Nov 03 2013

Ward’s legacy

Published by at 2:35 pm under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Attorney Conley Ward, 66, who died last week at Kuna, has been for several decades an important but quietly influential figure in Idaho’s energy and infrastructure world. He chaired of the state Democratic Party from 1988-91, and served as a member of the Public Utilities Commission from 1977 to 1986. He won respect in all these areas.

Before any of that, before more than a few Idahoans knew his name, an important piece of work he did with a small group of activists changed the state’s future. How important: Idaho would be poorer and your electric power bills vastly higher than if he had no acted when he did.

In the mid-70s an irrigation-led bump in power demand persuaded planners at Idaho Power Company they needed access to a lot more juice. This was, remember, barely two decades after its capacity had exploded with the building of the Hells Canyon dams, but the worry was considerable: What if Idaho ran out of available electric power?

In 1974 Idaho Power applied with the Public Utilities Commission to build a massive coal-fired power plant to be called Pioneer, about 25 miles east of Boise. Boise was much smaller then, but its air quality was worse. When word got out about Pioneer, a handful of critics (such as attorney Jeff Fereday and newspaper editorialist Ken Robison) blasted the idea. At first, though, Pioneer looked unstoppable. Its advocates far outnumbered critics, and Idaho Power then rarely lost Idaho political battles.

Around then, PUC Commissioner Robert Lenaghan hired Ward, a young attorney and a native of Owyhee County, and assigned him to the Pioneer proposal and its implications. Ward was not the only person looking into Pionerr, but he was the man on the inside, and the PUC’s questioning of the project rapidly grew sharper. The original $400 million cost estimate for Pioneer expanded, under pressure, to $600, and then – under heated inquiry from Lenaghan – to $828 million. Quoted in an essay by environmentalist Pat Ford, Ward recalled, “at that time the net value of their entire system [Hells Canyon dams included] was $648 million. And Pioneer was only half their 10-year construction program. By 1986 they planned to spend $1.6 billion on a new plant.”

He concluded that the cheap hydropower would be swamped by coal power that would cost six or seven times as much, and could double, or triple, electric power rates. Idaho would go from being one of the least expensive power states to among the most expensive.

The Pioneer fight was ferocious, but in the end the case against became widely accepted publicly, if not in all political and corporate offices. Ward wrote the PUC order rejecting Pioneer. His later appointment to the PUC was hotly debated, and was approved by the Senate in a heated 18-17 vote.

Now suppose Pioneer had cruised ahead. Leave aside the pollution and environmental issues (not that those were insignificant). Look at the economics. Idaho Power’s load growth in coming years was far smaller than it projected in the mid-70s, and it would have been stuck with an immensely costly white elephant. (For a model of this, look up the Washington and Oregon experience with the Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear power plant money pit in that same period.) Idaho Power rates would have risen massively. As important, Idaho Power, to this day locally-owned, an unusual thing in itself and of great value to Idaho, almost certainly would long since have been bought out, probably leading to further weakened local service.

Conley Ward – and the others he worked with – left an impressive legacy for their home state. How many of today’s leaders will be able to say as much a generation from now?

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook

 


A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here