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Major Pacific Northwest Business Groups
OBI, AWB Rally Behind Hydropower

by Pete Danko
Portland Business Journal, October 12, 2022, 2022

Oregon Business & Industry and the Association of Washington Business announce
new effort as Biden administration pushes for 'durable long-term strategy' on salmon recovery.

Graphics: Predictions show natural--origin spawner abundance for the Snake River Basin will start to drop below the quasi--extinction threshold (50 spawners) within the next five years. (Molly Quinn/The Spokesman--Review) (Source: Nez Perce Tribe, staff research) Hydropower might strike some as a longstanding, unshakeable feature of the Pacific Northwest, but key business leaders are sensing it could be under threat.

Two heavyweight business groups from Oregon and Washington, respectively, this week announced a new coalition to support hydro, which was the source of 50% of Oregon's in-state electricity generation in 2020 and 66% of Washington's.

The groups are Oregon Business & Industry and the Association of Washington Business. Angela Wilhelms, OBI's president and CEO, took on the question as to what prompted the move at this time.

"As statewide associations that represent thousands of employers who provide hundreds of thousands of jobs in counties across the geographic expanse of our states, we have an obligation to speak up," Wilhelms said via email. "We want to ensure that any policy discussions about hydropower or the region's river systems include a voice speaking on behalf of employers and citizens who have a shared interest in preserving sources of reliable, clean, and affordable electricity."

One possible risk to hydro is the push by tribes, conservation groups and the commercial and sport fishing industries to breach four dams on the Lower Snake River.

They see opening up the river as key to reviving salmon runs after decades of spending -- around $24 billion in all -- on restoration programs. Removal opponents say the dams are invaluable for power generation, freight movement and irrigation.

The Biden administration in July released a draft scientific assessment that made the case for dam breaching as part of a comprehensive set of recovery actions

The administration has negotiated stays in the long-running court fight over management of the Federal Columbia River Power System; the latest will run through next August. That's supposed to give the administration more time to collaborate with stakeholders. Toward what end is what has some hydropower supporters nervous. Here's how the administration cast its aims:

"The administration is committed to a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels, while honoring federal commitments to Tribal Nations, delivering affordable and reliable clean power, and meeting the many resilience needs of the basin's diverse stakeholders across the region, including those that use the rivers for irrigation, transportation, water supply, and recreation."
Meanwhile, dam opponents who got on board with the stay extension did so, they said, "based on the Biden administration's unequivocal commitment to urgent and bold action and a new direction for salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake River Basin."

More recently two top Washington Democrats, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee, endorsed the view that the science supports breaching to boost salmon survival. But they cited the need to line up new clean energy sources as the biggest among several hurdles that would have to be cleared first.

One business-oriented group already in support of the dams is Northwest RiverPartners. Public power providers comprise the core of the group, but it is also counts agriculture and transportation members.

The new support from the two major business groups was announced as the Association of Washington Business staff visited Analog Devices in Camas, according to a news release.

"The reason we're able to tour employers like Analog Devices, and the reason southwest Washington has a thriving semiconductor industry, is because of our low-cost, reliable and renewable hydropower," AWB President Kris Johnson said in a statement.

Pete Danko
Major Pacific Northwest Business Groups OBI, AWB Rally Behind Hydropower
Portland Business Journal, October 12, 2022, 2022

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