The word seems to be getting out. Recently, a bipartisan group of Oregon legislators wrote Gov. Kate Brown urging her to “constructively participate with regional partners on the operation of the federal Columbia River system.”
It is a long-overdue request.
For years, the state of Oregon has been an outlier when it comes to the federal Columbia River system, insisting that it alone—through a risky plan to spill more water over the dams to push fish downstream—has the silver-bullet solution to improve salmon runs at federal projects. It is a baffling position, particularly for fisheries scientists who study these issues, and certainly one contrary to the “Oregon way”—the state’s rich history of collaboration and cooperation.
What Oregon does have, according to lawmakers, is an expensive proposal.
“The state of Oregon’s spill request has been estimated to cost customers of the Bonneville Power Administration $40 million per year, the impact of which will be felt greatest in the rural areas of the state,” wrote the Oregon legislators.
Oregon’s electric cooperatives certainly appreciate Rep. Sherrie Sprenger leading this important effort, which follows up a similar letter from U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader about Oregon’s spill program. The two Democratic congressmen—and strong advocates for electric cooperative consumers—also have raised significant issues about Oregon’s spill program, posing a series of questions to federal officials about its cost and effectiveness.
A federal judge has ruled more water will be spilled at certain federal dams in 2018. What is undecided: Will Gov. Brown work with federal officials, other Northwest states and Native Americans on a collaborative approach? Or will Oregon insist on its plan, even though it could force consumers at Harney Electric Cooperative, as one example, to pay an additional $100 a year for their electricity?
For the sake of the more than 500,000 consumers served by electric cooperatives, we certainly hope the new “Oregon way” isn’t simply about getting your way without considering other points of view.