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Risch, McMorris Rodgers, PNW Delegation Push Back Against White House Efforts to Breach Dams

Biden Administration Fails to Lead on Columbia River System With Facts or Science

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), along with their colleagues from the Pacific Northwest, today denounced the Biden administration’s lack of transparency and political intervention in processes that could lead to breaching the Lower Snake River dams.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released a draft report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommending at least one Lower Snake River dam be breached in order to recover endangered salmon, as well as an analysis commissioned by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) outlining the scenarios under which the power benefits of the four dams could be replaced.

In response, Risch and Rodgers led a series of letters to CEQ, NOAA, BPA, and the Department of Energy (DOE) expressing concerns about the “seeming disregard for scientific integrity” in the draft report. Additional signers of the letters include Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), and Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.). 

“[W]e were appalled by the lack of transparency and obvious political intervention in processes regarding the recent release of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) draft ‘report’ relating to the Columbia River Basin. Even more alarming, we have received further indication of political maneuvering by this administration to prevent information on the costs of replacing the power generated by the Lower Snake River dams on the Federal Columbia River Power System from being made public prior to the release of the previously mentioned NOAA draft ‘report,’” the lawmakers wrote.  

“The recent actions by this administration have sown complete distrust in this administration’s ability to lead with facts, science, and transparency regarding the Columbia River System,” the lawmakers continued. “These actions will undoubtedly have long-term and damaging effects on this administration’s ability to bring diverse stakeholders together to chart a path forward on species recovery and preservation of the vital benefits of the Columbia River System.”

Click here to read the letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Click here to read the letter to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad.

Click here to read the letter to CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory.

Click here to read the letter to BPA Administrator John Hairston.

Background: The four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River provide multiple benefits to Idaho and the region, including flood risk management, economic stimulus, crop irrigation, and clean hydropower.

Following four years of  comprehensive scientific study of the Columbia River System Operations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration released a  record of decision in September 2020 affirming the four dams’ critical importance to the region.

In March, Risch and Rodgers also led PNW lawmakers in demanding answers from ten federal agencies involved in the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)’s exploration of plans to breach the Lower Snake River dams. Click here to read those letters.

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