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Trout Unlimited Signs on for 'Green Power'

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - January 17, 2003

Trout Unlimited -- the nation's largest trout and salmon conservation organization -- on Wednesday launched its "Salmon Generation" green power initiative to promote renewable energy generation alternatives and salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest.

"Salmon and energy became forever linked in this region when we started building dams on the rivers and asking the salmon and steelhead to carry the load," said Jeff Curtis, Western conservation director for Trout Unlimited. "We've reached a point now where we need either to invest in changes that will lighten the burden of our energy demands on the backs of wild salmon and steelhead or seriously face the prospect of future generations without them."

To initiate the campaign, Trout Unlimited has purchased -- through Bonneville Environmental Foundation's Green Tags program -- an amount of energy from renewable sources sufficient to power its five national field offices in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. About 99 percent of energy purchased through BEF's Green Tags comes from new wind power generated within the region, with the remainder from solar.

"This is our small attempt to demonstrate the positive link between clean, affordable energy and sustainable salmon and steelhead runs to counter the false impression many folks seem to have that they're mutually exclusive," said Alan Moore of TU. "We hope that others vested in the future of this region's salmon and steelhead heritage will recognize that link and follow our lead."

Moore said that Trout Unlimited's investment amounts to about 75 cents a day for each of its five Columbia basin offices.

"Trout Unlimited has taken a leadership position with this purchase of renewable energy and their initiative to promote renewable power," said Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project, a regional advocacy organization for renewable sources of electricity. "Diversifying the region's energy resources with clean renewable power benefits the environment, local economies, and public health."

Currently hydropower supplies about 71 percent of the region's generating capacity, leaving utilities and ratepayers and salmon - at the mercy of dramatic swings in precipitation from year to year. In low-water years such as 2001, juvenile salmon in the Columbia-Snake basin experienced the deadliest migration in recent memory because river managers chose to operate the system of dams to maximize revenue, leaving migrating salmon and steelhead smolts high and dry, according to a Trout Unlimited press release.

Moore said that Trout Unlimited is promoting alternative sources such as wind and solar in the interest of diversifying to a broader set of energy resources, not in the interest of making hydropower obsolete.

"This isn't about replacing the Columbia-Snake hydrosystem with windmills," said Moore. "This is about encouraging the demand for clean sources like wind and solar to diversify our energy portfolio. As more green power comes on line and the cost gap narrows even further, we can be ready to look at the more harmful sources like outmoded dams and coal operations and put them in mothballs."

Trout Unlimited has been an outspoken proponent of removing four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington to prevent further extinctions of several wild salmon and steelhead stocks. The majority of scientists studying the issue maintain that removing those four dams is a necessary component of a successful recovery strategy for wild Snake River salmon, according to Trout Unlimited. The lower Snake River dams contribute less than 5 percent of the region's electricity.

Last year, volunteers with Trout Unlimited's California state council initiated a Green Tags program of their own with BEF, with percentages of each Tag purchased going to TU California's river restoration projects.

"We're hoping to spread the word throughout the West and indeed nationwide that healthy fisheries and clean, affordable energy not only can coexist, but that they're both necessary components of a sustainable future," Moore said.

CBB Staff
Trout Unlimited Signs on for 'Green Power'
Columbia Basin Bulletin, January 17, 2003

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