The Biden-Harris administration today announced an important step to chart a path forward in a longstanding Columbia River Basin conflict regarding the operation of 14 federal dams and their impacts on the region’s salmon and steelhead populations.
In an effort to take a fresh look at the important issues affecting the communities, economy, and resources of the Pacific Northwest, the United States, the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and a coalition of plaintiffs led by the National Wildlife Federation have reached a compromise on key disputed elements of 2022 Columbia River system operations. The agreement, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, outlines how eight dams in the Columbia River Basin will be operated over the coming year. This will include additional fish passage spill of water past the dams at certain times of year while still preserving reliable hydropower production, transportation, and other services provided by the dams.
The agreement also asks the court to stay the litigation until the end of July 2022, to afford affected states, Tribal nations, and stakeholders the opportunity to identify and review alternative and durable solutions to longstanding challenges in the Columbia River System.
“The Columbia River System is an invaluable natural resource that is critical to many stakeholders in the Basin. Today’s filing represents an important opportunity to prioritize the resolution of more than 20 years of litigation and identify creative solutions that improve conditions for salmon for years to come,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “While it is important to balance the region’s economy and power generation, it is also time to improve conditions for Tribes that have relied on these important species since time immemorial.”
“Hydroelectric power plays an incredible role in integrating renewable resources and providing carbon-free power, a great example of the affordable and clean energy sources that are available in all pockets of this country,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By joining forces with our interagency partners and key stakeholders in the Northwest, DOE will ensure that the reduction of carbon emissions remains a priority, alongside supporting a strong economy and affordable power for families and businesses, as we partner in the Northwest to meet the full range of the region’s goals.”
“The Columbia River System federal dams play a vital role in providing for flood resilience, low-carbon waterborne transportation of goods and public safety in the Region. We remain committed to pursuing collaborative approaches to river management, public safety, and salmon restoration,” stated Acting Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Vance Stewart.
“A healthy and vibrant Columbia River Basin is good for the economy and it’s good for the people of the Pacific Northwest.,” observed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “The Columbia River Basin is essential to salmon and steelhead production on the West Coast, providing a key refuge for salmon and steelhead from the effects of climate change. Finding effective solutions to conserve and rebuild these species and their habitat is of critical importance to our work.”
“For the sake of everyone who lives in the Northwest, it is time to chart a more sustainable path in the Columbia River Basin,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “This agreement opens an opportunity for States, Tribes, Federal agencies, Congress, and all stakeholders to work together to forge enduring solutions that are so badly needed. The Administration is committed to reaching a long-term solution in the region to restore salmon, honoring our commitments to Tribal Nations, ensuring reliable clean energy, and addressing the needs of stakeholders.”