[House Hearing, 115 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
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; AND H.R. 3916, ``FEDERALLY
INTEGRATED SPECIES HEALTH (FISH) ACT''
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WATER, POWER AND OCEANS
COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Serial No. 115-24
Printed for the use of the Committee on Natural Resources
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Committee address: http://naturalresources.house.gov
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COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
ROB BISHOP, UT, Chairman
RAUL M. GRIJALVA, AZ, Ranking Democratic Member
Don Young, AK Grace F. Napolitano, CA
Chairman Emeritus Madeleine Z. Bordallo, GU
Louie Gohmert, TX Jim Costa, CA
Vice Chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan,
Doug Lamborn, CO CNMI
Robert J. Wittman, VA Niki Tsongas, MA
Tom McClintock, CA Jared Huffman, CA
Stevan Pearce, NM Vice Ranking Member
Glenn Thompson, PA Alan S. Lowenthal, CA
Paul A. Gosar, AZ Donald S. Beyer, Jr., VA
Raul R. Labrador, ID Norma J. Torres, CA
Scott R. Tipton, CO Ruben Gallego, AZ
Doug LaMalfa, CA Colleen Hanabusa, HI
Jeff Denham, CA Nanette Diaz Barragan, CA
Paul Cook, CA Darren Soto, FL
Bruce Westerman, AR A. Donald McEachin, VA
Garret Graves, LA Anthony G. Brown, MD
Jody B. Hice, GA Wm. Lacy Clay, MO
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, AS Jimmy Gomez, CA
Darin LaHood, IL
Daniel Webster, FL
Jack Bergman, MI
Liz Cheney, WY
Mike Johnson, LA
Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, PR
Greg Gianforte, MT
Cody Stewart, Chief of Staff
Lisa Pittman, Chief Counsel
David Watkins, Democratic Staff Director
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WATER, POWER AND OCEANS
DOUG LAMBORN, CO, Chairman
JARED HUFFMAN, CA, Ranking Democratic Member
Robert J. Wittman, VA Grace F. Napolitano, CA
Tom McClintock, CA Jim Costa, CA
Paul A. Gosar, AZ Donald S. Beyer, Jr., VA
Doug LaMalfa, CA Nanette Diaz Barragan, CA
Jeff Denham, CA Madeleine Z. Bordallo, GU
Garret Graves, LA Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan,
Jody B. Hice, GA CNMI
Daniel Webster, FL Jimmy Gomez, CA
Vice Chairman Raul M. Grijalva, AZ, ex officio
Mike Johnson, LA
Greg Gianforte, MT
Rob Bishop, UT, ex officio
Hearing held on Thursday, October 12, 2017....................... 1
Statement of Members:
Beyer, Hon. Donald S., Jr., a Representative in Congress from
the Commonwealth of Virginia............................... 4
Prepared statement of.................................... 6
Lamborn, Hon. Doug, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Colorado.......................................... 2
Prepared statement of.................................... 3
Statement of Witnesses:
Calvert, Hon. Ken, a Representative in Congress from the
State of California........................................ 10
Hamilton, Liz, Executive Director, Northwest Sportfishing
Industry Association, Oregon City, Oregon.................. 23
Prepared statement of.................................... 25
Heffling, Jack, President, United Power Trades Organization,
West Richland, Washington.................................. 29
Prepared statement of.................................... 31
Questions submitted for the record....................... 35
Keppen, Dan, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance,
Klamath Falls, Oregon...................................... 37
Prepared statement of.................................... 39
Looney, Beth, President and CEO, PNGC Power, Portland, Oregon 16
Prepared statement of.................................... 18
Questions submitted for the record....................... 22
McMorris Rodgers, Hon. Cathy, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Washington............................... 7
Prepared statement of.................................... 9
Mikkelsen, Alan, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation,
U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC............ 12
Prepared statement of.................................... 13
Questions submitted for the record....................... 15
Additional Materials Submitted for the Record:
List of documents submitted for the record retained in the
Committee's official files................................. 59
LEGISLATIVE HEARING ON 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; AND H.R.
3916, TO AMEND THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973 TO VEST IN THE
SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR FUNCTIONS UNDER THAT ACT WITH RESPECT TO
SPECIES OF FISH THAT SPAWN IN FRESH OR ESTUARINE WATERS AND MIGRATE TO
OCEAN WATERS, AND SPECIES OF FISH THAT SPAWN IN OCEAN WATERS AND
MIGRATE TO FRESH WATERS, ``FEDERALLY INTEGRATED SPECIES HEALTH (FISH)
Thursday, October 12, 2017
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans
Committee on Natural Resources
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:03 a.m., in
room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Doug Lamborn
[Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Lamborn, McClintock, Gosar,
LaMalfa, Graves, Hice, Webster; Costa, Beyer, Barragan, and
Also present: Representatives Newhouse and Gianforte.
Mr. Lamborn. The Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans
will come to order. The Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee
meets today to hear testimony on two bills: H.R. 3144,
sponsored by Mrs. McMorris Rodgers of Washington State; and
H.R. 3916, sponsored by Mr. Calvert of California.
Under Committee Rule 4(f), any oral opening statements at
hearings are limited to the Chairman, Ranking Minority Member,
and the Vice Chair. Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that all
other Members' opening statements be made part of the hearing
record if they are submitted to the Subcommittee Clerk by 5:00
Hearing no objection, so ordered.
I also ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from
Washington, Mr. Newhouse, be allowed to sit in with the
Subcommittee and participate in the hearing.
Without objection, so ordered.
Welcome to the Committee.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you.
Mr. Lamborn. You will add a lot.
We will begin with opening statements, starting with
myself, for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DOUG LAMBORN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO
Mr. Lamborn. Today, we will consider two common-sense bills
aimed at improving the recovery of certain Endangered Species
Act listed fish species, while providing certainty for water
and power users.
Throughout the West, Federal and non-Federal hydropower
dams have been constructed to harness the cleanest, most
efficient form of energy. Hydropower is a reliable and
emissions-free source of electricity that accounts for a
majority of the Nation's total renewable electricity
generation. Communities throughout my home state of Colorado
continue to benefit immensely from this source of energy, and
there are many opportunities for new hydropower development.
Hydropower can and should be part of our country's all-of-the-
above energy strategy.
Furthermore, with this Committee advancing bipartisan
proposals, such as Ms. Herrera Beutler's H.R. 2083, we
understand the importance of balancing salmon recovery and
clean hydropower generation.
We will hear from one of our witnesses today that with
survival rates as high as 98 percent at some dams, the choice
does not have to be dams or fish. Rather, both can exist and
prosper in harmony.
While dams provide clean, renewable energy throughout the
West, they also provide other important benefits to their
regions, including flood control, providing irrigation for some
of the most productive agricultural areas of the Nation,
recreation, and allowing a navigation link to international
markets for American farmers.
Despite all the benefits it brings to the region, the
Federal Columbia River Power System has been mired in third-
party litigation, questionable judicial edicts, and onerous
Federal regulations for decades. The American taxpayers and
Pacific Northwest ratepayers deserve better.
The bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3144, introduced by Mrs.
McMorris Rodgers of Washington, looks to provide certainty and
reliability to a hydropower system thrust into a state of legal
purgatory by directing Federal agencies responsible for
operating the system to do so in a manner consistent with the
current operation plan until certain reasonable targets are
It is important to mention that the current operation plan
was declared by the Obama administration to be legally and
scientifically sound, and is supported by the states of
Washington, Idaho, and Montana, several tribes, and other
H.R. 3916, the Federally Integrated Species Health Act, or
FISH Act, introduced by Mr. Calvert of California, is the
second bipartisan-supported bill.
I am surprised to be saying this, but former President
Barack Obama summed up the need for this bill as well as any of
us here could. If you take a look at our TV screens, you will
see a short clip from his 2011 State of the Union address.
Mr. Lamborn. OK, that was well said, especially the second
time around. And I have to agree with President Obama on that.
The FISH Act is a bipartisan solution aimed at clearing up
regulatory confusion between two Federal agencies. As we will
hear from the bill's sponsor today, this bill eliminates
redundancies and overlapping jurisdiction between the Interior
and Commerce Departments specific to certain Endangered Species
Act listed fish species.
These two agencies currently have direct jurisdiction over
the ESA, and it is clear that they cannot harmonize their views
on two different fish within the same watershed. It is time for
a more efficient and holistic approach to manage species under
one, not two, Federal agencies.
Clearly, the ESA process is broken, and the Federal status
quo is not working for species, farmers and ranchers, and rural
communities that depend on our natural resources. Under the
status quo, American taxpayers and ratepayers in the Pacific
Northwest and elsewhere in the West spend, literally, billions
of dollars each year, resulting from conflicting or duplicative
Federal regulatory or judicial edicts under the guise of the
Endangered Species Act.
These bills represent bipartisan pragmatic solutions, and I
want to thank Representatives Calvert and McMorris Rodgers for
being here today, as well as our second panel of witnesses. I
look forward to hearing from all of you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lamborn follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Doug Lamborn, Chairman, Subcommittee on
Water, Power and Oceans
Today we will consider two common-sense bills aimed at improving
the recovery of certain Endangered Species Act listed fish species
while providing certainty for water and power users.
Throughout the West, Federal and non-Federal hydropower dams have
been constructed to harness the cleanest, most efficient form of
energy. Hydropower is a reliable and emissions-free source of
electricity that accounts for a majority of the Nation's total
renewable electricity generation. Communities throughout my home state
of Colorado continue to benefit immensely from this source of energy,
and there are many opportunities for new hydropower development.
Hydropower can and should be part of our country's ``all-of-the-above''
Furthermore, with this Committee advancing bipartisan proposals
such as Mrs. Herrera-Beutler's H.R. 2083, we understand the importance
of balancing salmon recovery and clean hydropower generation. We will
hear from one of our witnesses today that with survival rates as high
as 98 percent at some dams, the choice doesn't have to be ``dams or
fish,'' rather both can exist and prosper in harmony.
While dams provide clean renewable energy throughout the West, they
also provide other important benefits to their regions, including flood
control, providing irrigation for some of the most productive
agricultural areas of the Nation, recreation, and allowing a navigation
link to international markets for American farmers.
Despite all the benefits it brings to the region, the Federal
Columbia River Power System has been mired in third-party litigation,
questionable judicial edicts and onerous Federal regulations for
decades. The American taxpayers and Pacific Northwest ratepayers
The bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3144, introduced by Mrs. McMorris
Rodgers of Washington, looks to provide certainty and reliability to a
hydropower system thrust into a state of legal purgatory by directing
Federal agencies responsible for operating the system to do so in a
manner consistent with the current operation plan until certain,
reasonable targets are met. It is important to mention that the current
operation plan was declared by the Obama administration to be legally
and scientifically sound, and is supported by the states of Washington,
Idaho, and Montana, several tribes and other regional stakeholders.
H.R. 3916, the Federally Integrated Species Health Act--or FISH
Act--introduced by Mr. Calvert of California, is the second bipartisan-
supported bill. I can hardly believe I am saying this, but Barack Obama
summed up the need for this bill as well as any of us could here could.
If you take a look at our TV screens you will see a short clip from his
2011 State of the Union address.
The FISH Act is a bipartisan solution aimed at clearing up
regulatory confusion between two Federal agencies. As we will hear from
the bill sponsor here today, this bill eliminates redundancies and
overlapping jurisdiction between the Interior and Commerce Departments
specific to certain Endangered Species Act listed fish species. These
two agencies currently have direct jurisdiction over the ESA and it's
clear they cannot harmonize their views on two different fish within
the same watershed. It's time for a more efficient and holistic
approach to manage species under one, not two, Federal agencies.
Clearly, the ESA process is broken and the Federal status quo isn't
working for species, farmers and ranchers, and rural communities that
depend on our natural resources. Under the status quo, that cost
American taxpayers and ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest and
elsewhere in the West spend literally billions of dollars each year
resulting from conflicting or duplicative Federal regulatory or
judicial edicts under the guise of the ESA. These bills represent
bipartisan, pragmatic solutions, and I want to thank Representatives
Calvert and McMorris Rodgers for being here today as well as our second
panel of witnesses. I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Mr. Lamborn. I now recognize the Ranking Member----
Mr. Costa. Mr. Chairman? Is it appropriate for a point of
Mr. Lamborn. Yes.
Mr. Costa. I concur with many of your comments. On the
video, what the President went on to say, just to highlight
that, is that when Interior and Commerce are in conflict as to
the jurisdiction between salmon, whether they are in saltwater
and freshwater, he went on to humorously say the salmon get
Mr. Costa. It is nice to have the entirety of it, we didn't
get the clip there.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Thanks for pointing that out. For the sake
of time we couldn't play the whole thing, but that is a good
statement. Thanks for adding that.
I now recognize the Ranking Member for 5 minutes for his
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DONALD S. BEYER, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Mr. Beyer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much. I want to
cry foul for throwing our Democratic President at us up front.
Mr. Beyer. So, to turn to today's hearing, we are going to
discuss two bills that could have the consequence of
undermining the Endangered Species Act. We are talking today
about proposals to undermine protections for salmon and
steelhead, which are extremely important to commercial,
recreational, and tribal fishing interests across the country,
despite the fact that our Nation's salmon runs are currently at
Just this week, we saw reports in the news that, for the
first time in 20 years, Federal scientists surveying the
Pacific Northwest salmon population have come up with empty
nets. A Federal scientist said this week, and I quote, ``We
have never hauled that net through the water looking for salmon
or forage fish and not gotten a single salmon . . . Three times
we pulled that net up, and there was not a thing in it. It was
H.R. 3144 will overturn a recent Federal court decision and
mandate the use of an unlawful operation plan for the Federal
Columbia River Power System. The operation plan in question has
already been found insufficiently protective for fisheries, and
in violation of the Endangered Species Act by a Federal court.
The bill also blocks short-term spills over Federal dams on
the lower Snake and Columbia Rivers that are critically
important for salmon survival and the fishing industry.
Finally, the bill undercuts a full NEPA review that is
already underway for the Federal system on the Columbia by
restricting the study of all reasonable salmon recovery
alternatives that may reduce energy production, such as
additional spills or the potential breach of select dams.
Taking these options off the table before we even study the
costs and benefits is misguided. The sponsor, Representative
McMorris Rodgers, and I do agree that dams and fish can co-
exist. I heartily agree. And the debate should not be about
dams versus no dams, but about striking the appropriate balance
between things like responsible hydropower development and
sound fisheries protection.
For too long there has been an imbalance. Our country built
thousands of dams during the 20th century before we realized
the harm they can cause to our Nation's fisheries. So, today we
are left with many legacy, low-value dams that do not justify
their cost to our Nation's fisheries and natural resources.
As we consider what to do about these older, low-value
dams, our decision making must be guided by the best-available
science and a consideration of all available options.
Unfortunately, H.R. 3144 takes us in the wrong direction by
blocking science-based fisheries management and the study of
potential changes of the status quo, which is not working for
anybody on the Columbia.
The second bill we are discussing today, H.R. 3916, would
transfer all management of ESA listed anadromous and
catadromous fish species from NOAA Fisheries to the Secretary
of the Interior. And I am going to ask our Chairman to spell
those words for me later.
Mr. Beyer. Since the Department of the Interior already has
sole management authority for catadromous species, such as
American eels, that part of the bill can be ignored. What
cannot be ignored, though, is the significant negative impacts
the bill could have on endangered salmon and steelhead.
While it is critical for Federal agencies to work together
to manage these species, marine fisheries, and I think, with
due respect to President Obama's State of the Union, there is
nothing inherently wrong with moving NOAA and Fish and Wildlife
Service together. I think the great objection we have is that
it adds 40 new fish species and populations to Interior's
responsibility without moving any of the authorizations, the
funding, the budget, even the authorizations on the
So, we are not quite sure how Fish and Wildlife Service is
going to manage these new responsibilities with an incomplete
bill. I respectfully ask my colleagues to collaborate with our
Federal agencies who are experts in the field, rather than
rushing through this legislation.
I am looking forward to a productive discussion and working
toward a better balance between multiple uses on our rivers.
Salmon and steelhead are really important, incredibly
important, to the coastal economies. And it does a disservice
to all stakeholders to ignore the science and risk extinction
of these species.
Thank you, the Members, for being here today, and I look
forward to all of our witnesses.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Beyer follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Donald S. Beyer, Jr., a Representative
in Congress from the Commonwealth of Virginia
During today's hearing we are discussing two bills that are yet
another attempt to undermine the Endangered Species Act and drive the
extinction of our Nation's fish and wildlife. Specifically, we're
talking about proposals today to undermine protections for salmon and
steelhead, which are extremely important to commercial, recreational,
and tribal fishing interests across the country, despite the fact that
our Nation's salmon runs are currently at crisis levels.
Just this week we saw reports in the news that, for the first time
in 20 years, Federal scientists surveying the Pacific Northwest's
salmon population have come up with empty nets. A Federal scientist
said this week, ``We have never hauled that net through the water
looking for salmon or forage fish and not gotten a single salmon. . .
Three times we pulled that net up, and there was not a thing in it. It
And yet, here we are today to consider two bills that will do
nothing but accelerate our Nation's salmon declines.
First on the agenda is H.R. 3144, which would overturn a recent
Federal court decision and mandate the use of an unlawful operation
plan for the Federal Columbia River Power System. The operation plan in
question has already been found to be insufficiently protective for
fisheries and to be in violation of the Endangered Species Act by a
The bill also blocks short-term spills over Federal dams on the
lower Snake and Columbia River that, as we'll hear in testimony today,
are critically important for salmon survival and the fishing industry.
Finally, the bill undercuts a full NEPA review that's already
underway for the Federal system on the Columbia by restricting the
study of all reasonable salmon recovery alternatives that may reduce
energy production, such as additional spills or the potential breach of
Taking these options off the table before we've even studied their
costs and benefits is misguided in my view. The sponsor of this bill
and I do agree on one thing, though. When talking about this bill, Rep.
McMorris Rodgers recently said that ``dams and fish can co-exist.'' I
This debate is not about dams versus no dams. The debate is about
striking the appropriate balance between things like responsible
hydropower development and sound fisheries protection. For too long,
there's been an imbalance.
Our country built thousands of dams during the 20th century before
we realized the harm they can cause to our Nation's fisheries. So,
today we are left with many legacy, low-value dams that don't justify
their cost to our Nation's fisheries and natural resources.
As we consider what to do about these older, low-value dams, our
decision making must be guided by the best available science and a
consideration of all available options.
Unfortunately, H.R. 3144 takes us in the wrong direction by
blocking science-based fisheries management and the study of potential
changes to the status quo, which is not working for anybody on the
The second bill we are discussing today, H.R. 3916, would transfer
all management of ESA listed anadromous and catadromous fish species
from NOAA Fisheries to the Secretary of the Interior. Since the
Department of the Interior already has sole management authority for
catadromous species, such as American eels, that part of the bill can
be ignored. What cannot be ignored, however, is the significant
negative impacts the bill would have on endangered salmon and
While it is critical for Federal agencies to work together to
manage these species, marine fisheries, as we all know very well in
this Committee, require the expertise and framework that NOAA and the
regional councils provide. We can all agree that salmon recovery is a
high priority, but I don't think anyone can say that managing a salmon
in a river is the same as managing a salmon in the open ocean.
