Energy company leaders have sent letters to the governors of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana urging that all parties with interests in the Snake River try to avoid confrontation and work together to solve the issue of endangered salmon.
The letter comes in advance of an environmental impact statement that will soon be released by the Army Corps of Engineers. That document will outline several options for the river in terms of how to deal with the endangered fish. Those options could include everything from breaching the four dams on the river to working to improve fish habitat.
Environmental impact statements have often been challenged by conservation groups. A federal judge has ruled the plan has not gone far enough to save fish runs, many of which are listed as threatened or endangered.
Chad Jensen, the CEO of Inland Power in Spokane, says the energy companies hope the gridlock of litigation can be avoided this time around.
“Maybe this is setting a new precedent. It shouldn’t be actually, but we can sit down and discuss it rather than fighting it out in court,” Jensen said.
He said Inland customers spend about $10 million per year, or a quarter of the cost of power purchased from Bonneville Power Administration, on fish and wildlife programs, primarily to help the salmon.
Inland Power has been opposed to breaching the Snake River dams.
“We think there are other solutions. Obviously fish passage through the dams is significant. They do well with spill. It’s a mental block for the region that dams are bad for fish. We think they can coexist,” Jensen said.
Those dams produce about 5% of the hydropower used in the region. Critics of the dams say they are the main obstacle to salmon migration to and from the ocean.