May 17, 1997 in City

Groups Explore Ways To Balance Interests Along Columbia River Deregulation By Congress Could Have Severe Effect On Northwest

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The future of the Columbia River and the wildlife and industry that depend upon it get too little consideration from some key Northwest decision-makers, representatives from more than two dozen regional groups said Friday.

The result has been a near breakdown of the few efforts to reach consensus, some said, with the decision Thursday by four basin tribes to withdraw from a salmon restoration review just the latest example. The state of Montana had pulled our earlier.

Representatives who convened in Spokane on Thursday and Friday were asked to explore ways regional interests could be organized to balance competing demands for the Columbia’s resources.

The invitation was drafted by a Northwest Energy Review Transition Board that is trying to position the region for deregulation of the electricity industry.

Congress is likely to start action on deregulation measures, which could have severe consequences for the Northwest, later this year.

“This is not our legislation,” said Jim Litchfield, a utility consultant.

The greater the number of issues resolved in the region, the fewer that will be left to Congress, added Rick Applegate of Trout Unlimited.

To help craft a response, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber will convene federal, state and tribal leaders in Portland on June 3.

Meeting facilitator Jim Waldo, a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Washington last year, said Kitzhaber and the governors of Washington, Idaho and Montana must become more active in discussions of Columbia River matters, particularly fish and wildlife.

Howard Funke, representing the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene tribes, expressed frustration with the weight given tribal concerns in the past, but added that the June meeting may at last bring together the appropriate leadership.

“The more we delay, the more risk we run,” he said.

, DataTimes


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