Washington Congressman, Others Step Up Fight to Save Lower Snake River Dams | News

(The Center Square) – A two-decade dispute over lower Snake River dams is back in the headlines this month with a package of bills from U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., aimed at ending a December secret agreement. between the Biden administration and a handful of interested parties seeking to breach the four dams that provide hydroelectric power to the region.

Last year’s agreement between the Biden administration and plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Bonneville Power Administration and other government agencies that manage the dams has since become a formal memorandum of understanding.

Jason Mercier, vice president and research director at the Mountain States Policy Center think tank, spoke with The Center Square about the fight over the fate of the dams.

“We have this consent decree that did not include all interested parties and as a result we are seeing a backlash from Congress in the hearings and now a package of nine bills introduced in recent weeks to try to reaffirm that this is a dam authorized by Congress, and they will not go away without an act of Congress,” Mercier explained.

The fight over the Snake River dams has raged for more than 20 years, largely over salmon and steelhead restoration and other environmental concerns.

The four dams on the lower Snake River are located in the southeast corner of Washington, near the Oregon border. The dams provide a reliable, affordable and stable supply of about 3,000 megawatts of electricity to the region.

For many years, the Bonneville Power Administration has been working with other agencies to mitigate concerns about the dams’ impact on Washington’s iconic fish.

Louis Finkel is the senior vice president of government relations for the National Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.

In a recent Between those lines On the podcast, Finkel said taxpayers have shelled out “hundreds of millions of dollars every year for all kinds of mitigation measures and to allow for overtopping, which means more water passes over or around the dam than through the dam. the electric turbine. “There have been ongoing efforts to try to create opportunities to recover the salmon and steelhead population, and this has been done in a collaborative and transparent manner.”

According to Mercier, transparency was not part of the secret negotiations between the Biden administration and other stakeholders, and the only real consensus on the issue came at a 2020 scientific meeting. review of issues related to the Snake River dams and their possible breach.

“It was science-based and included all interested parties, such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers,” Mercier said. “They looked at all the issues and determined that the dams should not be broken because it would go against the goal of having reliable, affordable energy.”

Mercier concluded: “The study also says it will increase carbon emissions because barge traffic would be replaced by rail or truck.”

The study also predicted more traffic accidents and congestion and the need to spend millions of dollars annually on road maintenance if dams break.

Implementation of the MOU between the Biden administration and select stakeholders to breach the Snake River dams will not come without a fight in Congress.

“Congress authorized these dams and only Congress has the power to remove them,” Mercier observed.

new house package of tickets The goal of saving the dams would prohibit the federal government from retiring a source of power generation if that retirement would increase customers’ electricity rates and decrease regional energy reliability by more than 10%.