McMorris Rodgers Secures Wins to Protect Lower Snake River Dams, Advance Columbia River Treaty Negotiations

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) helped pass the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 last night, which included critical language she requested to help protect the Lower Snake River dams and create an even playing field for Pacific Northwest Ratepayers as Columbia River Treaty negotiations proceed.

“Salmon and dams can–and do–co-exist. Study after study has shown the critical benefits the Lower Snake River dams provide to our region: affordable and reliable hydropower, low-emissions transportation of goods, and irrigation for farmers in Washington who feed the world,” said Rodgers. “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 Lower Snake River dams. It’s time for all stakeholders to come together and recognize that recovering endangered salmon is going to take smart investments in habitat restoration, fish passage in blocked areas, better management of predators, and a clear understanding of what is happening to fish in the ocean. I’m hopeful the Columbia River Basin Trust can help put us on a better path.”

“Ratepayers in Eastern Washington have subsidized the hydropower the United States sends to Canada for far too long,” she continued. “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. Ratepayers in Washington cannot continue to be held hostage, which is why it is so important to give the Army Corps the tools it needs to ensure we can meet our flood control needs without relying on Canada. I’m grateful to Chairman DeFazio for recognizing the urgency of this situation and working with me to develop this solution.”

McMorris Rodgers secured the following wins in the House-passed version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022:

Establishing the Columbia River Basin Trust and Task Force, Protecting the Lower Snake River Dams
This provision establishes the Columbia River Basin Trust and Task Force, which is made up of stakeholders that have an interest in endangered salmon and the benefits of the Columbia River System.  After receiving a report from the Army Corps of Engineers on the river system, the task force would develop a restoration plan for the Columbia River Basin to help inform federal investments aimed at restoring endangered salmon, while preserving the critical power, navigation, and irrigation benefits of the dams across the system. This provision expressly prohibits the Army Corps from taking action to breach the Lower Snake River dams. 

Prioritizing Columbia River Treaty Negotiations
This provision prioritizes Columbia River Treaty negotiations by evaluating how U.S. infrastructure can mitigate flood risks once the flood control provisions of the treaty expire. Specifically, it authorizes the Army Corps to study the feasibility of a project for flood risk management in the Columbia River Basin. It also authorizes funding should the U.S. require “call when needed” flood control from Canada.  

NOTE: Last June, Rodgers and DeFazio led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to President Biden urging his administration to prioritize the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty and to provide regular, substantive updates to Congress on the status of its modernization. In March 2022, Rodgers also urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to protect the Lower Snake River dams and prioritize the re-negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022.

The Water Resources Development Act is the biannual bill to address water resources infrastructure funding, as well as Army Corps of Engineers projects for navigation, flood damage reduction, and ecosystem restoration. It is now expected to go to the House floor for a vote.

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