McMorris Rodgers Leads Legislation to Protect Lower Snake River Dams, Columbia River Power System

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) introduced the Northwest Energy Security Act to protect the four Lower Snake River dams and boost energy production along the entire Columbia River System. Companion legislation was introduced by Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Steve Daines (R-MT).

Specifically, this legislation requires the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) to be operated in alignment with the 2020 “Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement (CRSO EIS) Record of Decision,” which was developed by federal agencies using the best available science and following public process requirements outlined in federal law. The 2020 CRSO EIS protects the power and navigation benefits of the Lower Snake River dams, while requiring operations modifications to support endangered salmon recovery. 

“I am growing increasingly concerned about President Biden’s openness to breaching our dams,” said Rodgers. “From his administration’s recommendation to rip them out – without any scientific evidence to back it up – to his desire to work with anti-dam advocates, it’s clear our dams are in danger. This legislation would help save them by focusing on facts and results. It’s time to recognize that salmon runs are improving at record rates thanks to our mitigation efforts and positive ocean conditions, and that the dams provide clean and reliable energy that powers our homes and businesses. That’s something worth protecting.”

The lawmakers introduced this legislation just days after President Biden mixed up his river systems, saying at the White House Conservation in Action Summit that he looks forward to working with anti-dam members of Congress to “bring healthy and abundant salmon runs back to the Colorado River System.”

“The Four Lower Snake River Dams are integral to flood control, navigation, irrigation, agriculture, and recreation in Central Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest—to put it simply, we cannot afford to lose them,” said Newhouse. “Yet President Biden, Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, and Representative Simpson have been misleading the American people with unscientific information in order to breach these dams, putting our communities at risk. We know the critical infrastructure of the Snake River Dams provides clean, renewable, safe, and affordable energy for our homes and businesses, and the best and latest science affirms we should continue to utilize them. The Northwest Energy Security Act will ensure our dams can continue to provide the carbon-free baseload energy our communities rely on while continuing to support fish recovery efforts.”

“A comprehensive, scientific process made clear dam breaching on the lower Snake River is completely unnecessary and unwarranted,” said Risch. “With the Northwest Energy Security Act, Congress will ensure the Columbia River Power System continues to provide reliable and clean energy and supports the region’s transportation, agriculture, and irrigation needs. I remain adamantly opposed to breaching the dams.”

“Breaching dams is the last thing we should be doing,” said Daines. “The Columbia River System provides clean, reliable baseload power and we should be supporting and expanding hydropower throughout the United States, not removing affordable energy supply for Montanans.”

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

“Contrary to the predictions of those who want to destroy the Snake River dams, last year saw a big increase in Spring/Summer wild Chinook. The most comprehensive scientific review of Snake River salmon by the federal government shows that the dams and salmon can coexist. The dams provide funding for salmon habitat, hatchery production, clean energy for an electrified future, and economic prosperity. Spending tens of billions of dollars to needlessly destroy dams is not only wasteful, but fixating on the Snake River wastes resources that could be used to improve salmon runs across the Pacific Northwest,” said Todd Myers, Environmental Director, Washington Policy Center.

“The Columbia and Snake Rivers are a critical marine highway that connects our region to the world. The dams on these waterways allow our PNW- grown wheat to get to market in the most reliable and efficient way possible. We deeply appreciate the work of Congressman Newhouse, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, Senator Risch and other supporters of this legislation, as it recognizes the significance of our dams and the benefits they provide to the region and nation, and that river commerce and healthy, robust fish runs can continue to co-exist,” said Rob Rich, Shaver Transportation and Co-Chair, Inland Ports and Navigation Group (IPNG).

“The four lower Snake River dams provide numerous benefits that are critically important to the Tri-Cities, the Pacific Northwest and the entire nation. In addition to the clean energy generation, navigation and irrigation they provide, the groundbreaking technologies at these dams provide some of the best fish passage in the country. Congressman Newhouse’s introduction of this legislation helps to ensure that these dams will continue to be an asset for decades to come, and we sincerely appreciate his steadfast support for the dams and the many communities that depend on them,” said David Reeploeg, Vice President for Federal Programs, Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC).

“The Washington Grain Commission supports continued efforts to maintain the Snake River dams as an essential piece of the larger Columbia River System. Washington farmers rely on the river system to transport more than half of the state’s wheat and access overseas export markets. Barging is the most environmentally sound and economically viable mode of transportation in the region and critical to the competitiveness of Washington farmers,” said Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission.

“The Lower Snake River Dams importance to the Columbia Basin goes far beyond the economical clean power production, navigation, irrigation, flood control, and recreation they provide. They are also critical to the area economy; directly and indirectly responsible for providing thousands of jobs. From power trades, contractor and marine vessel employees to those in the agricultural, service and tourism fields, our region cannot afford to lose a major contributor to our economic system. Our organization strongly supports Congressman Newhouse and legislation to protect the hydropower system,” said Jack W. Heffling, President, United Power Trades Organization.

“The Snake River dams are vital to Washington’s wheat growers. Scientific evidence conducted by the U.S. government has proven that removing the Snake River dams goes against environmental statutes and public interests. Washington Wheat growers support any efforts that ensure the dams continue to operate as an integral part of the Columbia River System,” said Michelle Hennings, Executive Director, Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

“The importance of the four lower Snake River dams to our region’s farmers and rural communities for both transportation and energy production cannot be overstated. The science is clear that salmon and dams can co-exist, and therefore we support the Northwest Energy Security Act. The members of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation thank the sponsors of the bill,” said Bryan Searle, President, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of the bill.

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