H.R. 3916 would also reduce Interior's already strained budget and
capacity to manage and recover endangered fish. This bill would add
nearly 40 new fish species and populations to Interior's
responsibilities without any specifics on how this would be funded
after moving out of NOAA's protected resources budget.
I'd also like to point out that because NOAA Fisheries was not
informed prior to the hearing notice, we do not know the agency's
position on the bill. I respectfully advise my colleagues to
collaborate with our Federal agencies, who are the experts in the
field, rather than rushing through partisan legislation.
In closing, I hope that today we can have a productive discussion
about solutions to recover endangered fish species. We should work
toward achieving a better balance between multiple uses on our rivers,
including removal of low-value dams to aid salmon recovery, rather than
debate a partisan ESA agenda. Salmon and steelhead are incredibly
important to coastal economies, and it does a disservice to all
stakeholders to ignore science and risk extinction of these species.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here today. I look
forward to hearing from you.
Mr. Beyer. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. OK, thank you. We just don't want the salmon
to get smoked.
Mr. Lamborn. We will now move to our first witness panel to
hear testimony from our colleagues on their bills.
As a reminder, you are limited to 5 minutes, but your
written statement will appear in full in the hearing record.
I now recognize Representative Calvert from California to
testify on H.R. 3916, unless----
Mr. Calvert. I would prefer that we yield to the gentlelady
Mr. Lamborn. OK. In that case, I recognize Representative
McMorris Rodgers from Washington State for 5 minutes to testify
on H.R. 3144.
After you are done, if you need to go meet other
obligations, you will be excused. We will thank you in advance
for your testimony. But it is up to you.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
members of the Committee. Thank you to my colleague here with
me. I appreciate the kind welcome. It is great to be back, and
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to testify in front of
this Committee on which I served for three terms.
It is also fitting today that we are talking about this
legislation on the 80th anniversary of Bonneville Power
Administration (BPA). Congress created BPA in 1937 on the heels
of the Great Depression to distribute the power generated from
the development of two federally authorized dams: Bonneville
and Grand Coulee Dams.
These marvels of engineering provided the Pacific Northwest
with the Nation's most affordable, reliable, and renewable
energy. And still today, over 70 percent of Washington State's
energy is powered through hydroelectricity, powering our homes,
our businesses, and our communities.
During World War II, it was the Federal power supplied by
BPA that was instrumental in the ramp-up of the aluminum
industry that went into Boeing's B-17 and B-29 planes and
powered the production of nearly 750 large ships before the end
of the war. In the words of President Harry Truman, ``Without
Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams it would have been almost
impossible to win this war.''
It is also the building of the Columbia Snake River System
that transformed the Pacific Northwest from a dry, barren
sagebrush land into one of the most productive agriculture
regions. It also laid the foundation, because of low-cost
electricity, for our economy today: manufacturing and
In 1945, Congress authorized the construction of four large
dams along the Snake River--Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental,
Little Goose, and Lower Granite--to grow what we called the
Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). These four dams
are able to power nearly 2 million homes, or a city the size of
Seattle. They are crucial in meeting BPA's peak loads during
the hottest days in the summer when the wind does not blow, or
the coldest parts of winter when we have little sunlight.
This year, eastern Washington had a harsh winter with many
days below freezing. During the coldest days, BPA relied on the
ability of these four dams to ramp up production and meet
demand. Without this reliable base load, I fear many in eastern
Washington would have lost power and heat.
It is important to look back at this history when we think
about BPA and the future of energy. Just last week, BPA made
its 34th consecutive payment of $1.3 billion for Fiscal Year
2017. They were able to do this because our region values low-
cost, carbon-free energy. These dams average fish survival
rates of 97 percent, despite what some say. Check the facts.
And while recent warming water in the Pacific Ocean is
happening--scientists call it a ``blob''--and has slowed salmon
returns recently, more total salmon have returned this year
than before many of these dams were built. Over 600,000 fall
Chinook are forecasted this year--many times higher than when
they were first listed.
I think it is important to note that, of the 13 fish listed
under the ESA, only 4 species pass along the lower Snake River
We have also invested in tremendous research and new
technologies like fish-friendly turbines, habitat restoration,
and local collaboration. I mention this local collaboration
because I want to quote the FCRPS Adaptive Management
Implementation Plan, which was produced by the Department of
the Interior, BPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA: ``The
Obama administration undertook an extensive effort to review
the 2008 FCRPS Biological Opinion'' and found that ``the 2008
BiOp is biologically and legally sound, is based on the best
available scientific information, and satisfies the ESA
This BiOp was supported by states, tribal entities,
utilities, ports, irrigation districts, and other Pacific
Northwest water users. This has been an unprecedented
collaboration between these stakeholders. Unfortunately, the
Oregon Federal District Court ignored these efforts,
invalidated the BiOp, and set a course that will likely put
BPA's future and yearly investments of hundreds of millions of
dollars in fish recovery in jeopardy.
BPA's rates have gone up nearly 30 percent the last few
years--5.4 percent projected for both 2018 and 2019.
Unnecessary litigation and unnecessary spill requirements by
this Oregon judge only add on to the cost.
In 2008, BPA has to re-negotiate these contracts, and their
customers are making decisions now. The needless uncertainty
that continues to plague the Columbia Snake River System and
the continued attacks on these lower Snake River dams have
utilities looking elsewhere, and I don't blame them.
That is why I have introduced this legislation to provide
certainty. This bill would simply codify the current BiOp and
reassert Congress' authority over the dams. Dams and fish can
co-exist, but we must get out of the courtroom and allow fish
recovery to continue.
Thank you, and I yield back.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. McMorris Rodgers follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Representative
in Congress from the State of Washington
Thank you Chairman Lamborn.
I find it fitting today that we are talking about this legislation
on the 80th anniversary of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
Congress created BPA in 1937 on the heels of the Great Depression to
distribute the power generated from the development of two federally
authorized dams: Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams. These marvels of
engineering provided the Pacific Northwest with the Nation's cheapest
and most reliable energy.
During World War II, it was the Federal power supplied by BPA that
was instrumental in the ramp up of the aluminum industry that went into
Boeing's B-17 and B-29 and powered the production of nearly 750 large
ships before the end of the war. In the words of President Harry
Truman, ``Without Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams it would have been
almost impossible to win this war.''
In 1945, Congress authorized the construction of four large dams
along the Snake River--Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and
Lower Granite--to grow what we call the Federal Columbia River Power
System (FCRPS). These four dams can power 1.8 million homes, or a city
the size of Seattle, and are crucial to meet BPA's peak loads during
the hottest days in the summer when the wind doesn't blow or the
coldest part of winter when the Pacific Northwest encounters little
This year, eastern Washington had a harsh winter with many days
below freezing. During the coldest days, BPA relied on the ability of
these four dams to ramp up production and meet the demand. Without a
reliable base load source, I fear many in eastern Washington would have
lost power and heat.
It is important to look back at this history when we think about
BPA, the FCRPS, and the future of energy in our region. Last week, BPA
made their 34th consecutive payment of $1.3 billion for FY17 to the
Treasury. They were able to do this because our region values low-cost,
carbon-free energy that BPA sells as a result of the hydropower
production along the FCRPS. In Washington State, hydropower accounts
for almost 70 percent of electricity generation.
Some argue that these four dams in particular have negatively
impacted migratory fish. Yet, these dams average fish survival rates of
97 percent. And while recent ocean impacts--which scientists call a
``blob''--have slowed salmon returns recently, more total salmon have
returned this year than before many of the dams were in place. Over
600,000 fall Chinook are forecasted this year--many times higher than
when they were first listed. It is also important to note that, of the
13 fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), only 4 species
pass these dams. These fish passage rates are the result of significant
Federal investments in new technologies like fish friendly turbines,
habitat restoration, and local collaboration.
I mention local collaboration because I want to quote the FCRPS
Adaptive Management Implementation Plan produced by the Department of
the Interior, BPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA, ``the Obama
administration undertook an extensive effort to review the 2008 FCRPS
Biological Opinion'' and found that ``the 2008 BiOp is biologically and
legally sound, is based on the best available scientific information,
and satisfies the ESA jeopardy standard.'' This BiOp is supported by
states, tribal entities, utilities, ports, irrigation districts, and
other Pacific Northwest water users.
Unfortunately, the Oregon Federal District Court ignored these
efforts, invalidated the BiOp, and set a course that will likely put
BPA's future and the yearly investments of hundreds of millions of
dollars in fish recovery funding in jeopardy.
BPA's rates have gone up roughly 30 percent the last few years with
an average increase of 5.4 percent for 2018 and 2019. Unnecessary
litigation and unnecessary spill requirements only add on to these
In 2028, BPA has to renegotiate their contracts and their customers
are making decisions now. The needless uncertainty that continues to
plague the FCPRS and the continued attacks on the Snake River Dams has
utilities looking elsewhere--and I don't blame them.
As a result, I introduced bipartisan legislation to provide this
certainty. This bill would simply codify the current BiOp until 2022
and prevent unnecessary costs. It also reasserts Congress' authority
over the dams.
Fish and dams can co-exist, but we must get out of the courtroom
and allow fish recovery to continue.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you for your testimony. We will give
your legislation the serious and thoughtful consideration that
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you, Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. And you are excused if you wish to be. Thank
you for being here.
We will now hear from Representative Calvert from
California to testify on H.R. 3916.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. KEN CALVERT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Calvert. Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member, and members
of the Subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing to
discuss my legislation, H.R. 3916, the Federally Integrated
Species Health Act, otherwise known as the FISH Act. It took a
while to get that acronym down, but we got it.
Mr. Calvert. This legislation makes a fairly
straightforward and common-sense change to the Endangered
Species Act. It is one of the few times I actually agreed with
President Obama. Yet, as you all know, there is no such thing
as a simple change to the Endangered Species Act.
Despite this fact, I do believe that we must not be held
hostage by the status quo, and will continue to advocate for
policy changes that can improve the ESA and advance our ability
to achieve its worthwhile goals of species recovery.
Currently, under the ESA, the Secretary of the Interior,
through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has
responsibilities for plants, wildlife, and all freshwater fish.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), is responsible for
implementing ESA with respect to saltwater fish. So, we have
two separate agencies implementing the same law.
Our regulators fully understand which agency is responsible
for each individual species. Unfortunately, these species do
not live in a bubble, and often we see fish that fall under the
jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service and NMFS living
in the same ecosystem.
There are numerous examples of how the status quo is not
working, but in order to be brief, I will focus my comments on
Mr. Costa and I, our favorite subject, the California Bay
The Delta is one of two major water sources for the state
of California. The complex habitat has two listed species: the
delta smelt regulated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the
Chinook salmon regulated by NMFS, the status of the delta
smelt, the Chinook salmon that impacts the daily operations of
the Federal Central Valley Project, and a state water project.
In the case of the California Bay Delta, we have seen the
negative consequences of these two agencies enforcing the same
law in the form of a series of contradictory, conflicting
regulations. NMFS has increasingly held more water behind
Shasta Dam, for instance, to protect salmon, while Fish and
Wildlife has tried to increase flows to reduce the salinity of
the delta in order to help the smelt.
The goal of the FISH Act is to eliminate bureaucratic turf
wars and to ensure cohesive implementation of the Endangered
Species Act. The bill consolidates all ESA regulatory functions
within the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Currently, both fish and people are held hostage by two
agencies that don't work well together with respect to the
Endangered Species Act. My bill would end this situation. By
creating a more unified approach that takes an all-encompassing
view of species management, we can improve the ESA in a manner
that benefits species as well as ESA stakeholders. By giving
the Fish and Wildlife Service the sole authority to enforce
ESA, we can have multi-species recovery plans that are written
in a way that species management is done in concert, instead of
in conflict. And when problems do arise, one agency can solve
these problems more quickly than two agencies.
I am grateful to have a bipartisan group of co-sponsors for
the FISH Act, which includes my California colleagues, Doug
LaMalfa, David Valadao, Jim Costa, and my good friend and
fellow appropriator, Mike Simpson. So, these issues with
Appropriations I think we can resolve.
Again, thank you for holding this hearing today, and your
continued leadership on this complex management of the species
and water infrastructure.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Lamborn. All right. Thank you for your testimony and
for being here today. You are excused, and we look forward to
considering your bill thoughtfully and seriously.
I would now like to call forward our second panel of
witnesses. I will introduce the panel as they come forward and
take their seats, so please come and make yourselves
Our first witness is Mr. Alan Mikkelsen, Acting
Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, from Washington, DC;
our second witness is Ms. Beth Looney, President and CEO of
PNGC Power from Portland, Oregon, and formerly Kansas; our
third witness is Ms. Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association from Oregon City,
Oregon; our fourth witness is Mr. Jack Heffling, President of
the United Power Trades Organization from West Richland,
Washington; and our final witness is Mr. Dan Keppen, Executive
Director of the Family Farm Alliance from Klamath Falls,
Thank you all for being here. Each witness' written
testimony will appear in full in the hearing record, so I ask
that witnesses keep their oral statements to 5 minutes, as
outlined in our invitation letter to you and under Committee
I also want to explain how our timing lights work. When you
are recognized, press the talk button to activate your
microphone. Once you begin your testimony, the Clerk will start
the timer and a green light will appear. After 4 minutes, a
yellow light will appear. At that time you should begin to
conclude your statement. At 5 minutes, the red light will come
on. You may complete your sentence, but I would ask that you
stop at that point.
Mr. Mikkelsen, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF ALAN MIKKELSEN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, BUREAU OF
RECLAMATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Mikkelsen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Beyer, and
members of the Subcommittee. I am Alan Mikkelsen, Acting
Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. Today, I testify on
behalf of Department of the Interior. I prepared a written
statement on H.R. 3144 and ask that it be made part of that
record, and I am here to summarize the Department's position in
my brief remarks now.
First, H.R. 3144 seeks to allow the continued operation of
the Federal Columbia River Power System, pending the effective
date of a new biological opinion and a completion of related
environmental compliance. At a time when, in our litigious
society, we have practically turned over the operation of
massive natural resource assets to the Federal court judges, I
am pleased to testify that the Department of the Interior
supports the goals of H.R. 3144.
The Federal Columbia River Power System in our Nation's
Pacific Northwest consists of 31 federally owned hydroelectric
power projects. This bill is focused on a subset of 14 of those
dams and power plants. The largest of these is Grand Coulee
Dam, the largest hydropower producer in the country, generating
more than 21 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
Along with Hungry Horse Dam and 12 other power facilities,
our smooth operation of the entire system maximizes beneficial
uses of the Columbia River by generating power, protecting fish
and wildlife, mitigating flood risks, providing irrigation,
navigation, and sustaining cultural resources.
Working through a cooperative effort of five Federal
agencies, the system is able to contribute about 35 percent of
the Pacific Northwest's clean and renewable electric energy. It
allows shipping access from the ocean inland to Lewiston,
Idaho, a distance of 465 miles, and it provides 17 million
acre-feet of water storage. Without question, the Federal
Columbia River Power System is a vital component to the
economic health not only of the Pacific Northwest, but the
However, since the early 1990s, biological opinions on
system operations have been the subject of continuous
litigation. As it stands today, the Federal Government is
obligated by court order to prepare a new, interim biological
opinion to replace a 2014 BiOp, and to do so by December 31,
The court also directed Federal agencies to complete a new
environmental impact statement by March of 2021, and various
records of decision by September of 2021. This is all in
addition to a potential long-term BiOp to be adopted in 2022,
which will undoubtedly also be litigated.
Managing the development of these numerous court-ordered
measures puts a strain on our ongoing operations of the system.
The aim of H.R. 3144 would be to reduce litigation and allow
the cooperating Federal agencies to focus on the continued
operation of this vital waterway system until a new biological
opinion is prepared to cover the period from 2019 to 2022.
My written statement includes a section-by-section analysis
of the bill. But for the sake of this testimony, let me repeat
that we stand ready to work with the Committee to ensure H.R.
3144 accomplishes our shared interest in providing continued
stable operations of this vital system.
The Subcommittee is also considering H.R. 3916.
Unfortunately, we do not have an OMB-approved statement for the
record on that legislation at this time. I understand that we
will be submitting that this afternoon.
I do, of course, have extensive experience as a fishing
guide in my previous retirement in our Nation's Pacific
Northwest, and can even discuss the difference between
anadromous and catadromous fish or species in my sleep, if
necessary, and would be happy to take any generic questions in
Mr. Chairman, again, thank you. That concludes my remarks,
and I would be pleased to answer any questions the Subcommittee
may have on these matters.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Mikkelsen follows:]
Prepared Statement of Alan Mikkelsen, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of
Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior on H.R. 3144
Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Huffman, and members of the
Subcommittee, my name is Alan Mikkelsen and I am the Acting
Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the
Interior. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on behalf
of the Department regarding H.R. 3144, a bill that aims to allow for
the continued operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System
pending the effective date of a new biological opinion and the
completion of associated environmental compliance. The Department
supports the goals of H.R. 3144.
Before I begin to discuss the Department's views on H.R. 3144, I
first want to touch upon the Bureau of Reclamation's (Reclamation)
involvement in the Federal Columbia River Power System (System). While
the entire System consists of 31 federally-owned hydroelectric power
projects located on the main-stem of the Columbia River and its major
tributaries, the bill is focused on a subset of 14 integrated dams and
Of the 14 federally-owned projects, two are operated by the
Department of the Interior, including the Grand Coulee Dam, which began
operation in 1942. It is the largest hydroelectric power producer in
the United States, generating more than 21 billion kilowatt-hours of
electricity each year. The 5,223 feet long dam produces nearly a fourth
of the System's total generation, allows for the irrigation of
approximately 671,000 acres in east central Washington, anchors flood
risk management in the river basin, and provides recreational access
for over 1.2 million visitors to the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation
The other Reclamation facility is the Hungry Horse Dam for which
construction was completed in 1953. At the time, Hungry Horse was the
third largest dam, and the second highest concrete dam, in the world.
Annually, Hungry Horse Dam generates 948.6 million kilowatt-hours of
Over time, Reclamation integrated its operations of Grand Coulee
and Hungry Horse Dams with the operations of 12 other federally-owned
hydroelectric power facilities. These System operations ensure
coordination among Federal agencies to maximize beneficial uses of the
Columbia River by generating power, protecting fish and wildlife,
mitigating flood risks, providing irrigation and navigation, and
sustaining cultural resources. All together the System contributes
about 35 percent of the Pacific Northwest's electric generating
capacity, allows shipping access from the Pacific Ocean 465 miles
inland to Lewiston, Idaho, and provides 17 million acre-feet of water
storage. Reclamation operates the System in collaboration with the
Bonneville Power Administration, which was established in 1937 to
market and transmit electricity produced from the federally-owned
hydroelectric power facilities, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
which operates and maintains 12 dams within the System for a range of
purposes including flood control, power generation, and navigation.
While the System provides numerous public benefits, operation of
the System is not without adverse impacts; most notably for the
purposes of H.R. 3144, impacts on populations of Columbia River and
Snake River salmon and steelhead. The ongoing operation of the System
has resulted in over two decades of litigation focused on the
protection of these fish populations.
