Trout Unlimited Buys Renewable Energy to Power Columbia Basin Field Offices
Western Communications Coordinator
1/14/2003 -- Portland, Oregon -- Trout Unlimited, the nation's largest trout and salmon conservation organization, today launched its "Salmon Generation" green power initiative to promote renewable energy generation alternatives and salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest.
"Salmon and energy became forever linked in this region when we started building dams on the rivers and asking the salmon and steelhead to carry the load," said Jeff Curtis, Western Conservation Director for Trout Unlimited. "We've reached a point now where we need either to invest in changes that will lighten the burden of our energy demands on the backs of wild salmon and steelhead or seriously face the prospect of future generations without them."
To initiate the campaign, Trout Unlimited has purchased -- through Bonneville Environmental Foundation's Green Tags program -- an amount of energy from renewable sources sufficient to power its five national field offices in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. About 99% of energy purchased through BEF's Green Tags comes from new wind power generated within the region, with the remainder from solar.
"This is our small attempt to demonstrate the positive link between clean, affordable energy and sustainable salmon and steelhead runs to counter the false impression many folks seem to have that they're mutually exclusive," said Alan Moore of TU. "We hope that others vested in the future of this region's salmon and steelhead heritage will recognize that link and follow our lead."
Moore said that Trout Unlimited's investment amounts to about 75 cents a day for each of its five Columbia basin offices
"Trout Unlimited has taken a leadership position with this purchase of renewable energy and their initiative to promote renewable power," said Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project, a regional advocacy organization for renewable sources of electricity. "Diversifying the region's energy resources with clean renewable power benefits the environment, local economies, and public health."
Currently hydropower supplies about 71% of the region's generating capacity, leaving utilities and ratepayers -- and salmon -- at the mercy of dramatic swings in precipitation from year to year. In low-water years such as 2001, juvenile salmon in the Columbia-Snake basin experienced the deadliest migration in recent memory because river managers chose to operate the system of dams to maximize revenue, leaving migrating salmon and steelhead smolts high and dry.
Moore said that Trout Unlimited is promoting alternative sources such as wind and solar in the interest of diversifying to a broader set of energy resources, not in the interest of making hydropower obsolete.
"This isn't about replacing the Columbia-Snake hydrosystem with windmills," said Moore. "This is about encouraging the demand for clean sources like wind and solar to diversify our energy portfolio. As more green power comes on line and the cost gap narrows even further, we can be ready to look at the more harmful sources like outmoded dams and coal operations and put them in mothballs."
Trout Unlimited has been an outspoken proponent of removing four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington to prevent further extinctions of several wild salmon and steelhead stocks. The majority of scientists studying the issue maintain that removing those four dams is a necessary component of a successful recovery strategy for wild Snake River salmon. The lower Snake River dams contribute less than 5 percent of the region's electricity.
Last year, volunteers with Trout Unlimited's California state council initiated a Green Tags program of their own with BEF, with percentages of each Tag purchased going to TU California's river restoration projects.
"We're hoping to spread the word throughout the West and indeed nation-wide that healthy fisheries and clean, affordable energy not only can coexist, but that they're both necessary components of a sustainable future," Moore said.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION FROM TROUT UNLIMITED
We've long recognized the permanent link between energy and salmon and steelhead in the Northwest. Once we started harnessing the rivers and generating hydropower with dams, the way salmon and steelhead live in the region was forever changed. And it doesn't end there: trout and salmon populations throughout the world are feeling the effects of climate change, siltation, erosion, pollution and toxic precipitation - all related directly or indirectly to the way we meet our energy needs.
Many involved in fish conservation talk about energy, but too few of us do much about it. TU has decided to do just that, to walk the talk. We are investing in the kinds of changes that will lead to less impact from energy production on the rivers, lakes, streams and fish we are seeking to protect. Our hope is that our small step will influence others who care about fish to seek the kinds of small changes that, assembled together, grow to major change, and a positive impact on fish recovery and protection in the Northwest and beyond.
How Does it Work?
Through a program offered by Bonneville Environmental Foundation called Green Tags, National TU is purchasing an amount of renewable energy equal to the amount needed to power our five national field offices in the Northwest. The renewable power purchased through the Green Tags program goes to the regional energy pool, and replaces an equal amount of "dirty" power in the grid. Energy purchased through BEF's Green Tags program is 99 percent wind power, with the remainder solar.
What's the Point?
It is important to realize that the intent here is not to replace all hydropower dams with windmills, or to do away with gas-fired energy in favor of solar. However, it is clear that if we stay the course in the ways we meet our energy needs, the fish that have paid such a major price to support us will soon have nothing left to give. The intent is to diversify the region's energy portfolio, especially increasing the renewables, so that demand goes up, prices go down, and more common use will allow us to take a look at retiring some of the more harmful sources - like outmoded dams or coal-fired plants - when the time comes. TU hopes that others concerned with the future of the Northwest's salmon, steelhead and trout heritage will follow, and future generations will be able to experience it too.
What Can I Do?
Ratepayers in the Northwest have an ever-increasing range of choices to support renewable power. Many are offered through local utilities, while others, like Green Tags, can be supported independently of one's local utility. Trout Unlimited urges you to ask your utility about any renewable power sources they might offer, or to contact any of the organizations in your area set up to promote green power everywhere. Trout Unlimited chose to purchase Green Tags through Bonneville Environmental Foundation because they are a local NW resource, 100% NEW renewable from wind and solar, certified by environmental groups and Green-e, and they reinvest their resources into new renewable projects and other watershed programs.
Already TU members in California have launched their own Green Tags program. In fact, in an agreement brokered with Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a portion of the proceeds from Green Tags purchased goes directly to TU California's river projects!
What's it Cost?
Trout Unlimited's investment in green power represents an amount equal to that required to operate our five national field offices in the Columbia basin and vicinity for one year. The additional cost to us amounts to about 75 cents per day for each office, on average. Contact your local utility or one of the organizations listed below to find out what your individual investment might cost.
For More Information on Green Power:
Pam Field, Bonneville Environmental Foundation: 503.248.1905; http://www.b-e-f.org
Natalie McIntyre: Renewable Northwest Project: 503.223.4544; http://www.RNP.org
Alan Moore, Trout Unlimited: 503.827.5700; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission: Trout Unlimited's mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
For more information: Alan Moore, Trout Unlimited: 503.827.5700; Pam Field, Bonneville Environmental Foundation: 503.248.1905