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Commentaries and editorials

Dams are Critical for
Reliable Energy Grid in PNW

by Rep. Dan Newhouse
Herald and News, June 10, 2022

The Pacific Northwest sends excess power to states like California.

Grahic: Survival of Juvenile Yearling Chinook and Steelhead from Lewiston trap to Bonneville dam. "Isolated interruptions in electric service can have catastrophic health and economic consequences. A robust and reliable electric power system is therefore not only a basic human necessity but is also critical to national security and defense."

It is not often that I agree with President Biden, but his words declaring an electricity emergency ring true to all of us in the Pacific Northwest and across the United States. Americans are facing record-high energy costs due to a Green New Deal agenda, and our nation's electric grid is at risk. Fortunately for our region, we have an example of reliable, clean, and renewable energy right here: The Federal Columbia River Power System.

Last week, I was proud to lead a delegation of Congressional Western Caucus Members from across the United States on a tour of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, as well as the Ice Harbor Dam. We learned about the benefits the dam system provides for Central Washington, our region, and the nation. In addition to the incredibly important role the dams play for our state's economy and agriculture industry, we learned about the generating capacity the dams along these powerful rivers have to provide clean, renewable, and affordable energy for our homes and businesses.

In Central Washington, we enjoy some of the lowest electricity costs in the country -- even as the Biden administration's actions result in grid insecurities and rising gas prices. The dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers have contributed greatly to the stability of our region's electric grid, which ensures that Washingtonians enjoy a stable and abundant supply of affordable power. We even send excess power to states like California, whose leadership has already dismantled baseload energy resources in exchange for unreliable intermittent sources like wind and solar, causing communities to experience energy shortages and "brown outs."

Unfortunately, dam-breaching advocates -- including Governor Inslee and Senator Murray -- want to tear them out, arguing that in order to protect native salmon species, we must eliminate the Pacific Northwest's most reliable source of renewable power.

Their conclusion is false. As U.S. Army Corps scientists, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers, and other local experts demonstrated during our tour last week, dams and fish can -- and do -- co-exist. Our dams have a 96-98% fish passage rate, and the technologies being deployed at Ice Harbor are serving as a model for hydropower dams all over the world. In fact, the latest comprehensive review of the dam system by federal scientists concluded that breaching the dams would do more harm than good for our region, and there is no scientific evidence that removal of the dams would improve salmon recovery.

This week, I introduced the Federal Columbia Power System Certainty Act to ensure that operations of the dam system along the Columbia and Snake Rivers are conducted in accordance with the best available science as they continue to provide the carbon-free, baseload energy our state and region depend on.

The impacts of this administration's failed energy policies have now, quite literally, resulted in the declaration of a national emergency, and if we are going to address our nation's electricity shortfalls, we must support and promote hydropower. That support must include the Columbia and Snake River dam system, which has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power every major city in the Pacific Northwest.

Hydroelectric dams play a critical role in the diverse energy portfolio we need to build a stable and resilient energy grid. And, as we saw firsthand on our field tour, Central Washington is embracing an all-of-the-above energy portfolio that benefits rural communities, agriculture producers, local economies, and -- importantly -- our environment.

I will continue to work in Congress, through my role as Chairman of the Western Caucus and as a Member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, and alongside the countless leaders and partners throughout our district to defend our dams and support a robust energy grid that will meet our nation's electricity needs.

Related Pages:
Stay Out of My Backyard, Rep. Simpson, and I'll Stay Out of Yours by Rep. Dan Newhouse, Lewiston Tribune, 5/27/21
Rep. Newhouse, Dams in Your District are Doing Damage to Mine by Rep. Mike Simpson, Lewiston Tribune, 5/29/21


To provide for operations of the Federal Columbia River Power System pursuant to a certain operation plan for a specified period of time, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

The Act may be cited as the "Federal Columbia River Power System Certainty Act".

For the purposes of this Act:
(1) FCRPS.--The term "FCRPS" means those portions of the Federal Columbia River Power System that are the subject of the Supplemental Opinion.

--The term "Secretaries" means--
(A) the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Reclamation;
(B) the Secretary of Energy, acting through the Bonneville Power Administration; and
(C) the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Army Corps of Engineers.

(3) SUPPLEMENTAL OPINION.--The term "Supplemental Opinion" means the document titled "Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision", and dated September 2020.

The Secretaries shall operate the FCRPS in a manner consistent with the reasonable and prudent alternative set forth in the Supplemental Opinion.

Remove Snake River Embankments, the main component of Multi-Objective 3 (MO3), is the most economically beneficial alternative of the Columbia River System Operations EIS.
(bluefish inserts: MO3 -- the Multi-Objective centered around Remove Snake River Embankments -- is the most economic alternative of the Columbia River System Operations EIS.)

(a) IN GENERAL.--Notwithstanding section 3, the Secretaries may amend portions of the Supplemental Opinion and operate the FCRPS in accordance with such amendments if all of the Secretaries determine, in the sole discretion of each Secretary, that--
(1) the amendment is necessary for public safety or transmission and grid reliability; or
(2) the actions, operations, or other requirements that the amendment would remove are no longer warranted.

--The process described in subsection (a) shall be the only method by which the Secretaries may operate the FCRPS in any way that is not consistent with the reasonable and prudent alternative set forth in the Supplemental Opinion.

--No structural modification, action, study, or engineering plan that restricts electrical generation at any FCRPS hydroelectric dam, or that limits navigation on the Snake River in the State of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, shall proceed unless such proposal is specifically and expressly authorized by a Federal statute enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act.
(b) CLARIFICATION.--Nothing in this section affects or interferes with the authority of the Secretaries to conduct operation and maintenance activities or make capital improvements necessary to meet authorized project purposes of FCRPS facilities.

Rep. Dan Newhouse represents Washington's 4th Congressional District and serves as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.
Dams are Critical for Reliable Energy Grid in PNW
Herald and News, June 10, 2022

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