In the 1990s, the System and its operators began to experience
growing pressures associated with impacts on fish and wildlife
protection. In 1991, the Snake River sockeye salmon was listed as
endangered under the Endangered Species Act, followed by a dozen more
endangered or threatened-listings of Columbia and Snake River salmonids
over the ensuing decade. In 1992, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries)
issued its first biological opinion for this System. Since then,
numerous NOAA Fisheries biological opinions on System operations have
been subject to litigation.
Most recently, on May 4, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the
District of Oregon ruled that NOAA Fisheries' 2014 biological opinion
(2014 BiOp) was arbitrary and capricious, concluding that the
operations of the System violated the Endangered Species Act
notwithstanding inclusion of a comprehensive, regionally coordinated
reasonable and prudent alternative based on 74 categories of protective
actions, and further that the Army Corps of Engineers and Reclamation
violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) by
neglecting to prepare a NEPA document in connection with their records
of decision implementing the reasonable and prudent alternative
described in the 2014 BiOp. The U.S. District Court ordered NOAA
Fisheries to prepare a new interim biological opinion no later than
December 31, 2018 (2018 BiOp). The Court's July 2016 remand order
further directed the agencies to complete a new environmental impact
statement (EIS) by March 26, 2021 and the agencies' respective records
of decision by September 24, 2021, in addition to the interim 2018 BiOp
and a potential long-term BiOp on or before the conclusion of the NEPA
process. The need to balance the ongoing operations of the System and
achieving compliance with environmental laws is what H.R. 3144 seeks to
In our view, H.R. 3144 aims to allow NOAA Fisheries and the Federal
agencies responsible for System operations to focus on development of a
long-term biological opinion and EIS without diverting resources for
preparation of a short-term biological opinion to cover the period of
2019-2022. We believe H.R. 3144 also aims to reduce litigation over
System operations during that period. The Department welcomes the
opportunity to assist the bill sponsors and this Committee to ensure
H.R. 3144 accomplishes our shared interest in providing continued
stable operation of the System.
Section 2 requires the Secretaries of the Interior, Energy and Army
(Secretaries) to continue operating the System in compliance with the
2014 BiOp. The Secretaries would continue System operations under the
2014 BiOp until either September 30, 2022, or the date upon which a
final biological opinion is in full force and effect, whichever date is
later. It is our understanding that the sponsors' intent in Section 2
is to authorize continued system operations under the 2014 BiOp, thus
alleviating NOAA Fisheries' obligation to complete the 2018 BiOp and
the other agencies' corresponding need to produce a biological
assessment. This would allow Federal agencies to focus their resources
on developing a long-term BiOp.
Currently, Reclamation's Columbia-Snake Salmon Recovery Office
along with their colleagues at the other agencies are responsible for
conducting and implementing all aspects of the Endangered Species Act
section 7 consultation processes for the System. The same staff
provides support for litigation, implements compliance with the
District Court's May 4, 2016, injunction, and provides analysis and
data to the NEPA process through the preparation of an EIS pursuant to
the Court's remand order. If the goals of Section 2 were achieved,
Reclamation and its sister agencies could focus resources on compliance
with the NEPA process and development of a long-term BiOp while also
continuing implementation of the 2014 BiOp activities. The
repositioning of these resources would accordingly benefit the effort
to identify a quality long-term System solution. We look forward to
working with you to ensure Section 2 adequately addresses the sponsors'
intent to ensure the 2014 BiOp governs System operations until the
dates identified in Section 2.
Section 3 of the bill would authorize the Secretaries to amend
portions of the 2014 BiOp and operate the System in accordance with
such amendments if all Secretaries concur that such an amendment is
necessary for public safety or transmission and grid reliability, or
that certain actions, operations or other requirements of the 2014 BiOp
are no longer warranted. We look forward to working with the sponsors
and the Committee to clarify the intent of this section concerning the
requirements applicable to the three Secretaries.
Section 4 would prohibit any structural modification, action,
study, or engineering plan that would restrict electrical generation at
any System hydroelectric dam, or limit navigation on the Snake River,
absent additional congressional authorization. Specifically, it is our
understanding that the goal of Section 4 is to prohibit the identified
agencies from studying removal of System dams through an EIS without
additional congressional authorization. In this section, the terms
structural modification, action, study or engineering plan could
potentially limit Reclamation's ability to conduct routine operations
and maintenance activities, even if the restrictions to electrical
generation are incidental to the purpose of the operation and
We look forward to working with you to ensure Section 4 adequately
addresses the sponsors' intent without interfering with the ability of
System operators to conduct operation and maintenance activities
necessary to meet authorized project purposes and to evaluate a
reasonable range of alternatives in the EIS.
In conclusion, we welcome the opportunity to work with the bill
sponsors, other appropriate Federal agencies, and this Committee to
ensure the System continues to provide the full range of public
benefits to the Pacific Northwest and the Nation at large, while
managing adverse impacts caused by System operations. This concludes my
written statement. I would be pleased to answer questions at the
Questions Submitted for the Record by Rep. Denham to Alan Mikkelsen,
Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
Question 1. Section 3(c)(I)(A) ofthe bill says, that all ``orders,
determinations, rules, regulations, permits, grants, loans, contracts,
agreements, certificates, licenses, and privileges . . . issued by the
Department of Commerce . . . in effect on the effective date of this
Act . . . shall continue in effect according to their terms until
modified . . .'' by law or the President.
In 2014, NMFS issued a ``Recovery Plan (or Sacramento River Winter-
Run Chinook, Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook and Central Valley
Steelhead.'' The recovery plan is regarded by local water agencies as a
policy document rather than a scientific determination or a rule or
regulation, but NMFS uses the plan as the basis and justification for
ESA regulatory actions in the Central Valley.
Under Sec. 3(c)(I)(A), which agency--NMFS or USFWS--would be
responsible for implementing the 2014 recovery plan? If USFWS would be
responsible for implementation, when would USFWS take over from NMFS
and how would that transition be accomplished?
Answer. Should H.R. 3916 become law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (FWS) will be responsible for implementing the 2014 Recovery
Plan for Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook, Central Valley Spring-Run
Chinook, and Central Valley Steelhead upon enactment. While we cannot
speak to the specifics of how the transition would be accomplished at
this time, the FWS would work closely with the National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding past and current implementation of
the plan in order to ensure a smooth and seamless transition of
Question 2. Section 3(c)(2)(A) ofthe bill says, ``This Act shall
not affect any proceedings or any application for any benefits,
service, license, permit, certificate, or financial assistance pending
on the date ofthe enactment of this Act before an office transferred by
The section appears to allow NMFS to retain ESA jurisdiction in an
ongoing FERC hydroelectric licensing proceedings where NMFS can
exercise its ``mandatory conditioning'' authority to force FERC to
require that licensees carry out certain actions, such as providing
fish passage over Central Valley dams, regardless of cost.
Under the bill, does NMFS retain its ESA authorities in current
FERC licensing proceedings? If so, when is a FERC licensing process
deemed to be ``pending'' --underway--under the bill? For example, does
the process ``start'' when the applicant for a hydro license files its
first Notice of Intent, or when FERC issues a formal Request for
Environmental Assessment (REA) to NMFS, USFWS and other agencies after
the final license application is filed?
If NMFS-mandated fishery actions become part of a final hydro
license issued by FERC, what role, if any, does NMFS have in overseeing
implementation of its mandated license conditions? Does the bill
anticipate post-licensing ESA authority will reside with NMFS or USFWS?
If the latter, how will that transition be accomplished?
Answer. Should H.R. 3916 become law, at the time of enactment, any
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hydro licensing proceeding
NMFS had begun work on in any way would be grandfathered and not
transferred to the FWS. NMFS would continue to participate in these
projects until the proceedings are concluded. Once the proceedings are
concluded, FWS would assume responsibility for overseeing
implementation of any license conditions that specify a role for NMFS,
as well as any post-licensing monitoring. While we cannot speak to the
specifics of how the transition would be accomplished at this time, FWS
would work closely with NMFS to ensure a smooth and seamless transition
of management responsibility.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you. We now recognize Ms. Looney for 5
STATEMENT OF BETH LOONEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PNGC POWER,
Ms. Looney. Good morning, Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member
Beyer, and members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate the
opportunity to testify before you today on H.R. 3144. My name
is Beth Looney. I am President and CEO of PNGC Power. PNGC is a
Portland, Oregon-based electric generation and transmission
cooperative created and owned by 15 electric distributive
As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, PNGC provides all
the wholesale power requirements of 200,000 member homes, or
roughly 500,000 individuals, farms, and businesses. PNGC is
also a member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association, the NRECA, the service organization for America's
In addition to my role at PNGC Power, I also serve on the
Board of Directors of Northwest River Partners, an alliance of
utilities, farmers, ports, and businesses that promote the
economic and environmental benefits of the Columbia and Snake
Rivers. River Partners' 120-member organization represents more
than 4 million electric utility customers, 40,000 farmers,
thousands of port employees, and large and small businesses
that provide hundreds of thousands of Northwest jobs.
My goal in providing testimony today is to inform you of an
issue that weighs heavily in my mind and the minds of those
public power utilities in the Northwest.
In 1991, the first salmon species was listed endangered
under the ESA in the Columbia River Basin. Since that time, the
cost to mitigate for these now-13 species has been placed upon
the Bonneville Power Administration, the Federal power
marketing agency for the hydro dams located in the Basin.
Bonneville passes through all of their costs, including these
fish mitigation costs, to their power customers.
About 80 percent of PNGC's power supply comes from
Bonneville. Since Bonneville makes up such a large portion of
PNGC's total power supply costs, I am concerned about its
In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, Bonneville reported total fish
and wildlife costs of approximately $622 million in 1 year,
each year. Bonneville reported this makes up about a third of
Bonneville's total cost of power--a third. In fact,
Bonneville's customers fund the largest mitigation effort for
threatened and endangered species in the Nation.
PNGC and Northwest River Partners are delighted that
positive biological results have been attained due to these
monumental efforts to mitigate for these species. However,
despite these efforts, Bonneville, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and NOAA are continually
hauled into court by plaintiffs with an agenda who place no
value on Federal science, conducted primarily under both the
Bush and Obama administrations.
Now, yet again, due to plaintiff-filed motions for
injunctive relief, the U.S. Court for the District of Oregon is
likely to order increased spill over the dams for the 2018
migration season. It is expected that this $40 million spill
experiment will cost Bonneville customers another 2 percent
power rate increase. This 2 percent is on top of a 5.4 percent
rate increase ushered in last week, and on top of an additional
30 percent rate increase that was brought in over the past
My rural customers cannot dig any deeper. They are already
just barely getting by.
Even more concerning than the recent large rate increases
is the potential for future rate increases. As outlined in my
written statement, if Bonneville's rates continue to climb at
their current trajectory, they will likely not be competitive
with alternative power supply choices in the region.
If Bonneville's customers choose more cost-effective
options, Bonneville will not have a sufficient consumer base to
cover its costs, costs that include the fish and wildlife
program. It also puts at risk Bonneville's ability to make its
annual payment to the U.S. Treasury, which would negatively
affect the Nation's taxpayers.
PNGC values the clean, carbon-free, flexible hydropower
resources that Bonneville provides. However, I have a
responsibility to supply power to my members at an affordable
rate, whether that comes from Bonneville or elsewhere.
So, why am I supporting this bill? This bill keeps in place
current biological measures vetted by the top Federal
scientists that protect salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers
until a court-ordered review of Federal hydro system operations
is complete. It effectively puts a time-out on litigation so
that Federal agencies can do the environmental review work the
judge has asked them to do without being sidetracked and
burdened with litigation expenses and activities. When this
work is complete, the agencies will be positioned to adopt a
new salmon plan based on a public, transparent NEPA process and
the science it yields.
Thank you, and I welcome any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Looney follows:]
Prepared Statement of Beth Looney, President and Chief Executive
Officer, PNGC Power on H.R. 3144
Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Huffman and members of the
Committee, my name is Beth Looney, President and Chief Executive
Officer (``CEO'') of PNGC Power (``PNGC Power'' or ``PNGC'').
I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on H.R.
3144, legislation to require the Federal agencies responsible for
management of the Federal Columbia River Power System (``FCRPS'') to
operate the hydropower system in compliance with the Biological Opinion
(``BiOp'') approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (``NOAA'') in 2008/2010 and supplemented in 2014. I look
forward to discussing how this legislation protects PNGC Power's access
to renewable, clean, and reliable Federal hydropower while mitigating
hydropower impacts and protecting Endangered Species Act (``ESA'')
listed salmon populations.
PNGC Power is a Portland, Oregon-based electric generation and
transmission (``G&T'') cooperative owned by 15 Northwest electric
distribution cooperative utilities. Our company creates value for its
member systems by providing wholesale power supply, transmission, and
other management services. PNGC Power is an aggregator of
geographically diverse loads in a seven state region (Oregon,
Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming). By coming
together as PNGC Power, our member cooperatives have more options than
any one cooperative could have alone. PNGC Power is also a member of
the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (``NRECA''), the
service organization for America's electric cooperatives.
In addition to my role at PNGC Power, I serve on the Board of
Directors of Northwest RiverPartners (``RiverPartners''), an alliance
of utilities, farmers, ports and businesses that promote the economic
and environmental benefits of the Columbia and Snake Rivers; fish and
wildlife policies and programs based on sound science; and clean,
renewable, reliable and affordable hydropower. RiverPartners' 120
member organizations represent more than 4 million electric utility
customers, 40,000 farmers, thousands of port employees, and large and
small businesses that provide hundreds of thousands of Northwest jobs.
balancing environmental stewardship and economic growth
As the President and CEO of a not-for-profit, member-owned electric
cooperative, I work closely with my staff and PNGC's Board of Directors
to provide high quality power supply and transmission services that
improve the quality of life for nearly 200,000 member homes, farms and
businesses, including those in rural, underserved communities. In the
context of a rapidly changing energy environment, we seek to identify
policy solutions that balance the dual priorities of environmental
stewardship and a universal desire for economic growth and prosperity.
We believe this legislation does just that.
In fact, how the Federal hydropower system is operated affects
every single individual, family and business in the Northwest because
our economy was created and continues to rely on these hydropower
resources to stay healthy and thrive. Eighty percent of PNGC's power
supply comes from the Bonneville Power Administration (``BPA'' or
``Bonneville''), a nonprofit Federal power marketing administration
based in the Pacific Northwest. BPA markets wholesale electrical power
from 31 Federal hydroelectric projects in the Northwest, one non-
Federal nuclear plant and several small non-Federal power plants. BPA
provides about one-third of the electric power used in the Northwest
and its resources--primarily hydroelectric--make BPA nearly carbon
\1\ BPA.gov. https://www.bpa.gov/news/AboutUs/Pages/default.aspx.
On this 80th anniversary of the Bonneville Power Administration, it
is worth recalling President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (``President
Roosevelt's'') vision in 1937 when he signed the Bonneville Project Act
into law. His goal was ``to deliver the massive benefits of Columbia
River hydropower--clean, inexpensive electricity--to citizens of the
Pacific Northwest. It was a revolutionary and compassionate idea--to
bring down the barriers between the rural poor and dreams of a better
life by providing power at the cost of production, rather than for
\2\ BPA.gov. https://www.bpa.gov/news/AboutUs/80thAnniversary/
Much has changed since 1937, but the region's desire for clean,
affordable, and reliable energy remains. I am optimistic that in the
21st century, despite the challenges posed by an ever-changing energy
landscape, the many stewards of the Columbia River System can work
collaboratively to identify solutions that do right by both the
environment and the economy.
bonneville's unsustainable rate trajectory
President Roosevelt's vision is in peril due to a number of cost
variables that are putting BPA's financial health at risk. As
Bonneville's fourth largest power customer, PNGC is concerned about
BPA's unsustainable rate trajectory. In July 2017, BPA announced a 5.4
percent average wholesale power rate increase for Fiscal Years 2018 and
2019. This follows four sequential rate periods with power rate
increases averaging nearly 8 percent,\3\ meaning BPA's rates have risen
roughly 30 percent in the last few years.
\3\ BP-18 Rate Proceeding. Administrator's Final Record of
Decision, July 2017 (Page 2). https://www.bpa.gov/secure/Ratecase/
Even more concerning than the recent large rate increases, is the
potential for future rate increases up until 2028, which marks the end
of the current Bonneville contract with its customers. If BPA's rates
continue to climb at their current trajectory, they will likely not be
competitive with alternative power supply choices in the region at that
time. If Bonneville's customers seek out other options, the agency will
not have a sufficient consumer base to cover its costs, costs that
include fish and wildlife program spending. It also puts at risk the
agency's ability to make its annual payment to the U.S. Treasury, which
would negatively affect the Nation's taxpayers. PNGC values the clean,
carbon free, flexible hydropower resources that BPA provides. However,
as an electric cooperative, we have a responsibility to supply power to
our members at an affordable rate whether that comes from Bonneville or
Bonneville understands these trade-offs very well. According to the
Administrator's Preface in the BP-18 Final Record of Decision, ``BPA's
ability to continue meeting its multiple statutory obligations and
public-purpose objectives depends on maintaining cost competitiveness
and financial health.'' \4\ Although BPA's power rates are influenced
by a variety of cost-drivers, for purposes of today's testimony, I will
focus on one of the largest areas of BPA's budget: BPA's fish and
wildlife program costs. Specifically, the uncertainty of ongoing
litigation regarding the operations of the FCRPS for Endangered Species
Act (``ESA'') listed salmon and steelhead.
\4\ BP-18 Rate Proceeding. (Page 1).
rising fish and wildlife costs driven by the uncertainty of litigation
In 1991, NOAA listed Snake River sockeye as endangered under the
ESA. Today, 13 Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead species are listed
under the Act. Driven by these listings, BPA ratepayers fund the
largest mitigation program for threatened and endangered species in the
Nation.\5\ This is an important point worth repeating. BPA's fish and
wildlife program is paid for through electric rates of utilities that
buy power from BPA. It is not funded by U.S. taxpayers. Without these
fish and wildlife costs, BPA's electricity rate to its Northwest public
utility customers would be about a third lower.\6\
\5\ BPA.gov. https: // www.bpa.gov /news /pubs /FactSheets /fs-
\6\ BPA.gov. https://www.bpa.gov/news/pubs/FactSheets/fs-201402-
PNGC Power, in partnership with the broader consumer-owned power
community in the Northwest, remains committed to cost-effective,
science-based approaches to ensure ratepayer funds committed to this
important endeavor produce measurable results.\7\ In Fiscal Year 2016,
Bonneville reported total fish and wildlife costs of approximately
$621.5 million.\8\ BPA has committed nearly $15.9 billion since 1978 to
support Northwest fish and wildlife recovery.\9\
\7\ Public Power Council 2017 Fish Facts. http://www.ppcpdx.org/wp-
\8\ 2016 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Costs Report.
