Nine groups representing Northwest consumer-owned electric utilities are asking to have at least four representatives—one from each state—on the Columbia Basin Collaborative's leadership committee, which is envisioned to have a total of 16 to 20 members.

Led by the Public Power Council, the groups sent a letter to Govs. Kate Brown (Oregon), Greg Gianforte (Montana), Jay Inslee (Washington) and Brad Little (Idaho) on Feb. 26, two days after the states held their first public organizational meeting for the collaborative, whose goal is to rebuild the Columbia Basin's salmon and steelhead runs.

At the meeting, representatives from the states of Oregon, Montana, Washington and Idaho outlined the new collaborative's vision, noting the leadership or "plenary" committee should remain small, with each member expected to get input from their caucus and keep them informed. The four states signed an agreement and developed a statement of purpose, but have not yet chartered the collaborative or assigned members.

The letter notes that the associations signing on represent more than 5 million customers of consumer-owned electric utilities who "fund the majority of Columbia River Basin fish and wildlife mitigation efforts through their BPA rates—to the tune of about $657 million for 2021 alone."

It says individual state policies on energy, the environment and utility operations differ widely, and members of the industry stand ready to lend their expertise.

"It is imperative that we have an appropriate presence at the Collaborative when developing the goals, strategies and actions that could impact millions of citizens, as well as impact the environment and economies of our local communities," the letter states.

It is signed by Scott Simms, executive director of the Public Power Council; Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners; George Caan, executive director of Washington PUD Association; Will Hart, executive director of Idaho Consumer-Owned Utilities; Kent Lopez, general manager of Washington Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Jennifer Joly, director of Oregon Municipal Electric Utilities Association; Gary Wiens, CEO of Montana Electric Cooperatives' Association; Merle Gillespie, president of Oregon People's Utility District Association; and Ted Case, executive director of Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.