As the old folks are beginning to die from hypothermia because they can't pay their electric bills, it seems worth re-emphasizing that the Lunatic Left is out sharpening its knives for a new round of "ecosystem restoration". Insofar as Pacific Northwest salmon are concerned, "ecosystem restoration" mostly means extorting money from hydroelectric dams, resulting in higher electric rates, the death of large quantities of natural resource industry jobs, and an ever-growing loyal cadre of high-paid Leftist eco-bureaucrats.
Following up on his "State of the State" address, Governor Kulongoski now wants to waste much more of the power of the Columbia River, including wasting 64% of the river flow at The Dalles Dam from April through August. We can be sure this action is not about saving fish, because they did tests at The Dalles, and found that a lot more fish survived at 32% waste than 64% waste. It turns out that spilling most of the river over the top of the Dam advantages predators, who are able to eat more tasty smolts when spill rates are high.
The last Lying Leftist Lunatic Governor, John Kitzhaber, was so eager to waste more water at the dams that he ordered the Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission to waive water quality standards that prevented excessive spill. Too much spill is the only operational screw-up that has caused big piles of dead fish to show up at the dams, dead from gas bubble disease caused by excessive spill. (Sometimes the gillnetters cause piles of dead fish to show up at the dams, because the prices drop so low it's cheaper to dump the fish dead in the river than haul them back to shore.) But if excessive spill doesn't kill enough fish, they won't pile up faster than the predators can eat them, and the Lunatic Left will be happy. After all, it is more "natural" to spill water over the top of dams than run it through the turbines.
Governor Kulongoski also wants to lower the level of John Day reservoir by 17 feet or more, leaving 400,000 acres of irrigated land high and dry (not to mention rendering the fish ladders and navigation locks unworkable). The Governor does generously allow that the federal government should go print some more money to pay for new irrigation intakes and pumps to help the farmers.
The Lunatic Leftists are equal opportunity destroyers up and down the river. We can't dredge to the sea, so the container barge lines are leaving Portland. We can't dredge at the top, so the farmers and mills around Lewiston, Idaho may not be able to ship their lproducts downriver. And now we'll be draining the reservoir in middle, and spilling so fast that it literally wears out the dams. It's all part of the Governor's Secret Plan (99Kb MS Word document).
On January 28, 2005, having failed to sell the federal dam operators on his secret plan, the Governor told his lawyers to intervene in the long-running salmon litigation in federal court before United States District Judge James Redden (appropriately enough, it was the 666th document filed in the case). According to the intervention papers, the reason so many salmon runs are listed as threatened or endangered is "largely as a result of massive annual mortality at the hands of the Federal Columbia River Power System". In fact, salmon runs are listed everywhere, including in rivers with no dams. In fact, the fish ladders and the smolt transportation barges probably give the fish higher survival up and down the Columbia than they would experience in a natural river without dams (but with rapids and waterfalls).
Over the last decade, the lies of the Lunatic Left, often presented in Court by Oregon's Attorney General and his designees, have required the Bonneville Power Administration to charge some of the highest electric rates in the country, despite having fuel costs of essentially zero. And the Lunatic Leftists have more tools at hand than lawyers to raise the rates. Prodded by the Governor's appointees, the Northwest Power & Conservation Council has evolved into the old Soviet Gosplan, and its massive "subbasin planning" has now reached its foul fruition. Based upon the subbasin plans, the Lunatics are this month proposing to add roughly $460 million a year to BPA rates.
Governor Kulongoski and his crowd seem to like nothing more than kicking business interests in the nuts (other than the businesses of his buddies, like former Governor Neil "Short Eyes" Goldschmidt). One would think that just one of the many industry groups whose sock puppets fill endless government meetings would deign to object to all this nonsense, but this being Oregon, the prevailing view seems to be "thank you sir, may I have another". Things won't change until a lot more old ladies die, I guess.
© James Buchal, February 1, 2005
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