Northwest Power and Conservation Council. https://www.nwcouncil.org/
\9\ BPA.gov. https://www.bpa.gov/news/pubs/GeneralPublications/gi-
We are pleased that these efforts are yielding real results. More
salmon are returning to the Columbia River Basin. According to BPA,
performance-standard testing results range from 96 percent to 98
percent survival for Spring Chinook at the lower Columbia and Snake
River dams. The BiOp performance standard is 96 percent average per dam
survival for Spring Chinook. The Federal system is meeting and in some
cases exceeding the targets for fish passage at the dams. Combined with
refined spill operations, the installation of surface passage has
reduced the percentage of fish that go through the powerhouses,
decreased fish travel time through the system, and increased overall
fish survival. Additionally, the large-scale structural and operational
improvements for fish passage at the dams and the large-scale habitat
improvement program have resulted in safer conditions for fish passing
through the system and improved conditions for rebuilding capacity.
Unfortunately, positive results for returning salmon have not put
an end to the ongoing court battles. For a number of years, over
multiple administrations, NOAA and the Federal Action Agencies
(Bonneville, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of
Reclamation) have been in litigation over operations of the FCRPS for
ESA listed salmon and steelhead.
Most recently, as a result of plaintiff-filed motions for
injunctive relief, the U.S. Court for the District of Oregon is likely
to order increased spill for the 2018 migration season. This approach
is not without risk to the species,\10\ could threaten electric
reliability,\11\ and according to hydro system modeling, result in
approximately $40 million dollars in reduced BPA revenues and/or
increased power acquisition costs each year for a total of $80 million
over the 2-year period of the requested injunction.\12\ A rough rule of
thumb with BPA power rates is that rates increase 1 percent for every
additional $20 million per year in costs. Given these estimates, we
expect to see a 2 percent rate increase from the spill surcharge alone.
\10\ United States District Court District of Oregon Portland
Division. 2017 Declaration of Ritchie J. Graves, National Marine
Fisheries Service, West Coast Region (Page 4).
\11\ United States District Court District of Oregon Portland
Division. 2017 Declaration of Kieran Connolly, Bonneville Power
Administration (Pages 5-14).
\12\ 2017 Declaration of Kieran Connolly, Bonneville Power
Administration (Page 16).
To address the litigation-driven uncertainty and ensure cost
recovery, the BPA Administrator announced the adoption of a spill
surcharge in the agency's Final Record of Decision in the BP-18 Rate
Proceeding. He wrote:
``Although not included in the rate increase, another source of
significant rate pressure we will face this rate period is the
March 27 spill ruling, amended April 3, by the U.S. District
Court for the District of Oregon. The court indicated that it
will order increased spill for the 2018 spring migration
season. The ruling will have cost implications for BPA that we
are still evaluating. Therefore, I am adopting a spill
surcharge that will allow us to adjust rates in both FY 2018
and 2019 based on the cost associated with increased spill and
lost generation relative to current spill assumptions. I
recognize the uncertainty this places on our customers . . .''
\13\ BP-18 Rate Proceeding. Administrator's Final Record of
Decision, July 2017 (Page 2). https: / / www.bpa.gov /secure / Ratecase
The uncertainty of a spill surcharge coupled with years of
sequential rate increases is death by a thousand cuts for PNGC's
200,000 member homes, farms and businesses.
a common-sense solution
My members are frustrated that the Federal science is continually
scrutinized and litigated by plaintiff groups with an agenda. For close
to 20 years, over several administrations, rigorous data collection,
modeling and actions have been undertaken by the Federal Government
only to be litigated again and again. The 2008/2010 FCRPS BiOp
(supplemented in 2014) was developed in an unprecedented collaboration
among the region's states and tribes. It triggered massive investments
in salmon restoration measures and was based on the best available
Once and for all, the Northwest's BPA ratepayers who fund the
largest mitigation program for threatened and endangered species in the
Nation, need certainty around BPA's ongoing fish and wildlife costs.
Let's take a time-out from the courtroom and rally around a practical
On behalf of PNGC Power and Northwest RiverPartners, I am pleased
to support H.R. 3144. At a time when common cause across the political
aisle appears elusive, a bipartisan group of Northwest lawmakers have
come together to propose a common-sense solution.
Specifically, H.R. 3144 would:
Require the Federal agencies responsible for management of
the FCRPS (BPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau
of Reclamation) to operate the hydropower system in
compliance with the BiOp approved by NOAA in 2008/2010 and
supplemented in 2014.
Carry directed Federal hydropower operations through the
later of September 30, 2022 or until the court-ordered,
comprehensive environmental National Environmental Policy
Act (``NEPA'') process concludes and judicial review is
Allow for limited agency flexibility in hydropower
operations should there be a need to protect public safely,
transmission and/or grid reliability and stability.
Prohibit studies, plans or structural modifications at the
dams, which would impair hydroelectric power generation or
navigation on the Columbia River without the prior approval
From a practical standpoint, this legislation provides much needed
relief from the endless litigation by keeping in place a 2014 BiOp
built upon the best available science from two consecutive
administrations (the George W. Bush and Obama administrations). This
BiOp has resulted in wild salmon numbers trending significantly upward
and improved young salmon survival at dams due to changes in operations
and the installation of new passage technologies.
Keeping the 2014 BiOp in place allows the relevant Federal agencies
to focus on the court-ordered NEPA environmental review process without
being distracted by litigation. Without this legislation, the agencies
would be compelled to use their strained resources to author a new 2018
BiOp without the benefit of the updated science and public input
provided by the comprehensive NEPA review. That review is looking at
the entirety of Federal hydropower system operations in the Columbia
River Basin (the ``Columbia River System Operations Review'') as well
as the suite of measures in the 2014 Biological Opinion to ensure that
those measures providing the most benefit to the salmon are implemented
in a new BiOp. In other words, the legislation appropriately sequences
the court's processes.
dam removal is not a reasonable alternative under nepa
PNGC has been actively involved in the court-ordered NEPA scoping
process, and on February 3, 2017, provided public comments on the
Columbia River Power System Operations Environmental Impact Statement
(``EIS''). Consistent with these comments, we urge the Federal Action
Agencies to evaluate all major Federal actions affecting listed salmon
throughout their life cycle. This includes hydropower, habitat,
harvest, and hatchery actions (the four ``H's''). An all ``H'' approach
will give the visibility needed to ensure the highest survival gains
for ESA listed salmon.
Furthermore, PNGC believes that dam removal should not be
considered as an alternative under NEPA because it requires
congressional authorization and appropriations for such action.
Notably, in the case of the lower Snake River dams, Congress would have
to reverse course on decades of funding for the operation and
maintenance of the FCRPS and navigation system created by these dams.
The Columbia River is a cherished resource that provides the
Northwest with the multipurpose benefits of affordable, reliable and
carbon free electricity, flood control, navigation and recreation.
As stewards of this great asset, it is our responsibility to get
off the sidelines and identify practical solutions to tough problems.
The challenges discussed in my testimony are not new and there is no
silver-bullet fix, but I am convinced the answer is not to be found in
the courtroom. PNGC applauds the Republican and Democratic co-sponsors
of H.R. 3144 for coming together to identify a carefully balanced way
forward. PNGC looks forward to supporting this proposal as it moves
through the legislative process.
Thank you for holding this hearing today and for the opportunity to
testify. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have
today or in the future.
Questions Submitted for the Record by Hice to Beth Looney, President
and CEO, PNGC Power
Question 1. Why is it that unelected judges and special interests
are determining operational decisions for dams?
Answer. Our region's tremendous commitment to species conservation
is being undermined by Endangered Species Act (``ESA'')-driven
litigation. As stewards of the Columbia River System, we are committed
to cost-effective, science-based approaches to ensure utility ratepayer
funds committed to fish and wildlife restoration produce measurable
results. However, we are concerned that the positive outcomes for
returning salmon outlined in my testimony have not put an end to the
ongoing court battles.
Specifically, with respect to ESA listed salmon species and Federal
Columbia River Power System (``FCRPS'') operations, we are frustrated
that the Federal Government's best available science is continually
scrutinized and litigated by plaintiff groups with an agenda. For close
to 20 years, over several administrations (Democratic and Republican
administrations alike), rigorous data collection, modeling and actions
have been undertaken by the Federal Government only to be litigated
again and again.
The Northwest's Bonneville Power Administration (``BPA'')
ratepayers, who fund the largest mitigation for threatened and
endangered species in the Nation, need certainty around BPA's ongoing
fish and wildlife costs. That is why we are seeking the common-sense
legislative solution offered by the sponsors of H.R. 3144. This bill
provides much needed courtroom relief, protects PNGC's access to
carbon-free Federal hydropower, and allows for the continued mitigation
of hydropower impacts on ESA listed salmon populations provided by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (``NOAA'') 2014
Biological Opinion (``BiOp'').
Question 2. Do you think that one judge, who is unaccountable to
the people his decisions impact, handing down unilateral decisions is
Answer. H.R. 3144 rightfully asserts Congress' policy oversight
role over the operations of eight large federally authorized
multipurpose dams that supply nearly 60 percent of the energy produced
in the Northwest. Through this legislative effort, our region's elected
officials are appropriately expressing their concern that in the
Northwest, where affordable, plentiful hydropower is critical to our
economy, environment, and way of life, a lack of action will result in
unacceptable impacts to electric utility ratepayers.
At the same time, the judicial branch is an important part of our
government, and H.R. 3144 respects the role of the court on this issue.
With respect to the ongoing ESA-related FCRPS litigation, H.R. 3144
primarily re-sequences events that the Court itself has already
ordered: First, a full National Environmental Policy Act (``NEPA'')
review of the impacts of the Federal hydropower system operations on
the region's iconic fish by September 2022. Then, adoption of a new
biological opinion based on the public, transparent environmental
review process and the science it yields. The legislation would prevent
the court from ordering changes in hydropower system operations in the
interim, until the NEPA process and a new biological opinion based on
it is complete.
Question 3. Who should be making these decisions and who is best
situated to determine what is best for the local environment?
Answer. We are supportive of the Federal Government's role in
preserving, protecting and recovering domestic species as mandated by
the Endangered Species Act. However, we are concerned that the ESA is
failing to achieve its key purpose of species recovery and instead has
become a mechanism for litigation.
As stewards of the Columbia River System we are committed to cost-
effective, science-based approaches to ensure electric utility
ratepayer funds committed to fish and wildlife recovery produce
measurable results. As noted in my testimony, the Bonneville Power
Administration, through electric rates of utilities that buy BPA power,
has committed nearly $15.9 billion since 1978 to support Northwest fish
and wildlife recovery.
In the context of a rapidly changing energy environment, we seek to
identify policy solutions that balance the dual priorities of
environmental stewardship and a universal desire for economic growth
and prosperity. H.R. 3144 does just that, it protects the region's
access to carbon-free, reliable Federal hydropower while mitigating
hydropower impacts and protecting ESA listed salmon populations.
Question 4. What recommendations do you have to restore operational
decision making to experts and local stakeholders who are best situated
to understand the conditions of the local environment?
Answer. In the near term, specific to FCRPS operations and the
continued protection of ESA listed salmon, we recommend the swift
passage of H.R. 3144.
We also support immediate congressional efforts to update and
modernize the ESA so that it works better for both species and people.
This should include a comprehensive review of policy options to make
the ESA less vulnerable to litigation likely to sidetrack species
conservation and recovery.
Mr. Lamborn. All right, thank you.
Ms. Hamilton, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF LIZ HAMILTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTHWEST
SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, OREGON CITY, OREGON
Ms. Hamilton. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn and Ranking
Member Beyer, Subcommittee members. I appreciate the
opportunity to speak with you this morning regarding H.R. 3144.
It is really an honor to testify before a Subcommittee with
members from the top sportfishing states in the Nation. It
means you recognize and appreciate the economic value and the
tens of thousands of jobs that it sustains.
I have the good fortune of serving as the Executive
Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, a
trade group of over 300 members. Our businesses are
concentrated in the Northwest, but include many companies from
across the country. Northwest sportfishing sustains 34,500
family wage jobs, serves over 2 million adult customers and
children, and contributes nearly $4 billion in economic
While salmon and steelhead mean business in the Pacific
Northwest, our clients are apprehensive about the future, and
this bill is a part of that concern. If it becomes law, it will
lock in an expensive status quo that has failed salmon, it has
failed fishery-dependent businesses, and rural economies. It
entrenches an approach that is not working for fish, fishing
businesses, or, for that matter, energy consumers, shippers, or
The eight Federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers
inflict tremendous harm to salmon and steelhead fisheries,
affecting the bottom line for the businesses that depend on
this valuable and renewable resource. We know dams and their
reservoirs are the salmon's main cause of human-caused
mortality, the main source.
As far back as the 1990s, though, NSIA and the fishermen we
worked with recognized that spilling water over the tops of
dams, rather than sending it through the turbines, led to
higher adult returns. So, in 2005, we secured guaranteed spill
through a court order. The fish responded immediately and
delivered big benefits to our industry. By 2012, Snake River
fall Chinook returns had tripled. In 2013, 1.2 million fall
Chinook returned to the Columbia and business was booming.
Columbia River fall Chinook fed fisheries from Alaska to
California in the ocean, and inland from Oregon to Washington
and Idaho. The evidence was indisputable that spill works.
Science shows that additional spill can triple returns. We want
to repeat this success of the fall Chinook with the Snake River
spring Chinook, which are currently in deep decline.
As the first salmon of the season, spring Chinook are
highly prized by anglers who want to get out on the water after
being cooped up all winter. They buy licenses, they buy new
gear, they fill their gas tanks, load their coolers, book a
guide, book a hotel, and hit the river, spending roughly $115
each in trip expenditures. But what is so remarkable about
spring Chinook is that it takes eight anglers on the water for
one to go home in a creel.
This makes one spring salmon worth $900 in direct trip
expenditures. These fish are worth their weight in gold. They
are sending money to rural communities from Astoria, Oregon to
The recent judge's order to put a process in place is
finally breaking through the logjam. Parties are
collaboratively working together on sensible river operations
that will help fish and our businesses. Hundreds of thousands
of citizens have actively engaged with their government through
the NEPA process.
Unfortunately, H.R. 3144 goes in reverse, rolling back
protections and poisoning this collaborative effort. It locks
into place the old illegal plan through 2022 denying citizens
their day in court.
H.R. 3144 would also hamstring processes that allow
citizens to protect their interest in these fish. It undermines
the current NEPA review by prohibiting Federal agencies from
fully studying true costs and benefits of all the recovery
Salmon need more help now, not less. Poor ocean conditions,
combined with poor river conditions, are hammering some of
these stocks. We cannot control the ocean, but we can take
steps to improve river conditions for salmon, and spill is our
most effective near-term tool.
NSIA business members, leaders focused on the bottom line,
are frustrated by a bill that limits options, reverses the
courts, and is bad for business. It is a bad ROI. Again, our
industry members oppose H.R. 3144 because it interferes with a
process that is working at a time when salmon declines are on
the front page.
Salmon restoration has been an expensive failure, but we
are finally getting on the right track to address harmful dam
operations. We respectfully urge this Committee to reject a
bill that ignores the science, does not solve the problem,
throws good money after bad. The fish and our sportfishing
businesses hope we deserve better.
And I appreciate any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hamilton follows:]
Prepared Statement of Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Northwest
Sportfishing Industry Association on H.R. 3144
Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Huffman, and Subcommittee members,
thank you for the opportunity to address H.R. 3144. I am the Executive
Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA), a
trade organization of nearly 300 sporting goods manufacturers,
wholesalers, retailers, marinas, and guides. The Northwest Sportfishing
Industry Association was founded in 1993 by a collection of
sportfishing industry business leaders who understood the need for a
strong voice in the local, state, regional and federal governments. The
majority of NSIA's member businesses are located in Oregon and
Washington, as well as companies from outside the Northwest that sell
products for the nearly 25 million annual fishing trips taken by
Northwest residents and visitors. NSIA is dedicated to preserve,
restore and enhance sport fisheries and the businesses that are
dependent on them. For us, salmon and steelhead mean business.
NSIA's member businesses, our customers and clients, are
apprehensive about the economic well-being of our industry and
recreational fishing opportunities in the years ahead. In 2011, the
sportfishing industry provided 34,500 family wage jobs, serving over 2
million adult anglers, and contributed over $3.8 billion in economic
benefit to Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Across America, roughly 60
million anglers support more than 828,000 jobs with a $115 billion
impact on our Nation's economy. I'm pleased to be testifying before a
Subcommittee with so many members from states in the top 10 for
sportfishing expenditures such as Florida, California, Louisiana, and
Virginia. We appreciate that the members understand the importance of
the manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, retail and tourism jobs
sustained by sportfishing in their states.
NSIA and many other businesses, fishermen, conservationists,
scientists, and citizens oppose H.R. 3144 because it significantly
weakens salmon restoration efforts at a time when they need to be
substantially strengthened. The bill takes our businesses and the
region in the wrong direction, away from the work that is needed to
craft a salmon plan that works for our fisheries and our communities.
H.R. 3144 takes us in the wrong direction by:
Overturning a May 2016 court decision finding the 2014
Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological
Opinion inadequate and illegal.
Blocking an April 2017 court decision that provides much-
needed protective measures for salmon and steelhead
migrating past the Federal dams on the lower Snake River
and lower Columbia River starting in 2018.
Constraining the National Environmental Policy Act Review
that is central to updating and understanding the available
and reasonable options for resolving the Columbia/Snake
salmon crisis by hindering the study of alternatives to
status quo operation of the dams on the Columbia and Snake
For the fishing industry, H.R. 3144 is a job-killer, plain and
simple. Scores of communities and thousands of businesses in the
Pacific Northwest and along the West Coast that depend on fishing,
whether sport or commercial, will be directly harmed if H.R. 3144
becomes law. This legislation seeks to lock in a failed status quo that
is harming our region's iconic salmon and steelhead populations and the
communities that rely upon them. Existing salmon policies have already
wasted more than $10 billion on a series of insufficient measures that
have failed to recover a single one of the 13 protected populations of
salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin. The status quo is not
working for anyone today, and a different approach is necessary.
We in the Northwest sportfishing industry strongly oppose this
attempt to enshrine an expensive salmon policy that has failed fish,
fishing businesses, energy consumers, utilities, shippers, and growers.
i. the federal dams harm salmon and spill is our most effective action
to help stabilize and rebuild imperiled populations
The eight Federal dams on the lower Columbia and Snake Rivers have
caused tremendous harm to our salmon and steelhead fisheries and to
those of us who depend on them. The operation of these dams
significantly reduces the number of salmon and steelhead that return to
the Columbia Basin every year. As a consequence, the dams and how they
are operated, have a direct effect on our businesses' bottom lines.
They have transformed a dynamic, free flowing river system into a
series of reservoirs that harbor increased predator populations and
cause dangerously high water temperatures.
