On Tuesday, Governor Inslee wrote a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans expressing his concerns over HR 3144. The bill would prohibit any action, study, or structural modification that would reduce the electrical generation from dams within the Federal Columbia Power System.
In the letter, Inslee notes that while dam operations have been modified to reduce their environmental impact over the last 20 years, evidence shows that additional modifications would help restore salmon populations. He says HR 3144 would put an end to the possibility of these kinds of modifications.
“HR 3144 would thwart constructive ongoing efforts to improve future salmon and dam management. This would not only hurt salmon but also the recreational and commercial fisheries, tribes, and other species (such as Puget Sound’s southern resident killer whales) that benefit from healthy salmon runs.”
Inslee writes that under HR 3144, if any studies or actions restrict electricity generation even by a small amount, they would be prohibited. He says this would end discussions and further research about how to best protect salmon habitat and manage Columbia and Snake river dams.
“HR 3144 would halt this learning process in its tracks, preventing a constructive dialog among federal and state agencies, tribes, and the public about how best to manage Columbia and Snake river dams in a region that must continually adapt to ongoing changes to its climate, salmon habitat, and energy system.”
In response, Senator Tim Sheldon, who joined other Washington Senators in a joint memorial to prevent the breaching of any dam in the Columbia River system in January, offered scathing criticism, describing Inslee’s letter as “unfathomable.”
“The governor clearly is siding with environmental groups and the tiny minority of people who think it would be a good idea to tear down the Snake River dams for the sake of fish,” Sheldon said. “Apparently he hasn’t gotten the message about the importance of these dams to the Washington economy, to power production, and the clean air we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest.
“We don’t need to do it to save the salmon and steelhead runs. We’ve seen a huge rebound over the last 10 years. We expect extremism in this debate, but when a person in a position of authority takes an irresponsible position, the nicest thing we can call it is unfathomable.”
HR 3144 was introduced to the United States Congress in June of this year and is still in the earliest stage of the legislative process.