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Commentaries and editorials

Newhouse Secures Support from Energy Secretary
to Jointly Safeguard Snake River Dams

by Staff
KNDO/KNDU, March 15, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, left, toured McNary Dam with Rep. Greg Walden R-Ore. and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., right, in August. He said he supports using the Snake and Columbia river dams to generate electricity. File Tri-City Herald WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) secured a commitment from U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to work together to safeguard federal dams in the Pacific Northwest during a House Committee on Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee hearing. In August, 2017 at the invitation of Rep. Newhouse, Secretary Perry visited McNary Dam on the Columbia River:

Rep. Newhouse: “As part of your visit [to Central Washington] you were able to visit the McNary Dam, and so you were able to see I think I could say firsthand really the huge role that the hydroelectric dams play in the Pacific Northwest. It’s truly an amazing thing. The Federal Columbia River Power System unfortunately, today, though is being threatened. And so that means our energy, our transportation, our agriculture, our irrigation, our flood control, our economy is truly at risk in the Pacific Northwest. People on this panel, my colleagues here, and other places in Congress have heard me speak strongly and passionately about this, and they will continue to, because right now there is a single federal judge that is forcing additional spill at our dams. That decision overrides a comprehensive Biological Opinion that was agreed to by scientists and engineers at federal agencies, by Northwest tribes, by local and state governments, regional experts and stakeholders. I’ve got proposed language alongside with my colleagues Representatives McMorris Rodgers and Herrera Beutler for the appropriations bill for Fiscal Year ‘18 to prevent this additional spill, and if we are able to do that we will save Pacific Northwest ratepayers—in just one year—$40-million in increased utility rates. I know that you are a strong proponent of renewable hydroelectric power, Mr. Secretary: Would you commit to working with me to prevent this forced additional spill, save our dams, which are a vital component to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest?”

Secretary Perry: “The short answer: Yes.”

Background:

In March of 2017, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a court order that federal agencies increase spill over Columbia and Snake River dams beginning in spring of 2018. Federal agencies have estimated that without action to prevent the order from taking effect, increasing spill will result in an increase of $40 million in costs for ratepayers in 2018 alone.

In June of 2017, Pacific Northwest Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), and Greg Walden (OR-02) introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3144, to approve the Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (BiOp) until 2022.

The existing FCRPS BiOp helps ensure that the Pacific Northwest has access to clean, renewable, and affordable energy to power homes, businesses, and communities. The FCRPS BiOp was the product of unprecedented collaboration between President Barack Obama’s administration, states, and sovereign Northwest tribes. The BiOp has helped to produce record fish returns through the use of modern, innovative technology, and has widespread support in the region.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has noted $15.28 billion in total spending since 1978 on fish recovery and mitigation in the FCRPS. BPA also reported that average juvenile dam passage survival currently ranges between 96 and 99 percent for yearling Chinook salmon and steelhead smolts at each dam. In response to Judge Simon’s ordering of increased spill over the dams, BPA said consequences could cause “biological, physical and/or structural, and potential adverse consequences for the combined federal power and transmission system.”

H.R. 3144 protects the Columbia and Snake River dams and the benefits they bring to the Pacific Northwest region through the clean, renewable, and affordable energy it provides while allowing salmon to recover at record rates. With the deadline to respond to Judge Simon’s court order looming for ratepayers, last month, Reps. Newhouse, McMorris-Rodgers, and Herrera Beutler responded to a letter from U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and others opposing H.R. 3144.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.


Staff
Newhouse Secures Support from Energy Secretary to Jointly Safeguard Snake River Dams
KNDO/KNDU, March 15, 2018

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