The dams themselves also pose formidable barriers to migrating
salmon--particularly to juveniles that must struggle to survive the
passage through deadly turbines or complex bypass systems. The
combination of deadly impacts posed by the dams is responsible for up
to 70 percent of all human-caused mortality for some salmon and
Because of the serious trouble that many of these stocks continue
to face as a result of the Federal hydro system, we will not see
healthy, sustainable, consistently fishable stocks of salmon until the
Federal agencies implement meaningful lasting changes in the operation
of the dams that comprise the FCRPS. That is why NSIA has stood with
the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and a broad coalition that
includes other sport and commercial fishing advocates,
conservationists, and clean energy organizations for nearly 20 years in
an effort to protect and restore these magnificent and irreplaceable
NSIA and its allies have been engaged in litigation over the
National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) biological opinions (BiOps)
for the FCRPS since 2000. Since 1994, three different Federal judges
have rejected five BiOps as unlawful for a variety of reasons, but the
consistent themes include the agencies' refusal to use the best
available science and their persistent reliance on speculative actions
with unproven results rather than address the known problems with the
dams and management of the hydro system.
In addition to successfully challenging failed BiOps, we have
fought hard to hold on to improvements for migrating salmon and
steelhead through increased spill since 2005. For juvenile salmon and
steelhead migrating in the Snake and Columbia Rivers, ``spill''--the
practice of releasing water over the dams' spillways during the
juvenile migration in spring and summer, rather than sending it all
through the hydroelectric turbines--indisputably provides the safest
passage over the FCRPS dams.
Releasing water over spillways at these eight Federal dams
increases the survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead by allowing
them to avoid traveling through the power turbines, a passage route
that increases mortality by subjecting these fish to life-threatening
pressure changes and extremely high water velocities. `Spilled' fish
also survive at higher levels than the fish diverted from turbine
intakes and ``bypassed'' through a series of Rube Goldberg-like pipes
and tunnels before being ejected at the lower side of the dam.
The increased spill levels in place through court order since 2005
have helped produce better adult returns at a time when other West
Coast rivers have seen steep declines. The fisheries protected by the
court-ordered spill in the Snake and Columbia rivers have provided a
rare measure of security for the businesses of NSIA, and indeed, some
hope for the future. Fall Chinook salmon, for example, benefited
immediately from court-ordered spill. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
began aiding juvenile fall Chinook through increased spill in the
summer of 2005. The investment in spill paid off within 2 years, but
within 8 short years, two generations for fall Chinook, our industry
saw the substantial, direct benefits of that protection. By 2012, Snake
River wild fall Chinook numbers had tripled since Federal Judge
Redden's spill order. Hatchery and wild stocks of fall Chinook alike
benefited and our fall fisheries were world class attractions.
In 2013, for example, over 1.27 million fall Chinook entered the
Columbia after significant ocean harvest, and provided a tremendous
benefit to our businesses. Hotels were full, marinas had a 1-year
waiting list, key tackle items such as Pro Troll flashers made in
California and Brad's Superbait made in Washington were on backorder.
Boat orders were on 6-month wait lists. These returns, aided by spill
during the juvenile outmigration fed sport, commercial and tribal ocean
fisheries in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon and California, as well
as freshwater sport, commercial and tribal fisheries in Oregon,
Washington, and Idaho. Other stocks have also seen some increase in
both juvenile survival and adult returns. For the past 12 years, the
fish have been telling us one thing over and over again: spill works.
ii. salmon need help now and our region needs solutions that will
recover our fisheries
Our sportfishing businesses and many others in the region had hoped
that the 2014 BiOp would finally provide a framework that would protect
and restore salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government missed another opportunity to get
this right. The 2014 BiOp maintained the same dam operations that have
been in place since 1995 and that have failed to restore salmon and
steelhead and the recreational, commercial, and tribal economies that
rely on them. NMFS and the other Federal agencies made this decision
despite their access to more than two decades of peer-reviewed
scientific evidence demonstrating that increasing spill levels increase
salmon and steelhead survival. Rather than build on the success of
spill, the 2014 BiOp allowed the Federal dam agencies to actually
reduce in some circumstances the spill levels that have been in place
under Court injunction for the last 12 years. In other words, it
allowed them to cut back on investments with the highest returns.
In May of 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon
ruled that the Federal agencies' approach to salmon protection in the
2014 BiOp was, like its predecessors, inadequate and illegal. In a
thorough 150-page opinion, the Court addressed in detail the Federal
Government's multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act and the
National Environmental Policy Act. The Court ordered the Federal
agencies to develop a new plan that considers all relevant information
and then carefully evaluates a full range of reasonable dam management
alternatives, including removal of four Federal dams on the lower Snake
River. It also required the Federal agencies to both assess and address
the intensifying effects of climate change on wild salmon and the
Federal hydro system. As proposed by the Federal agencies (we advocated
for a 2\1/2\ year time frame), the Court allowed the agencies until
March 2021 to complete this analysis. Not a single one of the parties
supporting the 2014 BiOp--including the Federal agencies, states, or
the navigation and electric utility interests--have pursued an appeal
of this decision: it is the accepted ``law of the land'' in the
Importantly, the Court found that current dam operations under the
2014 Biological Opinion cannot ensure the survival or recovery of the
fish and are vastly unresponsive to their current biological needs.
That is why NSIA and its allies in the tribal, sport, and commercial
fishing communities asked the Court this past winter--as an interim
measure--to order the agencies to increase spill, our most effective,
near-term measure to boost survival for these species, from April
through June for spring Chinook.
After a detailed review of the evidence and thousands of pages of
scientific and technical testimony, the Court in April of 2017 ordered
Federal dam operators to incrementally increase spill starting in the
spring of 2018. The Court specifically required Federal, state, and
tribal fishery scientists to work together to develop a near-term plan
for dam operations that will release more water over the dams'
spillways to improve juvenile salmon survival from April to June, while
also complying with all state water quality standards and ensuring
navigation safety. That work among the fishery and technical experts
has been underway since this spring and the new annual spill operations
are scheduled to begin in April 2018.
This order is a tremendously encouraging development for our
industry: the increased spill required by the Court's order for 2018
means that we are poised to repeat the success we have seen with fall
Chinook for several other stocks, including Snake River spring Chinook,
sockeye and steelhead. Currently, Snake River spring Chinook do not
return in numbers sufficient to replace the previous generation's
spawning adults. Decades of monitoring and data demonstrate that adding
spill for baby spring Chinook could triple the number of returning
NSIA members are seeking increased spill for spring Chinook which
are among the most prized sportfish in the region. Because they are the
first salmon run of the year, anglers have been waiting all winter and
are eager to get out fishing. Anglers buy their licenses, pack the
bearings on their trailers, repair and replace their gear, buy the
latest, greatest in terminal gear, fill their gas tanks, load their
coolers and hit the river. The lucrative Columbia River spring Chinook
fishery tees up the entire year for our industry. And the economic
benefits of these fish to rural communities from Astoria, Oregon to
Riggins, Idaho are huge. This is because on average, it takes eight-
plus angler trips to land just one spring Chinook. For every eight
anglers out fishing, only one springer goes home. Research has shown
that the trip expenditures in the Columbia spring fishery average $115
per trip. This makes a springer in the creel worth over $900 just in
direct trip in expenditures--not counting the purchase of fishing
tackle or other durables such as boats, motors, trailers or
electronics, for example. These fish are worth their weight in gold!
iii. we oppose this bill because it locks in a plan that harms salmon
and fishing businesses
At a time when our region has a chance to help struggling salmon
populations and break through the costly log jam that has held back
salmon recovery in the Northwest for more than two decades, H.R. 3144
seeks to roll back protections for fish and enshrine a status quo that
has brought massive expenditures, but few actual results. We finally
have the opportunity to break free from 25 years of failed salmon
policies. Rather than nurturing this opportunity, H.R. 3144, will make
it much more difficult.
(1) Overturns a May 2016 court decision finding the 2014 FCRPS
Biological Opinion inadequate and illegal.
The bill seeks to deny citizens their day in court by reversing the
district court's sound decisions rejecting the 2014 BiOp. This
decision, issued 18 months ago and reached after thorough and extensive
consideration of the evidence, is settled law. None of the multiple
interests and parties contests the Court's well-reasoned decision and
no party has pursued an appeal. In over-riding a Federal court
decision, H.R. 3144 would feed a damaging trend for undermining laws
that allow citizens from across the political spectrum to go to court
to hold the government accountable for its actions. Access to a court
of law is a cornerstone of American democracy and fundamental part of
our functioning government. The courts are essential for enforcement of
our laws and serve as a ``check and balance'' to the failure of
executive branch to enforce the law. Over-riding independent Federal
court review of agency actions, as this bill would do, stymies this
access to justice principle.
(2) Blocks an April 2017 court decision that expands spring spill over
the Federal dams on the lower Snake River and lower Columbia
River starting in 2018.
The bill would lock in status quo dam operations through at least
2022. As our fishermen, and anyone who is reading the headlines are
keenly aware, salmon need more help now. Cyclically poor ocean
conditions have joined perennially poor river conditions as a result of
current dam operations to put fish populations back into a death
spiral. Because we can't control the ocean, it is all the more
important that we take effective actions available to us now in the
part of the salmon lifecycle where humans have the most influence.
Spill is exactly that. Increasing spill in the spring is exactly the
kind of prompt measure that we can and must take to boost salmon
survival in the near-term. Businesses will prosper and the salmon's
future will be more secure.
(3) Restricts the National Environmental Policy Act Review that is
central to updating relevant information, considering all
reasonable salmon recovery alternatives, and engaging the
public in decision making. If passed into law, H.R. 3144 would
prohibit the study of any alternatives that may have the effect
of reducing energy production by the Federal hydro system
(increased spill, lower Snake River dam removal, and others).
This bill would undercut a bedrock process that allows citizens to
protect their interests in these fish. The NEPA process allows citizens
to speak their minds and to provide their input to help inform the
government's decisions. It also requires agencies to examine the costs
and benefits of their decisions and allows the region to make decisions
based on facts. But in order to do this, the agencies must objectively
evaluate all reasonable alternatives. H.R. 3144 would undermine this by
erecting roadblocks to considering river operations that both science
and the courts have determined to be reasonable alternatives and worthy
of full and fair consideration.
The NEPA process has now been underway for a year. So far over
400,000 citizens across the region and the country have weighed in to
support robust consideration of strong and effective salmon protection
An approach that severely limits options at a time when salmon are
most in need of our help is very difficult and frustrating for my
members--business owners, business leaders, people who have focused on
the bottom their whole adult life--to understand. When viewed through
the lens of a return-on-investment, H.R. 3441 is simply not defensible.
In short, our fishing business members oppose H.R. 3144 because it
enshrines a status quo that ensures that we as tax and rate-payers get
back far less money than we spend. The Federal Government's extensive
use of ratepayer money for salmon restoration has been an expensive
failure because it does not focus on the core problem for salmon
recovery--altering Federal dam operations on the Snake and Columbia
Rivers. With the intensifying impacts of climate change, a continuation
of the failed status quo for even a few years will doom our endangered
salmon runs, harm sport and commercial industries in communities
throughout the Pacific Northwest and saddle Northwest ratepayers with
billions in added costs for measures that have failed to protect
salmon. Perpetuating this failed status quo is the true definition of
insanity. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to help
imperiled fish and struggling fishing communities, we urge this
Committee to reject a bill that would prevent our region from doing
what the science and the fish are telling us is needed most--making
significant improvement in dam operations starting now with increased
spring spill. Our fish--and sportfishing businesses--deserve far better
than H.R. 3144.
The following documents were submitted as supplements to Ms. Hamilton's
testimony. These documents are part of the hearing record and are being
retained in the Committee's official files:
--Economics of Northwest Sportfishing
--Sportfishing in America
--Trip Expenditures for Columbia River Spring Salmon Fishing
Mr. Webster [presiding]. Thank you.
Mr. Heffling, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF JACK HEFFLING, PRESIDENT, UNITED POWER TRADES
ORGANIZATION, WEST RICHLAND, WASHINGTON
Mr. Heffling. Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Beyer,
Subcommittee members, thank you for allowing me to testify. I
am honored to speak on behalf of United Power Trades
Organization, which represents over 600 highly skilled
operation and maintenance employees who work at the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers' hydroelectric projects in Portland,
Seattle, and Walla Walla Districts of the Northwest Division.
The dams of the Columbia Snake River System are considered
multi-purpose in that they provide----
Mr. Lamborn. Sir, could you put the microphone just a
little bit closer?
Mr. Heffling [continuing]. Hydropower, flood control,
navigation, irrigated agriculture, and recreation to the areas
where they are located.
Hydropower is clean, renewable, and plays a significant
role in Pacific Northwest power production. Only hydropower has
the instantaneous capability to meet peak demands.
Navigation is a major benefit of the Columbia Snake River
System of dams, and provides a vital transportation link for
the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Irrigated
agriculture is the economic powerhouse of the West, with a net
value to all western states of over $60 billion. It is the dams
that provide the water for irrigation, and, as a direct result,
helps sustain the economy of the Northwest.
Removal of the Snake River dams would be a detriment to a
large amount of irrigated agriculture, would eliminate barging
from Pasco, Washington to Lewiston, Idaho, and would damage the
electrical infrastructure that relies on the generating units
not only for power production, but for reactive support to help
stabilize the electrical grid of the Northwest.
Studies have shown that the survival rate of salmon
migrating through the lower Snake River dams is equal to or
sometimes even better than the survival rate of fish migrating
rivers without dams. These studies have also shown that
juvenile salmon transported by fish barges survive at five
times the rate of those that were not barged. This information
strongly contradicts any claims by environmental groups that
the removal of the dams is necessary for fish to survive, and
that barging juvenile salmon through the dams is ineffective.
Studies have shown that the vast majority of juvenile fish
migrating downstream are near the surface, so screens at the
intakes of the generators are positioned to direct them into
bypass channels, where they are collected for barge transport,
or bypassed back to the river. Weirs are in place on spillways
that allow for spilling water directly from the surface, thus
providing another effective bypass for juvenile fish traveling
It is existence of these spillway weirs that make any
additional spilling unnecessary and, in fact, can have an
adverse effect on fish due to the increase, and dissolve gases
that result when spilling from bays that don't have spillway
weirs. Because of the pressure from outside interests,
additional spill is ordered that requires spill through spill
gates that don't have the fish slides installed. This forces
the fish down through restricted openings at the bottom of the
spill gates, which is not only harmful to the fish in
transition, but causes significant increase in the super-
saturation of nitrogen in the water, resulting in gas bubble
Fish passage plans, also known as the fish biological
opinion, or BiOp, are in place at each facility and overseen by
Federal and state biologists to assure that hydro plants are
operated in criteria most advantageous to fish passage. It is
extremely important that the current BiOp is not deviated from
in order to continue the success that has been the result of
this fish passage plan.
H.R. 3144 would ensure that it does remain in place, and
until replaced by a new BiOp that is based on science. The
residents of the Northwest have made their opinion clear.
Results of the poll administered in 2015 show that they
recognize hydropower generated by the Northwest dams is a
renewable energy source, and that dams and salmon can co-exist.
In summary, the BiOp is working, is the most scientifically
sound plan that can be incorporated, and no pressure from
outside interest groups should change that. The Snake River
dams are irreplaceable, and are important not only to the
people that live in our area, but to the Northwest as a whole.
It took an Act of Congress to get these dams constructed.
It should require an Act of Congress to remove them.
Thank you again for this opportunity to testify and I look
forward to any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Heffling follows:]
Prepared Statement of Jack W. Heffling, President, United Power Trades
Organization on H.R. 3144
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. The United Power Trades
Organization represents the Trades and Crafts non-supervisory employees
at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydroelectric projects in Washington,
Oregon, Idaho and Montana. These hydroelectric projects make up a
portion of the Northwest Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
and are divided up into the Portland, Seattle and Walla Walla
Districts. The Walla Walla District includes four hydroelectric
projects on the lower Snake River that seem to be the target of most
dam removal proponents.
The Northwest Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a
major employer and a huge contributor to the economy of the Pacific
Northwest with an annual budget of over $3 billion and a professional
workforce of nearly 4,800. The members of the United Power Trades
Organization include the men and women who maintain and operate the
equipment at the hydroelectric projects and number over 600. But this
number doesn't include the engineers, administrators, biologists, park
rangers and the hundreds of others whose jobs are directly connected to
the dams, associated lands and reservoirs. Nor does it include the many
private companies who by contract, also rely on the existence and
operation of the dams for their employment.
High technology firms such as Apple, Amazon, Intel, Google and
Facebook have located facilities in the Northwest because of the
availability of reliable, clean hydropower, creating jobs and boosting
local economies. Traditional energy-intensive industries, such as
timber, paper, chemical, food processing, aluminum and manufacturing
all representing hundreds of thousands of Northwest jobs, continue to
rely on low-cost hydro to stay in business and prosper.
The dams of the Columbia-Snake River system are multipurpose in
that they provide hydropower, flood control, navigation, irrigated
agriculture and recreation. The benefits of the dams cannot be measured
by megawatts alone but in the overall value they provide the region.
Hydropower is clean, renewable and plays a significant role in
Pacific Northwest power production. Northwest residents and businesses
enjoy lower power bills when compared to other regions of the United
States which is directly attributable to hydropower. The dams of the
Columbia-Snake River system alone produce enough power to meet the
needs of more than 13 million homes with the surplus exported,
providing additional economic importance to the Northwest. Only
hydropower has the instantaneous capability to meet peak demands and
provide power for heat when temperatures are frigid or sustain power
for cooling on exceptionally hot days. Hydropower costs much less to
produce than any other source such as nuclear, coal or natural gas and
is pollution free, with zero emissions. The firm power alone provided
by the dams of the Columbia-Snake River system keeps close to 30 metric
tons of CO2 out of the air. This is similar to taking nearly
6 million cars off the road.
Hydropower is clean, carbon-free, renewable and reliable. Hydro
supports wind and other renewables by providing the peaking power
necessary to meet demand. Hydropower turbines are capable of converting
90 percent of available energy into electricity, which is more
efficient than any other form of generation. Even the best fossil fuel
power plant is only about 50 percent efficient. Wind has about 30
percent efficiency. After hydropower, 83 percent of the region's energy
production is from fossil fuels coal or natural gas.
Considering the four lower Snake River dams alone, it would take 2
nuclear, 3 coal-fired, or 6 gas-fired power plants to replace their
annual power production. It would take 3 nuclear, 6 coal-fired, or 14
gas-fired power plants to provide the peaking capacity of these four
dams. It has been estimated that the cost to replace these dams with
natural gas-fired generation would be $444 million to $501 million a
year. It has also been estimated that it would cost $759 million to
$837 million a year if these dams were replaced with a combination of
wind, natural gas and energy efficiency. Electricity from the Northwest
hydropower facilities typically cost 3 to 10 times less (per megawatt
hour) than nuclear, coal and natural gas. It is also cheaper than wind
Hydropower is not only measured by the total energy produced. It
also stabilizes the transmission system and keeps it reliable. High-
voltage transmission lines require a steady back and forth electric
flow, and flexible hydro generation meets the changing conditions to
Navigation is a major benefit of the Columbia-Snake River system of
dams. They provide 365 miles of navigable water from Portland/Vancouver
to Lewiston, Idaho. Barging is the lowest cost, most fuel efficient and
least polluting transportation mode. Each year, barging keeps 700,000
trucks off the highways through the Columbia River Gorge. The facts
speak for themselves. The Columbia-Snake River system is the Number one
wheat export gateway in the United States and the third largest grain
export gateway in the world, with over 10 million tons of wheat
exported annually through Columbia River ports. It is the Number one
barley export gateway in the United States. It is Number one in West
Coast paper and paper products exports. It is Number one in West Coast
mineral bulk exports and Number two in West Coast auto imports. Every
year, more than 50 million tons of commercial cargo moves up and down
the Columbia and Snake rivers between Astoria, Oregon and Lewiston,
Navigation through the Columbia-Snake River system provides a vital
transportation link for the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and
Washington. The economies of these four states rely on the trade and
commerce that flows up and down the most important commercial waterway
of the Northwest. Navigation is fuel efficient. A ton of commodity
goods can move 524 miles by barge on 1 gallon of fuel, compared to 202
miles by rail and 59 miles by truck. The average barge can transport
3,500 tons of wheat which would require 35 jumbo rail cars or 134
trucks. The economic benefit of the Columbia-Snake River system cannot
be doubted. A study by the Columbia River ports identified 40,000 port-
related Northwest jobs. Firms that ship cargo via the Columbia River
employ an additional 59,000 workers annually. Cruise ships carry 15,000
passengers a year on 5- to 7-day tours on the river, bringing an
estimated $15 million to $20 million in revenue to local economies. A
total volume of waterborne trade is expected to expand at an average
annual rate of 1.7 percent per year through 2030.
