Dignitaries from Washington, Oregon, and regional tribes gathered this weekend to recognize the facility that sparked the northwest’s modern economy, and changed the face of the region. It’s the 75th anniversary of the Bonneville Dam.
Yakima Tribal Council Member Gerald Lewis offered a traditional invocation, reminding the audience of the native communities that flourished along the Columbia before the river’s development.
Bonneville Power administrator Steven Wright also acknowledged the cost for fish, wildlife, and native tribes. Some environmental groups are critical of the dam and its administrators’ track record for restoring salmon, compared with state and tribal efforts. But Wright said the BPA has worked hard to become a partner in one of the world’s largest habitat restoration projects.
He says he believes Bonneville will continue to form the cornerstone of the regional power system, even as power generation changes.
He said, “We’re able to do wind because of this huge storage battery in the hydro system that is a great compliment to wind. We’ve developed fiber optics communications throughout the region in order to make this hydro-system work. That’s created the opportunity to run the largest smart grid demonstration program in the country, here in the Northwest.”
Amid the speeches, musicians sang Woody Guthrie’s iconic songs about Bonneville’s construction, Columbia River Treaty Tribes roasted salmon, and kids swarmed over an obstacle course designed to mimic upstream river runs.