Support a Bipartisan Solution to Salmon Plan Court Challenges

By Debra Smith, General Manager

Last month your Board of Directors adopted a resolution in support of federal House Resolution 3144.  HR 3144 would require the federal agencies responsible for the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) to operate the hydro system consistent with a management plan that was implemented in 2014 to balance salmon recovery, hydropower generation, flood contol, shipping, and recreation objectives.  The plan was to be the guideline for river system operations through 2022, or until replaced under an environmental review process now underway.  HR 3144 has bipartisan support from representatives in Oregon and Washington, including Oregon’s U.S. Representatives Kurt Schrader (D) and Greg Walden (R) who were among the five cosponsors of the bill.

In May 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Simon rejected the river management plan (also called the Salmon Plan or Biological Opinion) and ruled that more options must be considered and a new environmental review completed under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  Federal agencies are required to complete the review by 2022, but in the meantime, environmental groups and other plaintiffs (including the State of Oregon) have asked the judge to intervene and approve changes to federal hydro system operations outside of the NEPA process.  HR 3144 would create a “time-out” from ongoing litigation while that process is completed.  Since 1978, the Bonneville Power Administration has spent $15.28 billion on infrastructure and fish mitigation pojects that have substantially improved fish populations in the FCRPS.  Customers of the Pacific Northwest’s consumer-owned utilities have funded that investment through their monthly utility bills.  We estimate the average Central Lincoln customer spends approximately $10 per month on fish and envionmental costs, and while we place a high value on protecting our salmon populations, we also value reliable and affodable electric rates for all of you.  Will HR 3144 ultimately become law?  It’s not clear.  But we appreciate the bipartisan effort and the balanced approach to river management that it supports.

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