Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
To Northwest Power Planning Council
January 12, 2000
Good morning. Welcome to Washington State and Tacoma. January is not the driest month in these parts, but I hope you are finding your stay here enjoyable.
Tacoma has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Many years ago, it was a bustling industrial center. Then it went into a period of decline and lost some of its vitality. Over the last few years, we have seen some very positive changes and you see the results before you today. We have the historic Union Station just down the road on Pacific Avenue, restored to its original grandeur. We have the Washington State Historical Museum, and the federal court buildings. The Theater District just north of us attracts patrons throughout the region. We have the Tacoma Branch of the University of Washington, bringing higher education to students closer to home. And Port of Tacoma east of us is the sixth largest container Port in North America.
Tacoma's renewal is not due to the efforts of any one person, or any one source of money. Rather, it came from many different areas. But one thing all of the leaders behind this renewal have in common, is a commitment to the city.
I think there is some similarity here with what I have seen with the situation in the Columbia Basin.
In all honesty, I have found Columbia River issues complicated, confusing and frustrating. For example, lots of money is spent on fish, but more fish get listed under the Endangered Species Act. Then there is the question about who is in charge - various federal agencies, four states, many tribes.
Clearly, there are problems. We are struggling to improve coordination, to find a common focus, and to be effective and efficient in what we do.
Many of you know, however, I do not support amending the Northwest Power Act with a new governance structure. I think this will lead us into a multi-year debate that will sidetrack us from the very real issues we face this year involving the transmission system, subscription and, of course, fish. Worse, such a debate has the potential to divide us and put this incredibly valuable resource - the Columbia River Power System - at risk. Given the stakes for Washington, we will be very forceful in protecting our voice in the region, our preference customers, and our share of BPA power.
As happened with Tacoma, I believe smaller, well-planned steps will be more effective in getting us where we want to go than hoping some future new forum can do the job for us. And I think the Power Council is the logical place to start.
I have discussed this situation with Larry Cassidy and Tom Karier and here are three points I think we should stress this year:
First, on fish, we need to push for a comprehensive and integrated recovery effort. This means we don't just focus on listed salmon or the Snake dams. This does mean we have a plan that deals with all four H's (hydro, habitat, harvest, and hatcheries), all fish and wildlife. This also means we do this in a way that protects our low-cost and reliable power supply. And this means that a regional fish plan must complement, not duplicate, state efforts.
Second, we have to share the burden of fish recovery. All of us - four states, the tribes, and the economic interest and fish advocate groups - have to stop pushing the responsibility onto others. I think the evidence is clear - there is no single magic bullet. Salmon recovery has to occur on multiple fronts.
Third, we need to better account for the money we spend. This is basic to all public administration. There are three aspects to this:
A stronger reporting procedure is needed to account for fish and wildlife expenditures. Ratepayers need to see what they have received from the funds recommended by the Council. Failures, as well as successes, should be part of that report. This follows up on the four-governor letter to the Council last summer
Scientific review should be a serious and consistent part of the evaluation process for fish spending proposals. Nothing will hurt our recovery effort greater than a developing reputation that we are using ratepayer money to fund projects that have little relevance for salmon recovery.
Planning and overhead expenses must be kept to a minimum. These expenditures by BPA, the Council, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, and project sponsors may make sense individually, but may make little sense when considered in total. The Council is in a good position to review this situation and to assure the region that expenditures are directed to achieving specific goals and are neither excessive nor redundant.
These directions and initiatives can move the region forward in resolving some of the problems we face. Individually, they are perhaps small steps, but taken as a whole, will lead to very positive results and restore public confidence that we in the region can manage the Columbia Basin well.
We have in the Columbia Basin a great natural resource and a formidable economic engine. It is our system, built by our leaders and workers, on our waterways and across our landscapes. We have a legacy to protect. And I think we need a renewal of spirit and commitment to do what it takes to protect these benefits. I believe we are starting to move in the right direction and the role of the Power Council is absolutely crucial in making it happen.
Thank you very much.