Throughout the years the Bonneville Dam has not faced nearly as many problems or controversial issues as the Glen Canyon Dam. Unlike the Glen Canyon dam, the Bonneville competes with several other sources of hydropower in the area. Although, it has still had its fair share of legal problems involving such issues as: Native American fishing rights and effects on the Salmon population. Most of the legal / political issues created by the dam have been focused around the environmental acts.
Two environmental acts related to the Bonneville Dam and the BPA are the Clean Water Act of 1972 (amended 1987), the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Mitchell Act. The first two acts combined have helped to regulate and preserve wildlife in the area of the dam, while the third has dealt with the rights of the Native Americans involving their salmon rights. The Clean Water Act requires the BPA to keep the water clean and cold enough to avoid any disturbance in the aquatic habitat. While the Endangered Species Act will actively regulate any federal bureaus where species are perceived as being "endangered" because "these species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people" (Endangered Species Act: sec. 2). The BPA is required to invest money in the necessary procedures to protect endangered species. In the last few years these two acts have made headlines involving the protection of the salmon and preservation of their population levels. However, like the Mitchell Act, which determined the hatchery placement along the rivers, there have been difficulties in both preserving the population of endangered fish and complying with tribal treaty harvest. As the Mitchell Act is relatively unknown, it has promoted a much higher level of controversy around the dam than any other regulations imposed. Specifically, the Mitchell act guaranteed the Native Americans a percentage of the salmon population each year. However, this is dramatically effected by the placement of the hatcheries along the river, and when the Hatcheries were placed below where the tribal lands, the Native Americans did not even have access to the fish. This led to the creation of the Mitchell Act, which relocated the hatcheries (as mentioned earlier.)
As the Bonneville dam has provided power to the northwest for almost 60 years, it has not been until recently that increasing costs have allowed other competitive sources to develop in the area, increasing the competition within the industry. Recently the majority of legislation which has been passed involving the Bonneville dam has been for additional appropriations in attempt to increase the efficiency of the dam. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 was one of the first pieces of legislation that set up strict standards involving the transmission of power through the BPA. By limiting the transmission of energy from the Bonneville, this bill prevented any continuation of monopolistic practice of energy prices within the Northwest. Outside the few pieces of legislation that have had dramatic effects on the Bonneville, the majority of legislation passed in congress has dealt with increased funding to maintain the usefulness of the dam. However, as we look at all of the appropriations for billions of dollars to keep the dam running, is it really worth it economically? Perhaps the Dams of the 30's and 40's have become outdated. While the Dams are slowly repaying their debts, it will not be anytime soon when they have repaid their operation costs. Could this funding go towards other sources of energy in the area where it could be used more efficiently?
Some of the more recent legislative acts associated with monetary resource:
1. Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act of 1991
2. Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act of 1993
3. Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act of 1984 (1.25 billion)
4. Bonneville's Exemption from the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985
You may find all of these acts defined in detail through some of the following sites:
Bonneville Power Administration
Bonneville Power Administration Statutes
Government Information Locator Service