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The BPA Power-Salmon Crisis: A Way Out

June 2001

Citation: ELR 10726

Author: Michael C. Blumm and Daniel J. Rohlf

The electricity crisis of 2001 produced more than rolling blackouts in California, skyrocketing prices throughout the West, and calls from the Bush Administration to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. It also revealed that the historic imbalance between hydropower generation and salmon protection in the Columbia Basin remains a fixture of life in the Northwest.

When the U.S. Congress passed the Northwest Power Act more than two decades ago, it directed the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and other federal agencies managing river flows in the Columbia Basin to put fish and wildlife protection on par with the generation of hydroelectric power.1 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted this promise of parity to give fish and wildlife "equal footing" with hydropower.2 However, as recent events again demonstrate, the BPA and other federal water managers have never embraced this balance.

Michael C. Blumm is Professor of Law at Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College and Co-Director of the Northwest Water Law and Policy Project. Daniel J. Rohlf is Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College and Director of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center.

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