Irrigated Agriculture is the economic powerhouse of the West. The
net value of irrigated agriculture to all western states is over $60
billion. Net earned income from agricultural production in the three
Northwest states exceeds $8 billion annually. Northwest states are the
leading U.S. producers of apples, potatoes, raspberries, blackberries,
asparagus, currants, hops, lentils, concord grapes, sweet cherries,
spearmint and peppermint oil, pears, sweet corn, and frozen peas. All
of these crops are grown on irrigated land. Northwest exports of
irrigated agricultural products exceed $1.4 billion annually. Food
processing in the Northwest adds another $6 billion in sales value just
for fruit, vegetables and specialty products. Food processing is the
largest manufacturing employment sector in the state of Idaho and the
second largest in both Washington and Oregon. The net direct value to
the economy of one-acre foot of water, when used for irrigation is over
$60 per acre-foot. The Columbia Basin Project alone supplies about 2.6
million acre feet per year. It is the dams that provide the water for
irrigation and as a direct result help sustain the economy of the
Annual net earned income from agricultural production in the
Northwest states exceeds $8 billion and Pacific Northwest food
processing is the third-largest manufacturing sector, with annual
revenues of $17 billion and more than 100,000 employees.
The Walla Walla District employs over 800 people, with over 400
working at the hydroelectric projects McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower
Monumental, Little Goose, Lower Granite and Dworshak. In addition to
being a major employer, the District pumps millions of dollars into the
local economies. The anticipated Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the
District is $193 million with 57 percent of this funding coming
directly from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The power
produced by the District dams, like other projects in the Northwest, is
sold by BPA who, in turn, direct funds the operation and maintenance of
the dams, plus provides additional funding for major work. This means
that over $100 million annually is provided the area economy as a
result of the power sales of these District hydroelectric projects.
Removal of the Snake River dams would be a detriment to a large
amount of irrigated agriculture, would eliminate barging from Pasco to
Lewiston, Idaho, and would damage the electrical infrastructure that
relies on these generating units not only for power production, but for
reactive support that helps to stabilize the electrical grid of the
Northwest. While BPA markets power from 31 Federal dams, only the 10
largest dams keep the Federal power system operating reliably through
Automatic Generation Control (AGC) which includes the four lower Snake
River projects. Under AGC, when total generation in the power system
differs from the total load being consumed, automatic signals go to
these few dams to increase or decrease generation. This is especially
critical when generating facilities are suddenly added or dropped from
the system. Removal of the dams would cost hundreds if not thousands of
jobs. Jobs at the dams themselves would be lost, contracting jobs would
be lost, farm jobs would be lost as a result of a large decrease in the
amount of irrigated agricultural lands, and jobs related to the barging
of commodities would be lost. The impact on the region would be
The fact is that science does not support the position that the
lower Snake River dams need to be removed in order to aid in fish
survival. Scientists using special acoustic tags planted in fish found
that the survival rate of Idaho juvenile salmon reaching the ocean
identical to migrating salmon that originate in the Yakima drainage in
Washington. In other words, juvenile salmon passing through the four
Snake River dams suffered no higher mortality rate than those that did
not. Even more surprising is findings that show the survival rate of
both Yakima and Clearwater fish was the same as survival measured in
the Fraser River in British Columbia, a river with no dams. In
addition, another finding from the research revealed that juvenile
salmon transported by fish barges survived from Lower Granite Dam to
the northern tip of Vancouver Island at five times the rate of fish
that were not barged. This information strongly contradicts any claims
by environmental groups that the removal of the dams is necessary for
fish to survive and that barging juvenile salmon through the dams is
It is time to eliminate dam removal from the discussion on the best
way to support migrating fish. Studies have shown that adult fish have
no problem passing through the dams at extremely high survival rates.
Studies have also shown that the vast majority of juvenile fish
migrating downstream are near the surface, so screens at the intakes of
generators are positioned to direct them into bypass channels where
they are collected for barge transport or bypassed back to the river.
Weirs are in place on the spillways that allow for spilling water
directly from the surface, thus providing another effective bypass for
juvenile fish traveling downstream. It is the existence of these
spillway weirs that make any additional spilling unnecessary and, in
fact, can have an adverse effect on fish due to the increase in
dissolved gases that result when spilling from bays that don't have the
spillway weir. Fish passage plans are in place at each facility and
overseen by Federal and state biologists to assure that hydro plants
are operated in criteria most advantageous to fish passage.
``The utter disappearance of the salmon fishery of the Columbia is
only a question of a few years.'' That prediction was made by Hollister
McQuire, Oregon Fish and Game Protector in '94. What makes this quote
newsworthy is that it was made in 1894, long before the first dam was
constructed on the Columbia-Snake River system. The decline of Columbia
River salmon began in the 1800s and was originally attributed to two
factors: overfishing and environmental degradation from such human
activities as mining and logging. Millions of dollars have been spent
during the last couple of decades studying the problem and millions
more have been spent on making hydroelectric facilities as fish
friendly as possible, even though studies have shown very little
difference, if at all, between the decline of salmon runs on rivers
with and without dams. Too much blame has been placed on the dams when
it is obvious that no single factor caused the salmon decline.
And no single factor will solve the problem. Solutions must look at
all factors impacting salmon decline, including dam operations, fish
harvest levels, hatchery practices, degradation of habitat where salmon
lay their eggs and the impact of ocean conditions. R. Hilborn from the
University of Washington was quoted as saying, ``Any attempts to
understand the impact of in-river action on survival will be confounded
by changes in ocean conditions. The poor returns of Chinook salmon in
the early 1990s are to a large extent almost certainly due to poor
ocean survival, whether or not they encounter dams.'' My point here is
that increasing and maintaining fish runs is a multifaceted problem
that requires solutions to many different factors. Since studies have
shown that the survival rate of migrating fish is the same on rivers
with dams as they are without, the focus should be on ocean conditions
and their impact rather than dam removal which would provide no
The dams have been upgraded extensively at great cost and the
improvements work. Dam operation now maximizes attraction water for
adult fish and improves downstream migration due to flow augmentation
that also serves to cool the reservoirs during low water months.
Rotating screens at the turbine intakes direct fish to bypass channels
where they are collected for barging or bypassed back to the river. And
spillway weirs are strategically placed to provide a gentle ``slide''
for juvenile fish to travel downstream unharmed. Since removal of the
dams would provide no benefit to fish survival, it makes absolutely no
sense to continue studying or considering a non-solution.
The residents of the Northwest have made their opinion clear. The
results of a poll administered in 2015 shows that three-quarters of the
people recognize that hydropower generated by the Northwest dams is a
renewable energy source. Forty-five percent agree hydropower is the
region's most practical source for meeting energy needs, with wind
trailing at 17 percent and solar at 9 percent. Two-thirds favor
hydropower being declared a renewable resource by state legislatures
and Congress, similar to wind and solar energy. A large and increasing
majority (70 percent) agree that the dams on the lower Snake River are
critical to the Northwest's energy picture and 77 percent agree that it
is critical that dams and salmon co-exist.
As president and spokesman for the United Power Trades
Organization, I can say our organization overwhelmingly supports H.R.
3144. But I am not only just a dam employee representative. I am a
Senior Power Plant Operator and have been working at one of the lower
Snake River Dams, Lower Monumental, since 1986. As a power plant
operator, I run the turbine generator units, the spill gates, plus the
adult and juvenile fish passage equipment.
As a power plant operate for over 30 years, I have personally seen
all of the improvements made at our facility to increase fish survival
and been the recipient of instructions to operate the dam in accordance
with the fish passage plan or Biological Opinion (BiOp). Unlike most
outside interests, I actually understand how the new technologies
installed had benefited fish passage and how the BiOp works to maximize
fish survival. Almost every operation performed requires adherence to
the fish passage plan, including which generating units to run, at what
power load they are operated at, what spill pattern to use and how much
spill to release through those spill gates.
It is troublesome to those of us that know what works to receive
operating instructions that are not beneficial to fish and may even be
detrimental. For example, it is a scientific fact that migrating
juvenile fish travel close to the surface of the river. That is why the
fish slides installed are so successful in providing a means that allow
the fish a gentler transition from the pool at the top of the dam to
that below. Rotating screens are installed in the intakes of all of the
turbine generators that direct the fish into a collection channel where
ultimately they can be loaded onto barges for transport or bypassed
back to the river far below the dam. However, because of pressure from
outside interests, additional spill is ordered that requires spill
through spill gates that don't have the fish slides installed. This
forces the fish down through restricted openings at the bottom of the
spill gates which is not only harmful to fish in the transition but
causes significant increases in supersaturation of nitrogen in the
water resulting in gas bubble trauma.
In addition, when fish are transitioned via spill, less are
collected at each dam's fish facility for transport via the barge
transport program which has proved highly successful. Fish transported
by barge survive at five times the rate as those that traverse the
river. Additional water spilled not only is detrimental to the fish
because of the non-fish slide transition but this results in less water
available for generation, less generating units running and less fish
collected for transport via fish barge. Spilled fish are also more
susceptible to predatory birds and fish that congregate below the
spillway areas. More spill does not make sense economically in that
generating revenues are lost, it doesn't help the fish, and may even
have a negative effect on fish survival.
H.R. 3144 is important in that it continues the programs that have
proven extremely successful in migrating fish survival. The BiOp is
working despite faulty non-scientific reports given by outside
interests. The radical changes proposed make absolutely no sense. Fish
returns are higher than what they were prior to the first dam built on
the Columbia-Snake river system and although hatchery fish are
returning in large numbers, natural fish return is increasing as well.
Fish survival through the Columbia-Snake River dams are at levels that
meet or exceed those on rivers that don't have dams.
The current BiOp is the most science-based, comprehensive and
expensive effort to restore and endangered species in the Nation. $1.6
billion have been invested in new technologies and the eight Federal
dams on the Columbia-Snake system and operational changes are helping
young salmon survive at very high rates and helping adult fish return
to their spawning grounds. This unprecedented and massive program has
also restored more than 10,000 acres of habitat in the Columbia Basin
that has been providing incredible results.
Despite the plan's demonstrated success, environmental and
commercial fishing groups continue to challenge the plan in court, as
they have done for over two decades. These groups thrive on lawsuits
and they will continue to sue, no matter what the facts say. They
continue to press for extreme changes in dam operations, including
requiring more spill which would increase Northwest energy costs and
provide no additional benefit to fish. It is increasingly important
that Congress take action to insure that the current fish passage plan
(BiOp) remain in place without changes until a new BiOp is provided
that uses science as the basis for fish survival. H.R. 3144 would
ensure this happens.
H.R. 3144 would also require an Act of Congress to allow any
structural modification to the Snake River dams that would restrict
electrical generation or limit navigation. It's about time that the
extreme proposals via lawsuits of outside interests be taken off the
table. Enough already! It has already been scientifically proven that
the dams and fish can co-exist. The improvements made and the
operational changes have shown to be extremely successful for fish
In 1992, a drawdown of Snake River Dam Lower Granite was performed
to simulate a return to a natural river state. The drawdown had
disastrous effects including damaging road, docks and the levee system
at Lewiston, Idaho. The resulting mud flats were ugly, plus temperature
and velocity measurements showed no substantial benefit because of
lower river levels. This kind of study needs to never happen again
though outside interests would like to see it as a regular occurrence.
You will find no more vocal proponent of the ``Save the Dams'' movement
than the good citizens of Lewiston, Idaho as they got to see this
atrocity in person.
In summary, the BiOp is working, is the most scientifically sound
plan that can be incorporated, and no pressure from outside interest
groups should change that. The Snake River dams are irreplaceable and
are important not only to the people that live in our area, but to the
Northwest as a whole. Removal would be disastrous, not only
economically, but to the lifestyles of those who enjoy the recreational
benefits they offer. No further money should be wasted on studying
their removal or taking any actions that even simulate natural river
flow. It took an Act of Congress to get these dams constructed. It
should require an Act of Congress to remove them.
Thank you again for this opportunity to testify before the
The following documents were submitted as supplements to Mr. Heffling's
testimony. These documents are part of the hearing record and are being
retained in the Committee's official files:
--Bonneville Power Administration, Graph showing adult salmon
returns to the Bonneville Dam from 1938-2014.
--Northwest River Partners, Irrigated Agriculture: Growing Food for
Families, October 2014.
--Northwest River Partners, Snake River Dams: Valuable Assets,
--Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, Columbia Snake River
--Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, The Value of Hydropower
in the Northwest.
--Salmon Passage Survival Rate map.
--U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Spillway Weirs: Celebrating 10
years of service to the Nation, January-December 2015.
Questions Submitted for the Record by Rep. Hice to Jack Heffling,
President, United Power Trades Organization
Question 1. Why is it that unelected judges and special interests
are determining operational decisions for dams?
Answer. The short answer is because they can. Supposedly, the
judges are enforcing the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
However, the problem is that these judges are appointed and have
political ideologies of their own. Whether they are influenced by
special interests or just using twisted data provided by these special
interests to justify their decisions is hard to say. But the bottom
line is that scientific study, analysis, and direction is discarded in
favor of decisions that are biased toward the special interests and the
ideological background of the judge. The resulting judicial decisions
are then incorporated into the dams operational requirements, often
counter to scientific recommendation or even harmful to fish passage.
For example, data shows that salmon returns through the Columbia-
Snake River system are higher now than even before the dams were
constructed. This success is a result of many factors including habitat
restoration, favorable oceanic conditions, hatchery production, fish
barging, improvement of dam fish passage equipment, and the operational
changes required by fish passage plans. A part of those operational
changes are voluntary spill requirements. I believe that voluntary
spill is more harmful than beneficial to migrating fish. It has been
made part of our operational requirements, I believe, just to placate
the special interests and a Federal judge who has constantly rejected
scientific fish recovery plans.
However, because this voluntary spill has coincided with a
multitude of other factors that have increased fish survival, it seems
to be the only factor that is presented by the special interests to the
Federal judges. The special interests claim, wrongly I might add, that
the spill is responsible for increased fish survival and the judges
seem to agree as all we hear is more spill may be ordered by the judge.
Whether the judge is influence by this faulty interpretation of the
science or it is his own ideology, I don't know. But it is a broken
system that needs to be repaired.
Question 2. Do you think that one judge, who is unaccountable to
the people his decisions impact, handing down unilateral decisions is
Answer. Absolutely not! I work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
at Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River. At our facility, we have a
crew of fish biologists who study and oversee the fish passage systems
at our location. In addition to our agency experts, there are
additional biologists from the state of Washington, the state of Oregon
and the state of Idaho. There are experts from National Marine
Fisheries plus various contractors that are hired by the agencies
because they are experts in fish passage. This is true at all of the
dams on the Columbia-Snake River system. How can it be good governance
for one person who is not an expert to over-ride the operational
guidance and recommendations of hundreds of experts?
The last Federal dam on the Columbia-Snake River system was
completed over 40 years ago. The clean, renewable power, irrigation,
navigation system and recreational benefits are the norm and have
become a way of life for the residents of the Northwest and especially
those that live and work along the rivers. The vast majority of those
that live in the Northwest support these dams and believe they can co-
exist with fish. That an unelected judge in response to lawsuits by
out-of-our-area special interests is making decisions concerning how
the dams are operated or even if they will continue to exist defies
A judge does not represent the thousands whose decisions he
impacts. These are the Northwest power ratepayers, recreational river
users, and the thousands whose job relies on the continuation of the
river system as-is or on the continued abundance of low cost power. If
a judge is making the decisions biased toward special interests, who is
going to represent the interests of the majority of the Northwest?
Question 3. Who should be making these decisions and who is best
situated to determine what is best for the local environment?
Answer. In reference to H.R. 3144, I have two different answers.
One, the operation of the Columbia-Snake River system in a way that
allow fish and dams to co-exist should be left to the experts who have
the experience and knowledge on the subject. The Biological Opinion
(BiOp) for the Federal Columbia River Power System should be adhered to
without outside interference of any judge or special interest group.
The BiOp is created cooperatively by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
the Bonneville Power Administration, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
with input by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. The BiOp is a
result of extensive scientific study and should not be deviated from
for any reason other than updates by those same experts or a new BiOp
to replace the old.
Second, it has been proven that dams and salmon can co-exist.
Studies on the removal of any of the Federal dams on the Columbia-Snake
River system are a large waste of money. In addition, court ordered
deviation from operational norms that negatively affect navigation or
generation is also a waste of money and/or results in increases for
electrical ratepayers. It was Congress that authorized construction of
the dams for the purpose of providing low cost, renewable power for the
people of the Northwest, water for irrigated crops, and an inland
waterway that is critical to commerce to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and
Montana. Therefore, no studies or actions that negatively affects the
purpose of the existence of these Northwest dams should be undertaken
except when authorized by Congress.
Question 4. What recommendations do you have to restore operational
decision making to experts and local stakeholders who are best situated
to understand the conditions of the local environment?
Answer. I believe H.R. 3144 takes a good step forward. This would
require adherence to the current BiOp without outside interference
until a new BiOp takes its place. It would also require congressional
approval to even study the removal of the Snake River dams or for any
structural modifications that would affect navigation or power
However, I would go even farther. While the BiOp would remain in
place to facilitate fish migration, flexibility should be allowed to
adjust operating criteria based on situational conditions. For example,
the juvenile fish migrating downstream is not a constant. Due to
hatchery releases and migration timing, there can be thousands of fish
passing on a daily basis or a handful. Yet, because of the strict
requirement to adhere to the BiOp, the dams are operated the same if
there are thousands of fish passing through or none. We are talking
millions of wasted generation dollars. Fish traffic can be easily
tracked and predicted ahead of time. When no fish are running, the dams
should not be providing voluntary spill, so give the agency that
operates the dams that flexibility. Thousands of dollars in cost should
be saving thousands of fish, not a handful.
Also, the opinions of those that are local to the Columbia-Snake
river areas should be heard. Their opinions are certainly not
considered when a judge is making a decision or special interest groups
that really have no stake in the decisions, but make money through
litigation, express their biases.
