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.

Click Here to read the full text of the bill.

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.

  • In May 2021, Governor Inslee and Senator Murray publicly rebuked plans to breach the Lower Snake River Dams.
  • On October 15, 2021, Governor Inslee and Senator Murray announced plans to assess the breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams.
  • On October 21, 2021, the Department of Justice announced a settlement reached between the CRSO EIS plaintiffs and federal agencies on injunctive relief, including a stay on the CRSO EIS litigation until July 2022.
  • On October 22, 2021, Governor Inslee and Senator Murray announced next steps to deliver a report intended to justify breaching the Lower Snake River Dams by July 2022. Reps. Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, and Jaime Herrera Beutler released a joint statement reacting to the announcement. Read more here.
  • Last week, Rep. Newhouse led Congressional Western Caucus Members from across the United States on a field tour of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, including a tour of the Ice Harbor Dam. Learn more here.

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