The Northwest Power Act: An Electric Bill for Anadromous Fish

Alan F. Blakley, The Northwest Power Act: An Electric Bill for Anadromous Fish, 24 Gonz. L. Rev. 321 (1988).

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The Columbia River rises in Columbia Lake in Canada on the western slope of the Canadian Rockies. Together with its major tributaries-
Kootenai, Clark Fork, Spokane, Okanogan, Snake, Yakima, Deschutes and Willamette Rivers-it drains an area of 260,000 square miles. The Columbia River system traverses western Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon on a 1200 mile flow to the Pacific Ocean.

The Columbia River system provides irrigation in this semiarid region for over seven million acres, provides about eighty percent of the inexpensive electricity in the region, and supports the world’s largest run of chinook salmon and steelhead trout.’ The Columbia is also the most highly developed river system in the world, according to a 1979 General Accounting Office report.

Interests in the Columbia’s use advanced by the disparate groups in the region are rarely compatible. Rather, there is normally great dissent between the out-of-stream users of water and the in-stream users. Furthermore, even among the in-stream users or the out-of-stream users, there is rarely agreement. The Columbia provides a limited amount of water, even though the system drains nearly 260,000 square miles.” Each of the interests needs a vast amount of that water. The major out-ofstream users are municipal water supplies, industry and irrigation. The in-stream users include hydropower, fisheries and recreation. Add to these interests the interests of the sovereigns-the four States, the Indian tribes and Canada-and the potential problems multiply . . . Read More

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