Rhonda Whiting, Salish and Kootenai, is the new chairwoman of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Rhonda Whiting is First Native American Chair of Four-State Council

Richard Walker

Rhonda Whiting is the new chairwoman of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a four-state energy, fish and wildlife planning agency whose eight members are salaried and appointed by their respective governors.

Whiting, of St. Ignatius, Montana, is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. She is the first woman from Montana to chair the council and the first American Indian to serve in the position, according to council information officer John Harrison. Whiting succeeds Joan Dukes of Oregon, who resigned. Whiting was previously vice chairwoman of the council and chairwoman of the council’s public affairs committee.

Whiting has undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from the University of Montana, and in 1993 received her juris doctorate from the university’s School of Law. She was assistant administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 1998-2000, vice president of communications of Salish and Kootenai Technologies from 2001-03, and was appointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer to the power and conservation council in 2004.

Northwest Power and Conservation Council members are considered full-time, serve three-year terms, and work from offices in or near their homes. The council's work is funded by Bonneville Power Administration under the Northwest Power Act of 1980, but the council is independent of BPA. The council's budget for 2012 is $10.1 million, according to documents on www.nwcouncil.org.

Among the council's tasks: Develop a 20-year plan that assures the region an adequate, efficient, economic and reliable power supply; prepare a program to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations affected by hydropower in the Columbia River Basin; and educate and involve the public in the council’s decision-making processes. The council updates its 20-year power plan every five years.

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