Yes, sound science needs to be considered when operational
decisions are made. But also, economic balance needs to be considered.
Thousands, whose jobs are river-related are affected by these
decisions. And millions are impacted by the effect on power rates. H.R.
3144 helps by making sure extreme measures can only be taken when
approved by the representatives of the people.
Mr. Lamborn [presiding]. Thank you.
Mr. Keppen, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DAN KEPPEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAMILY FARM
ALLIANCE, KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON
Mr. Keppen. Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Beyer, and
Subcommittee members, good morning. Mr. Chairman and Mr. Costa
kind of stole my thunder. I am going to restate the President's
State of the Union quote. It is my attention-getting device for
my statement today.
Mr. Lamborn. Sorry about that.
Mr. Keppen. So what he said, again, was, ``The Interior
Department is in charge of salmon while they're in freshwater,
but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in
saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once
they're smoked.'' That was the full quote. I remember it. This
moment may have provided the first widespread public awareness
of the absurdity in having multiple Federal agencies
responsible for enforcing the Federal Endangered Species Act.
The Family Farm Alliance, who I represent, supports H.R.
3916. This bill would combine the ESA responsibilities of both
the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife
Service under one Federal roof. This would promote more
efficient, effective, and coordinated management of all ESA
responsibilities for anadromous and freshwater fish in western
watersheds, from the highest reaches of our headwaters to the
Many western irrigators operate in watersheds that provide
habitat for threatened and endangered species protected by the
ESA. These producers could be significantly impacted by
decisions made by the fisheries agencies. Western watersheds
that drain to the Pacific Ocean are home to many species of
fish. Some of these species are listed as endangered or
threatened under the ESA.
However, within this group some fall under the
responsibility of National Marine Fisheries Service, and others
are overseen by Fish and Wildlife Service. Because they can
have different migration patterns or life histories, what can
result is duplicative and sometimes overlapping actions by each
of the agencies under the Endangered Species Act.
The scope of similar or identical ESA actions performed by
each agency could be extensive: designation of critical
habitat, development of species recovery plans and conservation
programs, consultation activities, to name just a few. These
functions would most effectively and efficiently be conducted
under the roof of one government agency.
Instead, as things currently stand, they appear to be
arbitrarily split between two different agencies housed in two
completely different Federal departments. So, up and down the
West Coast, duplicative bureaucracies are generating ESA plans
that sometimes compete with one another. In my written
testimony, I touch on specific examples, including the Klamath
Project in California and Oregon, where I live; California's
Central Valley Project, where I used to live; and the Upper
Snake River in Idaho.
In the Klamath example, the two Federal regulatory agencies
each adopted a single-minded and uncoordinated approach of
focusing on Klamath Project operations. One sought to
artificially create high reservoir levels for endangered
suckers. The other called for artificially high reservoir
releases for threatened salmon. Unfortunately, both agencies
did so independent of one another. Based on those regulatory
actions, the Bureau of Reclamation announced in 2001 that, for
the first time ever, no water would be available from Upper
Klamath Lake to supply project irrigators or the national
The combined lake level and outflow regulatory requirements
equated to a volume of water that was more than what was
available. The resulting impacts to the local community were
immediate and far-reaching, as detailed in my written
A Klamath Lake situation with potential dire consequences
for Idaho water exists in the Snake River Basin. National
Marine Fisheries Service biological opinion, or BiOp, for the
Upper Snake River Basin projects requires that water be sent
downstream for salmon flow augmentation. The Fish and Wildlife
Service BiOp for bull trout critical habitat requires bank full
reservoirs in one of the Upper Snake projects. When push comes
to shove, Idaho water users wonder how they will do both and
still provide water for farms and communities.
Water users served by California's Central Valley Project,
or CVP, face a similar dilemma. Simply put, the delta smelt
BiOp prepared by the Fish and Wildlife Service requires
flushing flows released from storage to influence smelt
habitat. At the same time, the National Marine Fisheries
Service BiOp for salmon requires keeping water in storage for
A committee convened by the National Research Council
studied this matter a few years ago. The NRC found that the
lack of a systematic, well-framed, overall analysis between the
two services is ``a serious scientific deficiency, and it
likely is related to the ESA's practical limitations as to the
scope of actions that can or must be considered in a single
H.R. 3916 addresses these limitations and clears the way
for improved Bay Delta ESA management. This bill is an
important step in reducing wasted time and money, and
represents a practical, common-sense approach to ESA that my
membership strongly supports.
Family Farm Alliance stands ready to aid the Committee on
advancement of H.R. 3916 and other measures to update and
modernize the ESA.
Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Keppen follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm
Alliance on H.R. 3916
Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Huffman, and Subcommittee members,
thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on behalf of the
Family Farm Alliance (Alliance). My name is Dan Keppen, and I serve as
the executive director for the Alliance, which advocates for family
farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17
western states. The Alliance is focused on one mission--To ensure the
availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to
western farmers and ranchers.
In his 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama caught the
attention of many Westerners when he remarked that ``The Interior
Department is in charge of salmon while they're in freshwater, but the
Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. And I hear
it gets even more complicated once they're smoked.''
While the President's freshwater/saltwater distinction may not have
been legally correct, the moment may have provided the first, wide-
spread public acknowledgement of the nonsensical reality associated
with having multiple Federal agencies responsible for enforcing the
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
The Alliance supports H.R. 3916, the ``Federally Integrated Species
Health (FISH) Act.'' This bill would amend the ESA to vest in the
Secretary of the Interior functions under that Act with respect to
species of fish that spawn in fresh or estuarine waters and migrate to
ocean waters (anadromous fish), and species of fish that spawn in ocean
waters and migrate to fresh waters (catadromous fish). We believe that
by combining the ESA implementation responsibilities of both NMFS and
FWS under one Federal roof, we would promote more efficient, effective,
and coordinated management of all ESA responsibilities for anadromous
and freshwater fish in western watersheds, from the highest reaches of
our headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.
importance of western irrigated agriculture and key challenges
Irrigated agriculture in the West not only provides a $172 billion
annual boost to our economy, it also provides important habitat for
western waterfowl and other wildlife, and its open spaces are treasured
by citizens throughout the West. Family farmers and ranchers are
willing to partner with constructive conservation groups and government
agencies, especially if there are opportunities to both help strengthen
their businesses and improve the environment.
Still, many western producers face significant regulatory and
policy related challenges, brought on--in part--by Federal agency
implementation of environmental laws like the ESA. The challenges are
daunting, and they will require innovative solutions. The Family Farm
Alliance and the farmers and water management organizations we work
with are dedicated to the pragmatic implementation of actions that seek
to find a sustainable balance of environmental protection and economic
prosperity. The foundation for some true, collaborative solutions will
be driven from the constructive ``center,'' one that steers away from
the conflict that can ensue between new regulatory over-reach and
grassroots activism intended to resist any changes to existing
environmental and natural resource laws, regulations, and policies.
nmfs and fws nexus with western farmers and ranchers
The very significant presence of the Federal Government in the West
presents unique challenges that agricultural producers may not face in
other parts of the United States, particularly with respect to the
reach of the ESA. The Federal multi-agency implementation of this law
has had very significant impacts on how producers manage land and
water. Importantly, once-nearly guaranteed Federal water supplies that
were originally developed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation)
primarily to support irrigation projects have been targeted and
redirected to other uses in recent years. So, in the West, the
certainty of promised federally developed water supplies has now been
added to the long list of existing ``uncertainties.''
Many western irrigators--especially those who operate in watersheds
that provide habitat for threatened and endangered species protected by
the ESA--are significantly impacted by decisions made by FWS and NMFS.
ESA consultation decisions made by either or both agencies regarding
operations plans for Federal water projects like those in the Deschutes
River Basin (OR), Columbia River Basin (WA/OR/ID/MT), California's
Central Valley and the Klamath Basin have significantly impacted
historic operations by rededicating water once used to support
agricultural irrigation to the perceived needs of fish, frogs and other
species protected under the ESA. Similarly, non-Federal projects
developed by local agencies increasingly find themselves constrained by
the ``take'' prohibition of section 9 of the ESA and accompanying
regulatory oversight, demands, and permitting system operated by FWS
inefficient and wasteful esa implementation in watersheds tributary to
Western watersheds that drain to the Pacific Ocean are home to many
species of fish, some of which are listed as ``endangered'' or
``threatened'' under the ESA and fall under the responsibility of NMFS
and FWS but have different migration patterns or life histories, often
leading to duplicative and sometimes overlapping actions by each of the
agencies under the ESA. Several of these species--like the Lost River
and Short Nose suckers in the Upper Klamath Basin, the Delta Smelt in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River & San Francisco Bay-Delta, and the
bull trout in the Upper Snake River--spend their entire lives in
freshwater. Other anadromous species--such as the coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River, Chinook salmon in California's Central Valley, and
salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River--spawn in freshwater,
migrate to the ocean to mature, and return to spawn in freshwater.
Still other species are polymorphic: an individual O.mykiss may live
its entire life in freshwater, in which case the fish is a rainbow
trout, or that fish may ultimately spend part of its life in the ocean,
in which case it is a steelhead and potentially subject to NMFS
jurisdiction if listed under the ESA.
The scope of similar or identical ESA actions performed by each
agency can be extensive:
Section 4 of the ESA requires the listing agency to
designate critical habitat for endangered and threatened
Section 4(f) of the Act requires the listing agency to
develop and implement a ``recovery plan'' for endangered
and threatened species.
Section 7(a)1 requires all Federal agencies, through
consultation with the listing agency, to use their
authority to carry out programs for the ``conservation'' of
endangered and threatened species.
Section 7(a)(2) requires all Federal agencies, through
consultation with the listing agency, to ensure that
actions carried out, funded, or authorized by them do not
``jeopardize'' the continued existence of endangered and
threatened species and do not result in ``adverse
medication'' of their critical habitat.
Section 9(a)(1) prohibits all persons subject to U.S.
jurisdiction from ``taking'' endangered species unless
authorized by the listing agency pursuant to appropriate
provisions of the ESA; and section 4(d) allows the listing
agency to extend the same level of protection to threatened
Section 10, particularly 10(a)(1)(B), provides a
regulatory mechanism by which FWS or NMFS may authorize
parties not connected to a Federal project to obtain
authorization for incidental take if the agency makes
It would seem intuitive to many that these functions would most
effectively and efficiently be conducted under the roof of one
government agency and not be arbitrarily split between two different
agencies housed in two completely different Federal departments. In
fact, up and down the West Coast, duplicative bureaucracies are
generating ESA plans that sometimes compete with one another, as
explained in the following three examples. I will start with a more
detailed treatment of an example that I am most familiar with--
operations of the 112-year old Klamath Irrigation Project, located on
the California-Oregon state line.
1. Klamath Irrigation Project (CALIFORNIA/OREGON)
For its first 80 years of operation, Klamath Project irrigation
supplies proved sufficient to meet the needs of the area's burgeoning
farming and ranching communities. Although there were some very extreme
years where Mother Nature and Klamath Project storage capacity proved
insufficient to meet 100 percent of irrigation demands, shortages were
small at most as the local community managed to stretch thin supplies
and make things work. Beginning in the early 1990s, steadily more
restrictive government agency decisions made to meet ESA goals began to
steadily chip away at the stored water supply originally developed for
irrigation. Two sucker species were listed (1988) as endangered and
coho salmon were listed (1997) as threatened under the ESA. Since then,
competing biological opinions rendered by FWS (for the suckers) and
NMFS (for the coho), increasingly emphasized the reallocation of
Project water as the sole means of avoiding jeopardizing these fish.
In essence, the two Federal regulatory agencies each adopted a
single-minded and uncoordinated approach of focusing on Klamath Project
operations to artificially create high reservoir levels and high
reservoir releases. Unfortunately, both agencies did so independent of
The net result of increasing restrictions on Klamath Project water
users was fully realized on April 6, 2001, when Reclamation announced
its water allocation for the Project after FWS and NMFS officials
independently finalized their biological opinions (BOs) for project
operations in a critically dry year. Based on those regulatory actions,
Reclamation announced that--for the first time in Project's 95-year
history--no water would be available from Upper Klamath Lake to supply
Project irrigators or the national wildlife refuges (also managed by
FWS). The combined lake level and outflow regulatory requirements
equated to a volume of water that was more than what was available in
The resulting impacts to the local community were immediate and
far-reaching. Thousands of acres of valuable farmland were left without
water. In addition to harming those property owners, managers, and farm
workers, the decision also imparted a negative economic ``ripple''
effect throughout the broader community. The wildlife benefits provided
by those farms--particularly the food provided for area waterfowl--were
also lost with the water.
Severe business losses echoed the hardship endured by farmers and
farm employees. As farmers and laborers attempted to deal with the loss
of jobs, a year's worth of income, and in some cases loss of the land
itself, referrals for mental health counseling increased dramatically.
The Tulelake school district lost around 50 students after farm
families sold their land and moved on. Students were under stress,
understandably confused as to why three species of fish were more
important than their lifelong homes. Veteran homesteaders, who 50 years
ago were promised reliable federally developed water, felt betrayed by
that same Federal Government, which chose to provide water to fish
instead of farmers in 2001.
It's difficult to envision that the 2001 Klamath Project water
crisis would have occurred had the two fisheries agencies been housed
in the same department that also includes the Bureau of Reclamation.
Plus, FWS also has jurisdiction over the national wildlife refuges
served by the Klamath Project. FWS managers faced a big enough
challenge trying to balance the water needs of endangered suckers in
Klamath Project waterways with those required to support waterfowl,
bald eagles and other species in its refuges. To this date, it remains
to be seen who acts as the mediator to balance the water requirements
of the birds and salmon, the latter of which are overseen by another
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stepped in after Klamath
Irrigation Project supplies from Upper Klamath Lake were cut off by
Federal biological opinions under the ESA in 2001. Sadly, the NAS'
initial objective scientific review (NAS 2002) \1\ concluded that there
was insufficient evidence to support these biological opinions in
restricting agricultural diversions from the Klamath system, which had
led to the near collapse of the local agricultural community. Here were
the actions identified in the top recommendation included in the final
NAS Klamath Report: \2\
\1\ Scientific Evaluation of Biological Opinions on Endangered and
Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin: Interim Report (2002),
NAS Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (http://dels.nas.edu/
\2\ Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin:
Causes of Decline and Strategies for Recovery (2004), NAS Board on
Environmental Studies and Toxicology.
NMFS and USFWS should inventory all governmental, tribal
and private actions that are causing unauthorized ``take''
(or killing) of ESA listed fish and seek either to
authorize this take with appropriate mitigative measures or
NMFS and USFWS should consult not only with Reclamation,
but also with other Federal agencies (e.g. U.S. Forest
Service) under ESA Section (7).
NMFS and USFWS should use their full authority to control
the actions of Federal agencies that impair federally
managed lands, not only within but also beyond the Klamath
Within 2 years, NMFS and USFWS should prepare and
promulgate species recovery plans.
NMFS and USFWS should pursue opportunities for non-
regulatory stimulation of recovery actions through the
creation of demonstration projects, technical guidance, and
extension activities that are intended to encourage and
maximize the effectiveness of non-governmental recovery
These five general key actions applied to both agencies when it
appears obvious that one combined agency might do the job better.
Admittedly, after the 2001 water shutoff, better coordination occurred
between Federal agencies on Klamath Project operations, ultimately
leading to the 2013 development of a joint, coordinated Biological
Opinion by NMFS and FWS. Reclamation and the Services participated in
extensive interagency coordination over a 2-year period, with the
purpose of ``collaboratively developing a water management approach
that has the flexibility to optimize the benefits of available water
for federally listed species while providing irrigation deliveries to
While the joint BO was an encouraging development, the amount of
work required for two separate agencies housed in different departments
to develop Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs) to avoid
jeopardizing the continued existence of different individual fish
species was incredibly inefficient compared to what it would take for
one agency to oversee the effort. Months of time were dedicated to
simply addressing edits bouncing back and forth between the two
agencies. While both agencies attempted to streamline efforts wherever
possible, each agency had its own internal protocol and authorities to
satisfy, and those differences required tremendous time and efforts to
Consolidating the NMFS functions under the Interior Department
umbrella, as proposed by H.R. 3916, would put the Secretary of Interior
in charge of a much more unified approach to managing threatened and
endangered species in the Klamath River watershed.
2. Snake River (IDAHO)
A ``Klamath-like'' situation with potential future dire
consequences for Idaho water exists in the Snake River Basin. The NMFS
BO for the Upper Snake River Basin Projects (above Hells Canyon)
requires that water be sent downstream for flow augmentation for
salmon. On the other hand, the FWS BO for bull trout critical habitat
requires ``bank full'' reservoirs in the Boise Project, one of the
Upper Snake Projects. When push comes to shove--similar to what
happened in the Klamath Basin--Idaho water users wonder, ``how do we do
both, and still provide water for our farms and communities?''
3. Central Valley Project (CALIFORNIA)
Water users served by the Central Valley Project (CVP) at one time
had a fairly assured sense--early in the year, before planting and
other farm management decisions needed to be made--of what their water
supplies would be for the upcoming year. At the beginning of the year,
the Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water
Resources (DWR) issues a water supply forecast and anticipated
allocations for the various state urban, agricultural, and
environmental water users based on snowpack in the mountains and
anticipated weather conditions. However, in recent years, those once-
reliable forecasts have been complicated by new regulations,
litigation, and agency administrative directives. Farmers now regard
water allocations with a sense of uncertainty which has helped to
destabilize some agricultural decision making and profitability within
Since 1977, a multitude of government regulatory and policy
decisions have reduced the average water supply for CVP South of Delta
agricultural service contractors (farmers and ranchers in the San
Joaquin Valley who receive water from the CVP) from 90 percent of their
contracted deliveries to 40 percent of their contracted deliveries. In
2014 and 2015, agricultural contractors on the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley received zero CVP supplies. In 2016, they received 5
In short, state and Federal regulations have reduced water supply
availability. Within this mix, NMFS is responsible for a biological
opinion for winter-run Chinook salmon which requires CVP operations to
meet specific temperature criteria in the Upper Sacramento River. In
recent years, NMFS has taken drastic measure to leave water intended
for users downstream of Shasta Dam behind the dam, for fear of
violating those temperature criteria. In its 2009 Salmon Biological
Opinion, NMFS biologists and hydrologists concluded that water pumping
operations in the CVP and State Water Project (SWP) should be changed
to ensure survival of salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, and killer
whales, which rely on salmon runs for food. Meanwhile, since 1994, FWS
has issued biological opinions to avoid jeopardizing the continued
existence of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) smelt.
CVP water use is further constrained by the 1997 Central Valley
Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), which includes an Anadromous Fish
Restoration Program that seeks to at least double the natural
production of anadromous fish in Central Valley streams in the long
term. CVPIA Section 3406(b)(2) provides 800,000 acre-feet of CVP water
to use, in part, to achieve the fish doubling goal (which has yet to be
met). The 2000 Trinity River Restoration Plan further reduced the
amount of CVP water diverted from the Trinity River watershed to the
Central Valley, in an effort to provide flow-driven fishery restoration
actions in the Trinity system.
