Value of the River - Environmental Stewardship

Uploaded by BonnevillePower on 28.01.2010

Doug Johnson: Do you ever stop to think just how connected everything is in nature? For
example, the water that falls from the sky as rain and snow goes into streams and tributaries
and ultimately into rivers like the Columbia. And that’s just one part of this incredibly
interconnected system. As environmental stewards, we are required by law to protect and enhance
the environment while providing energy from this clean source. It’s important to understand
that we don’t only do this because it’s our job, but we’re residents of the Northwest
too — you see we’re all connected to the value of the river.
So as you can imagine, BPA has an awesome responsibility in being a good environmental
steward while doing the work that it does. So today I am at Tryon Creek State Park [Oregon]
with Sarah McNary who’s a BPA senior advisor for endangered species. Sarah, how do you
get it all done and protect the environment at the same time?
Sarah McNary: Well, we certainly don’t do it alone. We do it with a couple of extremely
important federal agency partners: the Army Corps of Engineers that operates most of the
hydroelectric projects that we market power from and also the Bureau of Reclamation. We
have extremely close partnerships with them. We also have a number of partnerships with
other agencies within the Pacific Northwest. They are carrying out a whole variety of fish
and wildlife projects, environmental projects, etc., in partnership with Bonneville.
Doug Johnson: And not only that, BPA operates 15,000 circuit miles of transmission lines
on about 8,500 miles of rights of way across the Northwest. How does BPA make sure that
those activities – building and maintaining transmission lines – is environmentally
sound and friendly?
Sarah McNary: Bonneville takes its environmental responsibilities for the transmission system
extremely seriously. We have done very large, what are called ESA [endangered species act]
consultations, on our transmission line developments and our maintenance of the transmission lines.
And that absolutely ensures everybody in the field understands when the nesting seasons
are for spotted owls, marbled murrelets, other listed species; when they can enter those
areas, when they cannot enter those areas. Our entire construction and maintenance program
is really driven by protocols that are put in place for that construction and maintenance.
And they carry out those mandates, I think, extremely well.
Doug Johnson: So, Sarah, a lot of impressive work in operation of the power system, marketing
the power, doing these things with the Corps and the Bureau; also a lot of great conservation
efforts. But there’s another leg of this stool, and that’s the work that BPA does
to protect the species that call the Northwest home. A very robust fish and wildlife program,
can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sarah McNary: Sure. We do have an extremely large fish and wildlife program. It’s been
characterized as the largest in the world. It is about now, $750 million dollars a year
that BPA ratepayers spend or make adjustments in the operation of the hydro system in order
to protect listed species traveling through the river system. Just to give you some sense
of the magnitude of what’s being done out there to protect fish and wildlife, just since
2005, the program has made accessible over 1,400 miles of watershed and streams. Now
that allows the fish to access areas that they had been blocked from accessing and really
creates wonderful habitat for them. Protecting them, insuring that what we can do to recover
species is done is really one of our highest mandates for the agency.
Doug Johnson: So, Sarah, a lot of really important work being done to protect the environment
by the BPA and a host of partners. Any other efforts that we should be aware of?
Sarah McNary: Well, actually yes. We have a fairly extensive education program. I’ll
start with the Kids in the Creek, one of my favorites. That program is for young kids,
they’re grade schoolers. We go out into the field with them and really show them what
a healthy ecosystem looks like. And we hope that they learn from that, and then apply
that in their future decisions about how to treat the environment.
Doug Johnson: I understand it doesn’t stop there. There’s another big initiative that
you use to education middle and high school students and involve them. What’s that effort?
Sarah McNary: That’s the Science Bowl. And that is a truly wonderful program. It’s
a math and science competition. It’s extremely popular; hundreds of kids throughout the region
participate in this. And what’s pretty wonderful about it is that people who win can then go
to the national level with the Department of Energy in a subsequent competition.
Doug Johnson: Now, not only that, I understand BPA does a lot of work with its partner utilities.
Can you tell us a little bit about those partnerships?
Sarah McNary: We have a variety of opportunities to go out with our partner utilities. That
includes educational displays, and presentations on energy conservation, energy efficiency
and renewable power. And we keep those extremely active throughout the year.
Doug Johnson: Sarah, thanks a lot for joining us. I’ve got a much better idea of what
BPA does to protect the environment and I’m hoping that our viewers do too.
So I hope you have a little better idea of the lengths that BPA and its partners go to,
to protect the environment. It’s an effort that involves countless agencies and thousands
of people. But more importantly, it’s an effort that involves you. You, through your
local utility and efforts you can take it home, can help protect the environment and
preserve the value of the river.