To date, the story of the lower Snake River has been defined by divisions. But this week marked a shift from the old paradigm toward a future defined by shared vision and collaboration.
We should know. We were part of both.
As the CEO of a major electric utility and the executive director of a conservation group focused on the restoration of salmon and steelhead, we have plenty of reasons, and plenty of history on which to disagree, but we have one pressing vision on which we can stake common ground.
In finding this common ground, we know we can find collaborative solutions that will build a future for the Pacific Northwest that includes abundant and harvestable salmon and steelhead, respect for Columbia Basin tribes, the enhancement of regional economies and the continued production of clean, affordable, reliable energy.
Last week, we joined 15 other energy, port and conservation leaders in calling on state and federal officials to prioritize identifying strategic investments and actions needed to meet the challenges we face as Snake River salmon and steelhead continue to decline. At the same time, we understand the importance of preserving our region’s access to clean, affordable energy.
It is important to note that these challenges are not limited to keeping these iconic species off the Endangered Species List. Recovery of salmon and steelhead for the Pacific Northwest means fish coming back in numbers that get anglers back on the water and grow businesses and communities that rely upon them.
It also means addressing linked and complex challenges about how we help farmers and ranchers, boost rural economies, reduce the high cost of keeping the status quo, meet transportation and water needs and, yes, keep utilities doing what they do best in providing reliable power.
In short, we need solutions that work for both fish and people. We need a better return on our investment in recovering these populations. But one cannot come at the expense of the other.
As we look at the challenges ahead, we must use the recovery of salmon and steelhead as a starting point for the complex conversations necessary to solve the hard problems and build a proud future.
Just as leaders in energy and conservation have come together, so should our elected officials.
This is not an issue we can let sit for another decade as the arguments and litigation of the past continue to play out. Quite simply, we are running out of time to get this right.
The issues before us are complex, but our mutual interests as a region are much greater than the issues that divide us. The time is now for us all to come together as a region to work collaboratively to restore fish, meet our energy needs and move progressively forward.
Chad Jensen is chief executive officer of Inland Power and Light Co. Joseph Bogaard is an executive director of Save Our wild Salmon Coalition.
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