Hearing held to advance bill making Congress responsible for salmon in Pacific Northwest

A bill introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) in June 2017 is gaining traction.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing on Oct. 12 to discuss H.R. 3144 – To provide for operations of the Federal Columbia River Power System pursuant to a certain operation plan for a specified period of time, and for other purposes.

The intent of the bill is to overrule two decisions made last year by Portland U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, affecting Columbia and Snake River dams, according to The Columbian. Simon ordered federal agencies to increase spring spill from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2018 to improve survival of downstream-migrating salmonids.

In particular, the legislation sets a limitation on restricting FCRPS electrical generation or navigation on the Snake River. It says: “No structural modification, action, study, or engineering plan that restricts electrical generation at any Federal Columbia Power System hydroelectric dam, or that limits navigation on the Snake River in the State of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, shall proceed unless such proposal is specifically and expressly authorized by an Act of Congress enacted after the date of submission to Congress of a proposal for such modification, action, study, or engineering plan, respectively.”

In addition, it proposes amendments to the Supplemental Opinion: “The Secretaries may amend portions of the Supplemental Opinion and operate the FCRPS in accordance with such amendments, before the date established under section 2 if all of the Secretaries [Interior, Energy and Army] determine, in the sole discretion of each Secretary, that 1) the amendment is necessary for public safety or transmission and grid reliability; or 2) the actions, operations, or other requirements that the amendment would remove are no longer warranted.”

It is not clear what the next step is on the bill.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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