House Approves McMorris Rodgers, Walden Bill
Bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Greg Walden (R-OR) to protect the Columbia and Snake river dams and ensure continued renewable energy generation for the Pacific Northwest cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on April 25.
The bill, H.R. 3144, would codify and extend the existing Federal Columbia River Power Systems Biological Opinion through 2022. Reached between the Obama administration, states and sovereign tribes, the agreement ensures continued access to hydropower for homes and businesses in the region.
Last year U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ordered additional spillover at dams to preserve salmon populations, a move that would cost ratepayers an estimated $40 million in 2018 alone, the lawmakers said. However, a statement from McMorris Rodgers' office noted the biological opinion has helped to produce record fish returns through the use of innovative technology.
Today, there are more salmon in the Columbia River than at any time since the first lower Columbia dam was built in 1938, according to Northwest River Partners, an alliance of farmers, utilities and businesses that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of the Columbia and Snake rivers.
"Dams and fish can coexist, and after more than two decades in the courtroom, let's let scientists, not judges, manage our river system and get to work to further improve fish recovery efforts," Rep. McMorris Rodgers said. "When the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow, our dams provide critical baseload energy to power homes and businesses all across Eastern Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Not only that, they provide transportation and irrigation benefits for our farmers, flood control for our communities, and recreational opportunities that fuel our economy."
Rep. McMorris Rodgers introduced H.R. 3144 in June 2017. Rep. Walden and U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) signed on as original cosponsors. The measure cleared the House on a vote of 225-189 on April 25.
Rep. Walden, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted the importance of the river system to Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest, which provides renewable hydropower that generates 43 percent of the electricity in his home state.
"River operations that have been guided by years of research by federal agencies, tribes and other cooperators have now been threatened by court order, and Northwest families and our communities will likely pay the price in higher power rates," Walden said. "This legislation provides needed certainty for power generation and river operations while federal agencies update the biological opinion and court proceedings continue."
Meanwhile, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has noted $15.28 billion in total spending since 1978 on fish recovery and mitigation in the Federal Columbia River Power System, according to McMorris Rodgers' staff. Furthermore, a statement from her office noted that in response to the judge's ordering of increased spillover at dams, BPA said there could be biological, physical or other adverse consequences for the federal power and transmission system.
"This isn't about the merits of protecting salmon, we all agree on that," McMorris Rodgers said. "This is about providing certainty and letting experts and scientists in the region, who know the river best, work collaboratively to meet that goal."
McMorris Rodgers says Bill Promoting Hydropower, Fish Migration Will See House Action Soon by Staff, Ripon Advance, 4/4/18
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