There’s good news for the Northwest and the federal hydro system that powers it:
Key members in the Congressional delegation have stepped up to declare the value of affordable, renewable hydropower to our economy and way of life. They’re asserting their rightful authority over the eight federal dams that serve families and businesses in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
In June, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced a bipartisan proposal, H.R. 3144, that would maintain cur-rent salmon protection measures and federal hydro system operations in the 2014 Biological Opinion (BiOp) until a court-ordered review of alternatives is complete.
Meanwhile, their bill would protect the region’s ratepayers from an expected ruling by the same court, the U.S. District Court in Oregon, later this year, that would amount to a grand experiment with our hydro system. The court has already opened the door to potentially spilling tremendous amounts of additional water over the dams, around the clock, instead of generating energy. Left un-remedied, these decisions could raise power costs, put the stability and reliability of the electric grid at risk.
These representatives have a common-sense solution to the court’s overreach. Their bill re-sequences events that the court itself has ordered: First, a full NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review of the hydro system by September 2022. Then, adoption of a new salmon plan or BiOp based on the public NEPA process and the science it yields, instead of a costly spill experiment that may not help and could possibly harm fish.
These elected officials are showing vital leadership with a proposal supported on both sides of the aisle. Their bill protects salmon with measures vetted by the Obama Ad-ministration’s top scientists, and at the same time, protects the hydro system that powers our economy and supplies the biggest part of our energy mix.