July 17, 2013 | LXXIII, No. 16

Just the way it flows

Editorial

Just as the nation was about to celebrate its most patriotic holiday, one of its greatest symbols of achievement literally closed the gates on what would have been a welcoming spectacle.

The Bonneville Power Administration makes the call on just when the Bureau of Reclamation should spill or not spill the Columbia River over the top of Grand Coulee Dam. Most years it seems they just make their goal of filling Lake Roosevelt by July 1, but weather sent extra water into the river this year, creating a need to spill water for many days just before the July 4.

Until about midnight on the nation’s birthday. That’s when BPA shut off the water, no doubt oblivious to the fact that the local Festival of America could have benefitted from the extra spectacle so appreciated by visitors to the dam.

That’s the way it goes, one would be tempted to say, were it not for the fact that within a few days they had to spill again, last Thursday.

The operation of Grand Coulee Dam is central to the control of the entire Columbia River, which is the conduit for water to drain to the ocean from an area the size of France. Predicting its flows is surely enormously complex. But it’s hard not to think that a little more coordination in special circumstances might make for small regional allowances with big local impacts.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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