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Commentaries and editorials

State Senator Tapped for Power Council

by Joe Rojas-Burke
The Oregonian, November 23, 2004

Joan Dukes of Astoria will deal with energy and environment issues
on the four-state agency

State Sen. Joan Dukes will leave the legislative post she's held since 1986 to accept a seat on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an agency representing the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana in the politically charged arena of hydropower dams and their impact on Columbia Basin salmon.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Monday announced his choice of Dukes, a fellow Democrat from Astoria, to take the place of Gene Derfler, a Salem Republican whose term expires Jan. 15.

The governor, in a statement, emphasized Dukes' experience in the Senate as key to working collaboratively with other states "on growing the region's economy while also protecting the environment."

Dukes also spoke of the need for collaboration in a telephone interview Monday. "Party affiliation shouldn't play a role," she said. "These are not partisan issues, or at least they shouldn't be."

The council, created by an act of Congress and funded by revenues from federal hydropower sales, works to balance the region's energy and environmental needs.

Oregon has clashed often with the other states on council issues, including the recent controversy over an industry-backed effort to increase power production at Columbia and Snake River dams. Kulongoski joined conservation groups and Native American tribes in a lawsuit contending that thousands of salmon would be killed by the changes in dam operations. A federal judge granted their request to block the power production move.

"Oregon is on the outside looking in," Derfler said of the state's position on the council. He said he had wanted to continue representing Oregon on the council -- a job that pays about $90,000 a year -- but respects the governor's choice of Dukes.

"She understands the process and will do a very good job," Derfler said.

Dukes is a native of Tacoma and a graduate of Evergreen State College. As a state senator, she has been active in fisheries and transportation issues. She represented Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties, and portions of Washington and Multnomah counties through four terms. She won a fifth term in 2002.

Dukes said she looks forward to the challenges of the new post.

"When the governor made the offer, I felt it was time to step up to the bigger four-state arena," she said. "It's a great opportunity for me. But I have to say, when I leave the Capitol and leave my office and my colleagues, I'll be sad. We have a lot of issues to work out this session. There are some regrets."

The senator will hold her seat until fellow senators confirm her appointment to the council.

Democratic precinct officials in her district get to nominate from three to five candidates to fill her Senate seat. County commissioners from the counties in her district appoint a replacement from that list. If the county fails to make an appointment within 30 days of the vacancy, the governor chooses the replacement.

Joe Rojas-Burke
State Senator Tapped for Power Council
The Oregonian, November 23, 2004

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