I frequently read newspaper articles claiming that the Bonneville Power Administration has spent at least $17,000,000,000 (that’s 17 billion) attempting to recover Columbia Basin threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. This claim needs clarification.

Federal law requires BPA to be self-sustaining. A more accurate statement: Private citizens and business owners across the Pacific Northwest have paid the lion’s share of that $17 billion, month-by-month when they pay their electricity bills.

Fish and wildlife costs make up 24 percent of BPA’s nearly $3 billion annual budget, or around $700 million each year. Meanwhile, BPA is $15 billion in debt, recently burned through $900 million of its financial reserves, raised power prices by 30 percent over eight years, and will soon max out its $7-plus-billion credit card from the U.S. Treasury. Add to the mix aging assets that require increasingly greater capital expenditures, along with falling prices for BPA’s surplus energy.

Congressman Simpson has crafted a proposal that would give BPA a chance for financial survival. Ignore or oppose Simpson’s proposal and Pacific Northwesterners stand to lose more than Snake River salmon and steelhead.

Bonnie Schonefeld