McMorris Rodgers Submits Request to Prevent Dam Breaching, Urges Congress to Prioritize Columbia River Treaty

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today 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 (WRDA) 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.

In written testimony to the committee, Cathy submitted a request that would prevent funding or authorization of the study of removal, study of power, flood control, or navigation replacement, dam removal technical assistance, or removal of powered Federal dams in the USACE Northwestern Division. She also made clear her eagerness to use this legislation as an opportunity to address Columbia River Treaty-related issues.

Below are highlights from her written testimony to the committee:

2022 PRIORITIES
“My top priority is to protect the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) and the four dams on the Lower Snake River. As you both know, the FCRPS comprises 31 hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin and provides one third of the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest, as well as critical flood risk management, irrigation, and navigation benefits.”

RECOVERING SALMON
“I am concerned that emotions continue to overshadow facts when it comes to Columbia Basin salmon recovery and the impact that the Lower Snake River dams have on threatened and endangered salmon populations.

“These are the facts: the Columbia River Basin is home to 61 different fish species, and thirteen species of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead are impacted by the river power system and listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Of these 13 species, only four travel the length of the Columbia River and through the Lower Snake River dams to spawn: Snake River Steelhead, Snake River Spring/Summer Chinook, Snake River Fall Chinook, and Snake River Sockeye. 

“Of these four species, according to Washington State’s 2020 State of Salmon Report, Snake River Fall Run Chinook are approaching their goal and Snake River Basin Steelhead are making progress, while Snake River Spring/Summer Chinook remain in crisis.”

PROTECTING DAMS FOR HYDROPOWER
“I share the goal of recovering threatened and endangered fish species in the Columbia River Basin, which is why I have been a proponent for the clean, renewable hydropower that is generated by the river system, and specifically, the Lower Snake River dams. The Lower Snake River dams provide BPA with capacity to meet peak energy demand loads.

“The Lower Snake River dams are not only critical to grid reliability in the Pacific Northwest, through fish passage adaptations, they achieve 96 percent passage survival for juvenile yearling Chinook salmon and steelhead smolts.

“The bottom line is that efforts to breach the Lower Snake River dams are misguided, which is why I have submitted a request to WRDA 2022 that would prevent funding or authorization of the study of removal, study of power, flood control, or navigation replacement, dam removal technical assistance, or removal of powered Federal dams in the USACE Northwestern Division. It’s time to stop focusing on distractions and start focusing on solutions that will get results for all salmon in the Columbia River Basin.”

COLUMBIA RIVER TREATY
“I appreciate the work that the committee has already done to ensure USACE has the authorization and resources it needs to help support our team within the Department of State during its negotiations with the Canadian government. I support making sure the United States has a plan in place to address Columbia River Treaty-related issues, and if USACE needs additional support to put this plan in place, I would support its inclusion in WRDA 2022. I look forward to our continued work on this matter as the final bill takes shape.”

CLICK HERE to read her full testimony.

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