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Commentaries and editorials

Legislation Looks to Protect
the Snake River Dams

by Glenn Vaagen
Pacific Northwest Ag Network, June 10, 2022

"The science is crystal clear: breaching the Four Lower Snake River Dams
would be harmful to our communities, our environment, and our economy,"

-- Rep. Dan Newhouse

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game) A host of Northwest lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday supporters say will protect the Four Lower Snake River Dams. The Federal Columbia River Power System Certainty Act supports the Federal Columbia River Power System improves and maintains hydropower assets, ensuring operations throughout the system are conducted in accordance with the latest federal scientific review, and continuing to allow native salmon to recover at record rates.

The legislation comes as just this week, President Biden made a Declaration of Emergency stating that a current emergency exists "with respect to the threats to the availability of sufficient electricity generation capacity to meet expected customer demand."

Back in October, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray released a report supporting the removal of the dams.

The legislation introduced Thursday is supported by Washington representatives, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Oregon's Cliff Bentz, Idaho's Russ Fulcher as well as Minnesota's Pete Stauber, Oklahoma's Markwayne Mullin, Montana's Matt Rosendale, California's Doug LaMalfa, and Iowa' Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

"The science is crystal clear: breaching the Four Lower Snake River Dams would be harmful to our communities, our environment, and our economy," Newhouse said. "Amidst a national energy and supply chain crisis, it is unconscionable that dam-breaching advocates, including Governor Inslee and Senator Murray, repeatedly attempt to force a predetermined, unscientific conclusion that will put our communities who are already struggling at risk.

In the Pacific Northwest, not only do we depend on this critical infrastructure for clean, renewable, and affordable energy, but transportation for 60% of the nation's wheat. The Snake River Dams are integral to flood control, navigation, irrigation, agriculture, and recreation in Central Washington and our region cannot afford to lose them. This legislation utilizes the best available science to further ensure the Lower Snake River Dams continue to provide carbon-free, baseload energy while continuing to support fish recovery efforts."

"Calling for the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams after three straight years of improved salmon returns is misguided. What's alarming is trying to breach them at a time when families in Eastern Washington are paying record-high energy costs just to keep the lights on this summer," said McMorris Rodgers. "We know that salmon can -- and do -- co-exist, and it's time we focus on results. While Governor Inslee and Senator Murray forge ahead with their political agenda, we will continue to promote real solutions to reduce carbon emissions, drive down energy costs, and help recover endangered salmon."

"As the 2020 Environmental Impact Statement concluded, it's indeed possible to balance the health of our native fish runs while also protecting the clean, affordable, hydropower and many economic benefits provided by dams on the Columbia River system," Herrera Beutler noted. "I'm pleased to lend my support to this legislation which ensures we're relying on science to manage our river systems to benefit our precious salmon species and our residents."

"It wasn't the six shooter that revolutionized the West, it was impounded water. The dams in the Pacific Northwest are necessary for modern life, and breaching this incredible system would set the region back centuries," said Stauber. "They provide clean baseload power and create world class agriculture, recreation, and other opportunities. I'm proud to stand with Western Caucus Chairman Newhouse in defense of his constituents' way of life and preserve these incredible feats of modern engineering."

"I'm proud to support this legislation that will continue to protect the Columbia and Snake River dams and their importance to the energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors in the Western United States," Rosendale said . "An 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy is critical to our nation's energy and economic security, and hydroelectric dams play a critical role ensuring continued prosperity in the Pacific Northwest."

"It was extremely clear during our tour of the Ice Harbor Dam and the Columbia and Snake Rivers last week with Representative Newhouse that hydropower must play a crucial role in our all of the above energy approach," said Rep. Miller-Meeks. "I am proud join in introducing this important legislation that will ensure that hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River system are able to continue providing energy and supporting the transportation, agriculture, and irrigation sectors that all Americans rely on."

This legislation is endorsed by the Inland Ports and Navigation Group (IPNG), Tri-Cities Development Council (TRIDEC), United Power Trades Organization, WA Wheat Growers, Washington Grain Commission, Washington Farm Bureau, and Idaho Farm Bureau.

The Federal Columbia River Power System Certainty Act directs the Federal Columbia River Power System to be operated in alignment with the 2020 "Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision."

In September 2020, the "Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision" for the Columbia River System Operation Environmental Impact Statement (CRSO EIS) published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration, found that the Lower Snake River Dams should not be breached. Rather, efforts should be focused on improving and maintaining hydropower assets while working to improve salmon passage and conditions.


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.

Glenn Vaagen
Legislation Looks to Protect the Snake River Dams
Pacific Northwest Ag Network, June 10, 2022

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