BPA payments are just bribery to keep lower Snake dams

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In July, several Ohio politicians were arrested for accepting $60 million in bribes for their support of failing utility projects.

Corrupt Midwestern politicians, you think? By Northwest standards they’re small time losers that don’t know how to play the game.

At this moment Bonneville Power Administration is pressuring Northwest states, agencies and tribes to sign a document called the Columbia Fish Accords Extension. The original accords paid tribes and the states of Washington, Montana and Idaho a total of $100 million a year for 10 years. The extension promises BPA will add $420 million to the amount they have already paid.

The con is that BPA and the recipients want you to think the accords pay for habitat, hatchery and lower Columbia estuary projects to benefit the basin’s fish, particularly salmon, steelhead and lamprey.

The truth is much simpler. BPA is buying silence and fealty. The accords prohibit those who sign on from supporting lower Snake River dam breaching, the universally accepted best way to recover endangered salmon. Or, simpler still, call it what they call it in Ohio: bribery.

Worse, the main reason BPA and the Army Corps of Engineers want to keep the dams is bureaucratic arrogance and pride. They’re embarrassed to admit they screwed up.

The empty promise of the lower Snake River Dams back in the 1970s was that they would provide cheap navigation, cheap energy and not endanger fish. They are failing at all three.

Forty-five years after they were built, navigation tonnage on the Snake is now about half of its break-even level and trending downward as shippers abandon the river for cheaper, more reliable alternatives. Power from the lower Snake River Dams is surplus power that is produced mostly in the spring when it is not needed and is sold, mostly to California, for a loss.

And the salmon? The salmon are teetering on the edge of extinction as Idaho lurches from one canceled fishing season to the next and Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little refuses to allow his Salmon Workgroup to discuss the benefits of dam breaching.

In other words, BPA ratepayers, taxpayers, and the salmon would all be better off without the lower Snake River Dams and the bribes BPA pays to support them.

The best way to end the corruption is to eliminate the cause. Breach the lower Snake River dams. Time is wasting.

Tony Jones

Boise, Idaho

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