Tuesday, July 15, 1997

Deregulation report threat to thirteen Columbia River Basin tribes, wildlife and salmon

By Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C.--"Seriously flawed."

Mincing no words Wendell Hannigan, vice-chair of Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, described to a House Subcommittee a Comprehensive Review report that endorsed changes in the Northwest energy system as defective.

According to CRITFC, the Comprehensive Review report — released in early June which touts disregulation — could have a severe impact in the Pacific Northwest on the federal government's commitment to fish and wildlife protection and restoration.

Yakama member Hannigan — who holds a position with their Fish and Wildlife Committee — announced that "utilities and industries have focused on increasing their own profits and not protecting the region's natural resources."

Utilities and large industrial power users of the federal government are trying to use energy deregulation as a pretext for dividing up the benefits of the Columbia River at the expense of region residents, Columbia Basin Indian tribes, and the area's fish and wildlife, he states.

Proposals in the report were unlikely to meet the federal government's obligations to protect and restore resources that are critically important to the tribes, especially salmon, he added.

The Bonneville Power Administration supports efforts to concentrate the wealth of the river into the hands of a few, Hannigan charged.

CRITFC's Wana Chinook Tymoo reported overall areas for concern as being the subscription process (contracting to purchase federal power), fish and wildlife funding, separation of energy generation and transmission, public purposes, consumer access and river governance.

Umatilla member Jay Minthorne disproved the report. "We believe the region can meet both its fish and wildlife obligations and still provide economical electricity."