Update on lower Snake River dams mediation efforts

Photo by Ben Cochrane

On November 29, the document entitled “U.S. Government Commitments in Support of the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative and in Partnership with the Six Sovereigns” was made public in a letter from Pacific Northwest members of Congress to President Biden. The draft agreement is based on the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative, a proposal to the Biden Administration from the six sovereigns that asserts that the breaching of the lower Snake River dams must and will happen. It relies on a single NOAA study and the Murray-Inslee report (issued in August 2022), puts fish above all other uses, and requires extreme actions to address fish recovery to satisfy and honor the U.S. Government’s treaties with the Tribes.

“We appreciate the efforts of our Representatives in Congress to demand transparency and answers from the Biden Administration on a potentially detrimental agreement that is being made without the voice of the wheat growers it will affect,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. ” As a result of the secrecy of this process, agriculture voices were largely excluded from discussion of impacts and any commitments for funding and mitigation.”

The Columbia-Snake River System moves a significant volume of wheat, corn, soybeans, lumber products, and crop inputs. More than 55% of all U.S. wheat exports move through the river system, and approximately 10% of wheat exports pass through the four locks and dams along the lower Snake River. Removal of the dams will likely bankrupt thousands of farms as they attempt to change their freight distribution network from river barge to rail or truck. This shift would require billions in infrastructure investments, raise shipping costs, reduce land values, and put around 15,000 jobs at risk.

“Ultimately, the decision to breach the dams will take an act of Congress; therefore, we remain committed to working with our allies in Congress to ensure the integrity of the Lower Snake River Dams and salmon health are not mutually exclusive, and any decisions made are based on sound science and reliable data,” Hennings said.

More information is available at these links:

Biden Administration letter sent by Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher, and Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz.

The Capital Press: Mediation deal doesn’t call for dam breach

Statement from Northwest RiverPartners, the Public Power Council, and the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

Tri-City Herald: Leaked ‘secret plan’ reveals Biden admin’s $1B+ proposal preparing for Snake dam breaching

Fox News: Biden Admin Quietly Developing Settlement with Groups Seeking to Tear Down Key Power Source

Northwest Lawmakers Request Additional Information on the Package of Action and Commitments to Determine Future of Lower Snake River Dams Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers news release

Newhouse, Northwest Lawmakers Request Additional Information on Package of Actions and Commitments to Determine the Future of Lower Snake River Dams Rep. Dan Newhouse news release

Fulcher and other Lawmakers Request Additional Information on Package of Actions and Commitments to Determine the Future of Lower Snake River Dams Rep. Russ Fulcher news release