The Future of Government Decisionmaking and a Potential Role for BPA

Notwithstanding the enormous power of the media and government, the truth has some influence, even in the world of politics. I hope this book can arm you with many the facts you need to fight back. More are available in libraries. There are also a lot of Internet Websites that contain further information on salmon recovery. Like everything else on the Internet, you have to work to separate the wheat from the chaff, but there is much wheat to be had.

It is especially unfortunate that rural people often lack access to the Internet. We are getting very close to a world of haves and have-nots, with the critical variable being access to high-speed two-way communications. We need to remember that it took a major effort to wire the Pacific Northwest for electricity. That, coupled with the creation of millions of acres of productive farmland, was perhaps the greatest achievement of the dams.

Some at the Bonneville Power Administration think that BPA's existing transmission system towers could form the central nervous system of a Northwest-wide transmission system for information. It would be easy, efficient, and environmentally optimal to add fiber optic trunks to all of BPA's existing lines. This would bring Internet access to the rural Northwest more rapidly, perhaps even faster than to the urban Northwest. The rural folk need it more, since they live farther apart. Unfortunately, none of the leaders at BPA have the vision to pursue the idea. They would rather capitulate to demands to waste BPA money on flow and spill.

The electric power establishment is trying to ensure that restructuring of the Northwest electric industry, including BPA, will allow pursuit of the "normative" river by replacing lost electric power revenues with electric transmission revenues. Their tactic is to turn the transmission system into a system for tax collection (called a "system benefit charge", not a tax). The environmentalists go along because the system benefit charge is earmarked for “conservation” and all sorts of other projects whose benefits are unknown, never quantified, and largely imaginary.

Environmentalist organizations with multi-million dollar, publicly-funded budgets have already been created to disburse the spoils. They will agitate for more government to perfect their vision of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.

Anybody who cares enough to read this book knows that the government isn’t very reliable about fixing problems. Monopolies never are. More and more, citizens have to start paying serious attention to the government just to ensure the most basic governmental functions are not all screwed up. We can’t afford to be wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on salmon recovery when roads need building, gunfire on the streets keeps communities cowering in their homes, and the educational system is in rampant decay.

Citizens need to get organized for a fight that will take place in the media, before legislators, before administrators, and in the courts. Now that the Supreme Court has let citizens back into court, they can start regaining some legal ground that have been lost over the last twenty years to environmentalists. They can fight for rational approaches to natural resource management. There are many groups in the Pacific Northwest that need your help to fight back, including my client the Columbia River Alliance.

If you don’t get involved, don’t be surprised if you don’t like what the government does. The government long ago ceased to look out for the broad public interests of citizens. One can attend the endless public meetings on salmon recovery, electric industry restructuring, and many other issues without detecting a whiff of principle in the room. Most of what passes for governance is politicians catering to special interest groups in order to gain favorable media attention. Everyone is a special interest group, and if your special interest group doesn’t get organized to put pressure on politicians, you lose.

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