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Bill Introduced into Congress Calls for
Studying Impacts of Lower Snake Dam Removal

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, August 7, 2009

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, and Rep. Tom Petri, R-WI, introduced the "Salmon Solutions and Planning Act" last Friday, just before Congress adjourned for the August district work period.

H.R. 3503 calls for studies of the issues affecting salmon recovery efforts, including scientific analysis of the impact of the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams, energy replacement alternatives should the four dams be removed, a transportation infrastructure study to determine improvements needed in rail or surface roads, and studying how to protect existing irrigated agricultural lands.

The bill has 23 co-sponsors. The only other member of the Northwest delegation who signed on is Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR.

"The extinction of several species of salmon is not theoretical," McDermott said. "Within the next 10 years, several species of Snake River salmon are expected to disappear forever unless we act now to restore and protect salmon and steelhead across the Pacific Northwest."

The bill's introductory language says its purpose is: "To ensure that proper information gathering and planning are undertaken to secure the preservation and recovery of the salmon and steelhead of the Columbia River Basin in a manner that protects and enhances local communities, ensures effective expenditure of Federal resources, and maintains reasonably priced, reliable power, to direct the Secretary of Commerce to seek scientific analysis of Federal efforts to restore salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and for other purposes."

The full text of the bill can be found at

In a statement issued last Friday, Blumenauer said, "This is an important piece of legislation that will provide policymakers in the Pacific Northwest and around the country with additional information necessary to aide in the recovery of Columbia Basin salmon.

"The legislation requires the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and Department of Energy to study the environmental, infrastructure, and economic issues associated with removing the four Lower Snake River dams. The bill also includes language authorizing the Secretary of the Army to remove the dams. This language is intended to clarify that lower Snake River dam removal is within the Corps' authority. It is important to note this bill contains no 'trigger language' that would mandate dam removal," Blumenauer said.

The Oregon congressman said, "Some have equated knowing the facts with actually triggering the process to remove the dams. My support for this legislation is not support for dam removal. My position over the years on this has been consistently to support evaluating all options for salmon recovery. The studies authorized by the bill will help us determine the consequences of dam removal not only for Northwest salmon, and but also for transportation, energy, and irrigation in the region."

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-WA, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, described the bill as "targeting the Snake River dams for removal."

"One of first places this dam removal bill will land in Congress is on my desk as the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, and I pledge to do everything in my power to stop it.

"Dam removal is an extreme action that would have devastating consequences on our region's economy. These four dams are valuable components of the Northwest's clean, low-cost hydropower system that thousands and thousands of jobs rely upon. Dam removal would kill jobs, lead to huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and there's no scientific proof that it would actually guarantee salmon recovery.

"This risky gamble has been rejected again and again, yet dam removal extremists continue their lawsuits, their fundraising campaigns and their fight to spoil agreement on policies that will actually recover fish in the Northwest.

"Professional activists who make a living off of pushing their dam removal agenda may not like to hear it, but Northwest citizens understand we can protect our clean, renewable hydropower dams and recover salmon at the same time."

River users also strongly oppose the bill.

"Congress rejected this bill in previous years. It needs to do so again this year," said Glenn Vanselow, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. "Congress should not delegate to federal agency staffers the authority to remove four federal multipurpose dams, eliminate the Congressionally-authorized 14-foot Snake River navigation channel, and wipe out clean, renewable hydropower production."

This bill was introduced two weeks before the Obama Administration is due to present to federal judge James Redden its evaluation of the salmon and steelhead biological opinion for the Columbia/Snake river federal hydropower system. The administration is due to deliver its views on the BiOp to Redden on Aug. 14.

In a press release, PNWA said it is confident that the administration will support the BiOp.

"The BiOp provides more funding, more actions, more certainty, more cooperation, and more promise for ongoing success in rebuilding fish runs than this region has ever seen. That is why the BiOp is supported by the majority of the region's treaty tribes, the majority of the upriver tribes, the majority of the states and the major river users. Dam breaching, by contrast, is extreme and risky. It does nothing for nine ESA-listed fish runs and may do more harm than good for the four runs on the Snake River.

"As the region and the nation become more concerned about climate change, the first principle should be not to make the problem worse. Breaching dams would force energy production to shift from emission-free hydropower to coal and natural gas. It would force cargo to shift from barging to rail or truck. Barging is the most fuel efficient and least polluting mode of transportation. Breaching the dams would put hundreds of thousands of trucks on the road through the Columbia River Gorge," the PNWA said in the release.

Co-sponsors of McDermott's and Petrie's bill include:

Bill Introduced into Congress Calls for Studying Impacts of Lower Snake Dam Removal
Columbia Basin Bulletin, August 7, 2009

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