobs. Several runs of fish protected by the Endangered Species Act call the Columbia home, yet efforts to promote their survival siphon more than $700 million annually from BPA in cash and foregone generating revenue.
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