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Republicans Reject Lower Snake River
Dam-Breaching Plan

by Jennifer Yachnin
E&E News, June 10, 2022

Risch argued that the benefits of the four dams -- generating hydropower and
providing crop irrigation -- outweigh efforts to protect the endangered fish population.

Lower Granite Reservoir temperatures are kept below 20F with inflow from the depths of Dworshak Dam upstream.  This cooling effect does not, however, propogate downstream through the remaing three Lower Snake Reservoirs. Republicans are resisting calls from Democrats to breach four dams in Washington state to protect salmon populations.

In a statement yesterday, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch (R) pushed back against a draft report that suggested breaching the dams on the Lower Snake River could ensure the survival of the Pacific Northwest's salmon.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are mobilizing behind a bill that seeks to protect hydropower production along the Snake River.

Risch argued that the benefits of the four dams -- generating hydropower and providing crop irrigation -- outweigh efforts to protect the endangered fish population.

"The results of an unscientific and politically-motivated review of cherry-picked information do not concern me," Risch said in a statement. "I welcome actual collaboration to improve salmon populations, but remain flatly opposed to dam breaching."

Risch's comments came in the wake of the draft report released yesterday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Sen. Patty Murray (D).

The Democrats, who are leading an effort to negotiate the future of the river and its dams, emphasized that their report did not weigh in on whether the dams should be removed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We continue to approach the question of breaching with open minds and without a predetermined decision," Inslee and Murray said in a joint statement yesterday that also announced a 30-day public comment period on their report (E&E News PM, June 9).

Lower water temps

The report outlined the benefits of dismantling the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams in Washington.

Those benefits would include lower water temperatures for salmon and other species, and access for Native American tribes in the region -- as well as impacts on transportation, agriculture and recreation in the region.

Breaching the dams and addressing problems like the loss of hydropower and irrigation supplies could cost upward of $27 billion, as well as additional "anticipated costs" not included in that tally.

Risch pointed to a 2020 study published by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration that confirmed the dams' "critical importance" to the region (Greenwire, Aug. 11, 2020).

But that report sparked a new lawsuit in the long-running legal battle over the future of those dams and a free-flowing river.

A federal judge last year issued a stay on the case that seeks to block the Trump-era dam operations plan. The Biden administration and plaintiffs in the case, including fishing and conservation groups and the Nez Perce Tribe, continue to seek a resolution. The case is on hold until July (Greenwire, Oct. 27, 2021).

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R) also introduced his own $33.5 billion plan in 2021, which called for breaching the dams, as well as replacing energy resources, addressing irrigation needs and managing fish recovery (E&E Daily, Feb. 8, 2021).

Republican dam bill

But a coalition of 10 Republican lawmakers yesterday introduced legislation that would aim to protect continued hydropower production along the Snake River.

Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse led the group, which also includes Washington Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera Beutler, Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz, Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher and others, in introducing the "Federal Columbia River Power System Certainty Act."

"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 in a statement. "Amidst a national energy and supply chain crisis, it is unconscionable that dam-breaching advocates . . . repeatedly attempt to force a predetermined, unscientific conclusion that will put our communities who are already struggling at risk."

The Snake River dams have also become a flashpoint in larger water projects legislation approved by the House this week (E&E Daily, June 9).

Nez Perce Tribe Chair Samuel Penney raised concerns this week that the House bill includes language that would exclude tribal voices in discussions about the fate of the four dams.

In a letter to Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Penney wrote that lawmakers had acted "without consultation with or even notice to the 15 Columbia Basin tribes."

The chamber voted Wednesday to pass H.R. 7776, the "Water Resources Development Act of 2022."

McMorris Rodgers yesterday took credit for securing the controversial provisions in the bill, thanking DeFazio in a statement for helping her hammer out a solution to protect the dams while creating an "even playing field" for ratepayers as Columbia River Treaty negotiations move forward.

The congresswoman asserted that of the 13 endangered salmon and steelhead species in the Columbia River Basin, only four travel the length of the Columbia River and through the dams, even though ratepayers in Washington state subsidize the dams.

"With the flood control provisions of the Columbia River Treaty set to expire in less than two years, it is critical that we position ourselves to mitigate flood risks with our own infrastructure," she said.

Related Pages:
Stay Out of My Backyard, Rep. Simpson, and I'll Stay Out of Yours by Jennifer Yachnin, 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.

Jennifer Yachnin
Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.
Republicans Reject Lower Snake River Dam-Breaching Plan
E&E News, June 10, 2022

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