Republicans Criticize Spill of Dam Water to Help Salmon
Republican lawmakers are
upset with a federal judge's order to spill water that could be
saved for other uses from four Snake River dams to help speed
migrating salmon to the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. News 4/15/18
by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Republican Congress members from the
Pacific Northwest are upset with a federal judge's order to
spill water from four Snake River dams to help speed
migrating salmon to the Pacific Ocean.
say the water could be saved for other uses and are
denouncing the spill, which began April 3, and a push by
environmentalists to remove the four dams to increase wild
and fish can co-exist," Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan
Newhouse, whose Washington districts include the dams, said
in a joint statement.
four dams, built in the 1960s and 1970s, provide hydropower,
flood control, navigation, irrigation and recreation
benefits, supporters say. But the giant dams are also blamed
for killing wild salmon, an iconic species in the Northwest.
McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse have introduced a bill that
would prevent any changes in dam operations until 2022. The
measure was co-sponsored by Republican House members from Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada,
along with Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
passed the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday
and heads to the floor in coming weeks.
"Without Snake and Columbia river dams and the many benefits
they provide, life in central Washington as we know it would
be unrecognizable," Newhouse said.
Hydropower is the Northwest's lifeblood, said Republican
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho.
liberal judge to ignore the broad scientific consensus of
the federal government and the states of Idaho, Washington
and Montana is unconscionable and must be stopped," he said.
increased spill will cost some $40 million in lost power
sales, and could hurt transportation and barging on the
rivers, flood control and irrigation systems, Republicans
Democrats argue studies of the dams, including whether they
should be removed, must go forward.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington recently sent a
letter to House and Senate leadership saying the river's
management must include salmon recovery.
letter criticized the bill to prevent changes in dam
operations. It was signed by Murray and Democratic Reps.
Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
Columbia and Snake River system is essential to the Pacific
Northwest's culture, environment and economy," the letter
four dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and
Lower Granite — span the Snake River between the Washington
cities of Pasco and Pullman. Together they produce about 4
percent of the region's electricity.
Replacing that power would require the equivalent of two
nuclear power plants, Labrador said.
Environmental groups disagree.
study contends other renewable sources could replace the
dams' power for a little more than $1 a month for the
average Northwest household.
study "explodes the myth that we can't have both wild salmon
and clean energy," said Joseph Bogaard, director of the Save
Our Wild Salmon Coalition. "We can remove these four deadly
dams, restore one of our nation's great salmon rivers and
improve the Northwest's energy system."
supporters of the dams say wind and solar power are too
unreliable to replace the lost hydropower.
Columbia-Snake river system holds more than a dozen
imperiled salmon runs, and the federal government has spent
more than $15 billion since 1978 on efforts to save the
those efforts have pushed wild salmon, orca and other fish
and wildlife populations closer to extinction, Bogaard said.
Removing the dams is the only way to save the salmon runs,
conservation groups say.
"Salmon are in desperate need of help now," Earthjustice
attorney Todd True said.
Advocates for fishermen also hailed the decision to increase
spill, saying it will produce larger adult salmon returns.
Proposals to remove the four dams have percolated in the
Northwest for decades, and have devolved into a largely
partisan issue with Democrats generally on the side of the
fish and Republicans for keeping the dams.
latest skirmish began in March 2017, when U.S. District
Judge Michael Simon of Portland, Oregon, ordered the dams to
increase spill beginning this spring. Federal agencies have
estimated increasing spill until mid-June will cost electric
ratepayers $40 million in lost power revenues in 2018 alone.
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in early February rejected
an appeal of Simon's order.
dams operate under a plan created by a collaboration of
federal agencies, states and tribes during the Obama
administration to protect salmon.
Simon found it does not do enough. He ruled a new
environmental study is needed, and it must consider the
option of removing the dams. Simon also wrote that wild
salmon were in a "precarious" state.
was disputed by Terry Flores, executive director of
Northwest RiverPartners, a group that includes farmers,
utilities, ports and businesses.
contended spilling so much water from the dams injects high
levels of gas into the water, which can kill fish. The
churning water at the dams also can prevent the next
generation of returning salmon from accessing fish ladders
and keep them from reaching spawning streams, she said.
a bad plan that will cost families and businesses, do little
to help, and may even harm protected salmon, and add tons of
carbon to our air," Flores said of the spill. "We shouldn't
throw good money at a bad plan."
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