Saffron Restaurants reservation Rep. Newhouse is fighting the Snake River dam deal with 9 bills

Rep. Newhouse is fighting the Snake River dam deal with 9 bills


Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, seen from the air near Pasco.

Tri-City Herald file

Pasco, WA

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., has introduced a package of nine bills to undo parts of a new agreement he sees as the de facto violation of the lower Snake River dams and to remind the White House who has the authority has about the dams.

“I have consistently reminded the Biden administration that authority over the lower Snake River dams remains in the hands of Congress,” Newhouse said.

“This package is not only a powerful reinforcement of that fact, but a testament to our commitment to protecting these critical pieces of infrastructure,” he said.

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The package would ban breaches of the four Snake River hydroelectric dams in Eastern Washington if certain electricity replacement goals, including those related to reliability and consumer costs, could not be met or if breaches would make the river less navigable for barge traffic or increase the cost of moving products. on the river.

It would also give the Bonneville Power Administration authority over changes in the amount of water spilled over the dams instead of used to produce electricity, would require acoustic deterrence of sea lions that feed on salmon near the Bonneville Dam and alternative finding ways to pay for fish and wildlife. programs now paid for by users of electricity from the dams.

Fish viewing area at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River facility near Burbank, south of Pasco, Wash. Tri-City Herald file

The agreement the Biden administration announced in December halts mediation of Columbia River System operations, including the lower Snake River dams, for up to 10 years and provides more than $1 billion for wild fish recovery.

The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors by the White House Council on Environmental Quality with the states of Washington and Oregon and four Northwestern tribes.

The agreement does not call for breaching the four dams in Eastern Washington, from the Ice Harbor Dam near Pasco to the Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston, Idaho.

But breaches are reported 68 times, Newhouse noted. That makes the administration’s goal clear, despite Congress having authority over the dams, he said.

Newhouse also worries that if more water has to be spilled over the dams, the dams could become functionally unusable and energy prices could skyrocket.

Leaks allow young salmon to pass through the dams unless so much water is spilled that the gases in the water, including oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, kill the fish.

Newhouse’s proposed package of bills has co-sponsors from several Republican representatives in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

Four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington are proposed to be removed or breached to improve salmon runs. Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association

Several bills in the package also have support from organizations such as the Public Power Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Port of Benton, Cowlitz PUD and the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association.

Should Newhouse succeed in getting the bills through the House of Representatives, they could face a difficult road in the Democratic-majority Senate.

9 Newhouse accounts

Here’s what the proposed bills to protect the lower Snake River dams would do:

Prohibit the breaching of federal hydropower dams if the production of substitute energy, such as wind or solar farms, would require additional acreage of more than 5%.

Prohibit the breach of federal dams if it would result in an increase in carbon emissions of more than 10%, such as shipping by truck instead of barge; if it would make the river less navigable for commercial interests, such as boaters; Or it would increase the price of products currently transported on the rivers by at least 10%.

Empty barges and a tugboat sat idle on the Snake River near Pasco while the locks on the Snake and Columbia rivers were closed in 2011 for maintenance and a replacement lock gate at the Lower Monumental Dam. Tri-City Herald file

Direct the Department of Energy to develop alternatives to the Fish and Game program to alleviate costs to Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers. The BPA Fish and Wildlife Program now improves habitat, builds hatcheries, encourages fish production in hatcheries, and improves scientific knowledge through research.

Requires the Army Corps of Engineers to acquire acoustic sound technology to deter sea lions feeding on endangered salmon above and below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

Prohibit the Corps from decommissioning an energy generation source, such as a hydroelectric dam, if doing so would increase electricity rates and reduce regional energy reliability by more than 10%.

Directs the U.S. Comptroller General to prepare a report for Congress on the responsibilities and practices of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Requires BPA approval for the amount of water spilled over the dams, instead of being used to produce electricity.

Water from the Snake River flows down a fish ladder at the Lower Monumental Dam. File Tri City Herald

The other two bills are resolutions saying hydropower is critical to energy development and disapproving the deal negotiated by the Biden administration.

Republican cosponsors for some or all of the bills include Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington; Cliff Bentz of Oregon; Russ Fulcher of Idaho; and Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke, both from Montana.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a news reporter in the Pacific Northwest for more than thirty years.
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