In general, the focus of the ``reasonable and prudent''
alternatives to the coordinated export operations of the CVP and SWP
has been increased regulatory restrictions on water exports to farmers
in the San Joaquin Valley.
In 2009 (and in 2014, 2015 and 2106), irrigation delivery
restrictions--based in large part on ESA biological opinions for
fishery species managed by either FWS or NMFS in the Delta--were a
primary cause for the water cutbacks and rationing afflicting a
multitude of communities throughout the state and the resulting
economic devastation in the San Joaquin Valley. In California in 2016
alone, 21,000 jobs were lost, equating to a $2.7 billion hit to
economic activity. Over 540,000 acres of farmland were fallowed, and $2
billion in direct farm losses were realized. The lack of surface water
to such a productive agricultural region has detrimentally impacted
groundwater use and the economy of those communities, as well as the
state. Ironically, one of the original purposes of the CVP was to shift
San Joaquin well users away from groundwater by importing stored
surface water supplies. Now, 70 years later, farmers and ranchers are
again looking belowground to replace once-reliable CVP surface water
that has been reduced due to drought and redirection to other uses.
In very simple terms, the Delta smelt BO prepared by FWS requires
flushing flows released from storage to manipulate habitat while the
FWS BO for salmon requires keeping water in storage for temperature
control, situation remarkably similar to the Klamath example previously
discussed. The FISH Act would improve things in California, as well.
There, a committee convened by the National Research Council \3\ found
that the lack of a systematic, well-framed overall analysis between
NMFS and FWS is ``a serious scientific deficiency, and it likely is
related to the ESA's practical limitations as to the scope of actions
that can or must be considered in a single biological opinion.''
\3\ A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water
Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California's
Bay Delta (2010), Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental
Management in the California Bay-Delta, Water Science and Technology
Board, Ocean Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies,
National Research Council.
``Coordination is not integration,'' the NRC committee found, and
concluded, ``[T]he [Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives] lack an
integrated quantitative analytical framework that ties the various
actions together within species, between smelt and salmonid species,
and across the watershed. This type of systematic, formalized analysis,
although likely beyond the two agencies' legal obligations when
rendering two separate biological opinions, is necessary to provide an
objective determination of the net effect of all their actions on the
listed species and on water users.'' (emphasis added).
H.R. 3916 would open the doors toward such an objective
determination in Bay-Delta ESA management.
4. Incidental Take Statements Pursued by Local Agencies and Farmers
Finally, although the examples above relate to watersheds where
there is a Federal project operated by Reclamation, similar issues can
be present in basins where local agencies and/or farmers or ranchers
themselves pursue incidental take permits (ITS) under the ESA. If there
are both freshwater and anadromous species in the river system, the
local interests must apply to both NMFS and FWS for separate ITPs for
the same project and experience duplicative or conflicting regulatory
procedures and determinations in a process that is very challenging
under the best of circumstances. This sort of waste of resources can be
avoided if there is one decision maker applying the law.
Again, the Alliance believes combining NMFS and FWS under one roof
will provide for more efficient, effective, and coordinated management
of all ESA responsibilities for anadromous and freshwater fish in
western watersheds, from the highest reaches of headwater areas to the
Pacific Ocean. Even more important is what can be accomplished in the
future, as FWS further emphasizes and expands on its collaborative
freshwater fish habitat conservation work with local and state
interests. With NMFS ESA duties brought under the Interior Department
umbrella, a partnership-driven focus can spread to areas that benefit
anadromous fish. Merging the NMFS ESA duties with those of FWS and
tapping into the ``constructive center'' will lead to practical
solutions that fit for ranchers, farmers, and other landowners, as well
as fish and wildlife and local communities.
The time and money wasted by Federal agencies and those impacted by
their decisions is frustrating and unnecessary. H.R. 3916 is important
step in reducing wasted time and money and represents a practical,
common-sense change to the Act that we strongly support. The FISH Act
provides an opportunity to enhance protections to threatened and
endangered species by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the
Federal Government's approach to species protection through better
decision making as a result of improved communication among folks
working on a range of species in the course of developing and
implementing policies. Perhaps more importantly, this legislation will
help lay the groundwork for more collaborative conservation that
ultimately and equally will benefit communities, citizens and fish
species that inhabit fresh and saltwater environments.
One additional point. While the goals of the ESA are laudable, this
44-year-old law could stand some targeted reforms, including common-
sense changes to make it work better, encourage incentive-driven
recovery efforts, and discourage litigation. The Family Farm Alliance
for decades has worked with our members and leaders to develop
specific, practical changes to the ESA that we think will make it work
better in the modern era.
The Family Farm Alliance stands ready to aid the Committee on
advancement of H.R. 3916 and other measures to update and modernize the
ESA. I would be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Lamborn. All right, thank you. And thank you all for
your testimony and for being here today.
At this point we will begin our questions for the
witnesses. To allow all of our Members to participate, and to
ensure we can hear from all of our witnesses today, under
Committee Rule 3(d), Members are limited to 5 minutes for their
questions. I will begin, and then we will hear from the Ranking
Member, and so on.
Ms. Looney, as we have heard today, the operations of the
Federal Columbia River Power System have been clouded with
uncertainty for decades. During this period, the people who are
impacted the most are the region's taxpayers, whose electricity
bills continue to increase, with negative impacts on the
economy and on working families.
Much of this uncertainty can be attributed to the
litigation and the court mandates that have micro-managed the
system's operations. Do you believe that having the courts
running the dams is good for ratepayers and species?
Ms. Looney. No, I do not believe that having the courts run
the dam is good for ratepayers or for the species. One thing
that concerns me most about this issue is the decisions that I
am going to have to make in the next couple of years.
As Bonneville's fourth-largest customer, in the next 4 to 5
years, we will be making a decision about whether we go under a
new contract with Bonneville for power supply post-2028. And
right now their cost trajectory is greater than the available
resources that I can buy.
In my testimony, I indicated that I buy 80 percent of my
power from Bonneville, and I buy the other 20 percent at a
third cheaper. When you think about what is going on in the
Northwest markets, all the fundamentals are there. And what is
driving Bonneville's costs are predominantly the costs
associated with mitigating for fish, which is about 30 percent
of my total wholesale power supply cost.
Mr. Lamborn. If I could jump in right there because I have
a limited time. If Bonneville, as the fourth-biggest customer,
has to buy from other sources, where does that electricity from
other sources come from? Does it come from clean hydropower?
Ms. Looney. It can, yes. We actually buy a lot of power
from Canada. So, if we pick up from their hydro systems in the
north, we can buy from there. We can buy from renewable
resources that are in place in the Northwest, and we can also
buy from California. So, there is a plentiful supply in the
Mr. Lamborn. But do you sometimes have to buy from either
nuclear or fossil fuel sources?
Ms. Looney. Sometimes we have undesignated resources that
we will purchase. But for the most part, we do know where that
power supply is coming from, and it is renewable.
Mr. Lamborn. When there are spillovers that are mandated,
that is lost hydropower potential. Where does Bonneville get
its replacement electricity to supply its contractual
obligations when water has been flowing over, spilling over,
without generating any electricity?
Ms. Looney. Bonneville too must buy that power from the
same available sources in the region in order to cover their
obligations to their preference customers.
Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Heffling, if I could ask you a question,
are the arguments in favor of species mitigation entirely
reasonable on your part, or is there a possibility that some
people have an ulterior motive in wanting to make dams
unprofitable so they will, in their dreams, have to be torn
Mr. Heffling. Yes, I have seen testimony or talked to
environmental groups that are just made up of attorneys that
earn their living by suing the Federal Government, and I
believe that is all there is left on tearing down these Snake
River dams. It has already been proven that the fish and the
dams can co-exist. And I see no reason for outside interests to
Mr. Lamborn. Well, it sounds to me like that is an abuse of
the Endangered Species Act, and it is for an ulterior,
unrevealed, and hidden motive. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Heffling. I would agree. We have had judges, I think,
that have been influenced by bad information and myths and just
bad scientific data or manipulated data that does not present
the facts as they are.
Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Keppen, would you care to weigh in on that
Mr. Keppen. Yes. Our organization has been all about trying
to find constructive ways to make the ESA work better. And the
litigation and some of these sort of back-room settlements
involve a lot of western species. I am glad this Committee has
paid attention to that, and has offered some bills to deal with
Mr. Lamborn. All right. Thank you all for being here, and
for your valuable testimony. At this point, I will yield to the
Ranking Member for any questions he might have.
Mr. Beyer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to begin
with a simple statement that I love hydropower. As someone who
thinks that all the science in climate change is real,
developing hydropower is very important for us.
Mr. Mikkelsen, we have this balance of power, the
executive, the congressional, the judicial. The District Court
of Oregon ruled that the 2014 BiOp was arbitrary and
capricious. It said the current dam operations under the 2014
biological opinion cannot ensure the survival or recovery of
the fish and are vastly unresponsive to their current
biological needs. And there were thousands of pages of
testimony and a long hearing.
Why was there no appeal? If the science was bad, if the
ruling was bad, why not appeal to a higher court? And then why,
instead, take a legislative approach for something that would
probably pass this House and be dead on arrival in the Senate?
Mr. Mikkelsen. I would have to defer the question on why
there was no appeal to the Department of Justice on that, sir.
Mr. Beyer. I just find it curious.
Ms. Hamilton, in your testimony you said, ``Existing salmon
policies have already wasted more than $10 billion on a series
of insufficient measures that have failed to recover a single
one of the 13 protected populations of salmon and steelhead.''
Yet, Member McMorris Rodgers talked about 96 percent recovery.
Ms. Looney talks about 96 to 98 percent performance standard
How do you reconcile these 96 and 98 percent numbers with
your concern that they failed to--and even, in fact, your
notion that you had 1.27 million salmon that is coming up. You
know, you can't rent a boat for 6 months, so----
Ms. Hamilton. Those numbers were results from a spill
program that was put in place by the court. Unfortunately, we
could not get the agencies to support that without presenting
our science in front of the court.
I will give you an analogy about what the 97 percent means,
and it is variable at the different dams. But let's say you had
to go through 10 toll booths and at every toll booth I took 5
percent of your money. By the time you got to the bottom of 10
toll booths, I have quite a bit of your money in my pocket.
That is one example.
The other thing is that you are running out of gas as you
slow down to go through each one of those, and that is what
happens to the baby salmon. They lose energy by the time they
get to the ocean to go back to that.
So, when we measure concrete to concrete, it is like
saying, OK, on an assembly line I put 35 bolts in your car, but
I am not responsible for whether the car runs or not--so
measuring babies past concrete is not measuring adults back.
So, the way we get smolt-to-adult returns is by spill. It has
been monitored and measured for over two decades, and that is
what we know about spill and the benefits of it.
Mr. Beyer. Perfect transition, because you, in your text
and your speech, write extensively about how effective spills
Let me quote Mr. Heffling. ``When fish are transitioned via
spill, less are collected for transport via the barge transport
system. Fish transported by barge survive at five times the
rate as those that traverse the river. Spilled fish are more
susceptible to predatory birds and fish that congregate below
the spillways. And it doesn't help the fish and may even have a
negative effect on fish survival.''
How do you respond to his criticisms of spills and fish?
Ms. Hamilton. Well, again, we have a decades-long study
that looks at fish that are spilled, fish that are put in
barges, fish that are bypassed through these Rube Goldberg
slides. And what the data shows is, year in and year out, we
get more adults back by spilling them over the tops of the
dams. It is just the best methodology that we have.
Mr. Beyer. And this is measuring at the end point, when
they hit the ocean----
Ms. Hamilton. I mean do you want your car to drive, or do
you want 35 bolts in it, right? What we want are adults back.
And when there is overwhelming evidence that spilling gets the
adults back, that is the important part.
When I mentioned that we noticed this in the 1990s, it was
not based on studies, it was fishermen who watched the river.
And we noticed, on years of high spill from over generation
mostly--which is what the spring is like in the Northwest, it
is a lot of over-gen, we have a lot of dams, a lot of water--
what we noticed is we got a lot of adult returns back. So,
simple fishermen were noticing something that, decades later,
science has really proved out.
Mr. Beyer. Great. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Mr. Webster. Thank you, Mr. Chair. A couple of questions
that I had you have asked, and I appreciate that. I would like
to go into that further, though.
Ms. Looney, when you have to go out and buy power from some
other source other than your current source, what is the price
per kilowatt difference, or percentage, or something like that?
Ms. Looney. On Monday, we purchased Fiscal Year 2019 around
the clock for $22.60, and Bonneville is currently at $37, so it
is about a third cheaper.
Mr. Webster. So, is there a potential, I guess, if you were
to, say, eliminate all that power and had to go somewhere else,
is there enough surplus available? Is there potential for
brown-outs, or what would be the result?
Ms. Looney. Being the fourth-largest customer, there is
enough available for me. But if the other three large customers
decide that they want to pay a third less, as well, and we all
go out looking for additional power, it would put pressure on
the availability in the region.
Mr. Webster. From a capacity standpoint?
Ms. Looney. Correct.
Mr. Webster. OK, thank you.
Chair, I would like to yield the rest of my time to Mr.
Mr. LaMalfa. Thank you, Mr. Webster. I appreciate this
legislation brought forward by Mr. Calvert, and certainly will
provide clarity on how people are supposed to manage water
Indeed, Shasta Dam and Shasta Lake are in my district, and
to have competing agencies with opposite missions, one saying
we need to let more water out of the dam for fisheries and the
other saying you need to keep more water in the dam for cold
water later in the year, really puts people in conflict. And
the people caught in the middle are the customers, including
much of Ag. that depends on Sacramento River water.
In one of these hearing rooms a year or two ago, it was
unsure how full the lake would have to be before spring
releases would be released to agriculture. So, how is any
farmer or any other water user supposed to make a plan with
their lenders or anybody else, when the Federal Government
cannot get its act together to decide whether water is going to
be released or kept behind the dam for cold water?
But it is interesting on the panel today, much discussion
about keeping dams in place and dam removal, fish being able to
co-exist with dams. And we have a very hot issue up in the
north part of my district, as well as part of Oregon in Mr.
Walden's district, with the hell-bent effort to remove four
dams on the Klamath River with very, I think, incomplete
science--incomplete is being generous on that. Yet, we have
seen little change in the direction of that in this new
Administration, and my constituents are very disappointed that
they are not being heard on this.
Mr. Mikkelsen, you completed another tour of the area, I
think, 2 days ago, and heard from constituents. They don't feel
like they are being heard. And you have sent a response letter
to my initial letter that was sent to Secretary Zinke that
basically said we received your letter and we all need to work
But some of the important topics that I brought up in that
letter have to do with the process of the facilitators there
for the previous Secretary's approval of the Klamath Dam
removal, yet some very important information was ignored.
Did you get a chance, Mr. Mikkelsen, to review the letter
that I--in our previous meeting about a week-and-a-half ago--
from Mr. Paul Houser, whose credentials include being the
science advisor for the Bureau of Reclamation or the Scientific
Integrity Officer previously for the Bureau of Reclamation, as
well? Did you get a chance to review that document?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes, sir.
Mr. LaMalfa. Previously, the one from when we met? You had
a chance to look at the Houser document, the subject being the
allegation of scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal
for a disclosure concerning the biased summarization of key
scientific conclusions for the Klamath River Dam removal
secretarial determination process, that document?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes.
Mr. LaMalfa. And later on, Mr. Houser was dismissed for his
role in that because it seems that his goals with that were
just scientific. He wasn't biased on this, but the scientific
goals did not go with Secretary Salazar's desire announced
before the science to remove the dams.
So, did you get a chance to review this today or
previously, when I asked you to?
Mr. Mikkelsen. I have reviewed what Mr. Houser's
allegations were, and the response of the independent science
Mr. LaMalfa. OK. My time is over for now. I yield back, Mr.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Representative Costa.
Mr. Costa. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Ranking
Member, for holding this important Subcommittee hearing. I also
want to thank Congressman Ken Calvert for his efforts on this
legislation, of which I am a co-sponsor, because it really
builds upon our previous efforts that include the WIIN Act that
we passed last December that provides greater flexibility for 5
years, plus authorizing four different reservoirs, storage
facilities, in California, and a lot of other good things.
But let me just really explain this to the members of the
Subcommittee, because the legislation that Mr. Calvert has
introduced that we are co-sponsoring is all about common sense
and logic, which too often gets lost in Congress. Let me give
you an anecdotal story to point this out.
The legislation that created NOAA was back in 1973 during
the Nixon administration. And there was bipartisan support for
creating NOAA. The Secretary of the Interior at the time
happened to be a Wally Hickel, who was a former governor of
Alaska. The Secretary of the Interior made some comments that
were in disagreement with the President on Vietnam, and the
President was furious. Sound familiar? The Cabinet Secretary
said something he didn't like. So, President Nixon said, ``The
only way I am going to approve NOAA, I don't want to see it in
Interior.'' So, the compromise was, let's put it in Commerce.
OK? That is how this happened.
So, we get stuck in our own positions here, but that is the
real story. So, what we are trying to do is make some common
sense out of this, common sense and logic.
Mr. Keppen, you mentioned in your testimony that many areas
across the country face duplicative and often conflictive
actions proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and NOAA
Fisheries in an attempt to preserve and ultimately recover
species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. That
is true. I have experienced that in California and other parts
of the country.
The fact is that the conflicting operational decisions, for
example, have impacted areas like the Sacramento/San Joaquin
Delta area, as Congressman Calvert mentioned earlier, as well
as in Ventura County, where we have, again, these conflicts
with NOAA prioritizing, keeping water upstream in reservoirs
for temperature management, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service proposes releasing significant volumes of water
downstream for experiments to increase the recovery of species.
I mean, they are not on the same page. The duplicative and
inconsistent management we are seeing makes no logical sense,
and it harms the communities in the San Joaquin Valley and
across the Nation, and it does nothing--beg to differ with
you--for helping the recovery of the species. It seems to me if
they are in the same department, as President Obama suggested,
and they are talking to each other, they could be on the same
page with the biologists and the other folks that are managing
Last year alone, with the greatest rain and snowpack in
California ever recorded--which came on the heels of the worst
5-year drought in history--we had these conflicting actions
taking place, unfortunately, too often. Non-senior water right
holders across California that ended up preventing plantings
and negatively impacting the economy that I felt in my
district, as well as in Congressman Denham's district.
Congressman LaMalfa's constituents, as he pointed out, were
impacted. Congressman Denham's constituents were impacted by
the damages of this.
We argued last year between August and September, between
releasing water, as to whether or not it was at 56 degrees
temperature or whether it was at 55 degrees temperature, which
was better for the recovery of the salmon, which then was in
conflict with the other agency for the recovery of the delta
smelt. It makes no sense.
So, this bill, while a far cry from what I would like to
see, which is that NOAA Fisheries management budget be moved to
the Department of the Interior--and that was mentioned earlier
by the Ranking Member, but I think we can work that out, that
is not rocket science, that is doable--which would provide
consistent regulatory action for all species with a portion of
their life cycle in inland waters.
Additionally, these conflicting requirements could be
reduced and be eliminated through an integrated biological
opinion for smelt, Chinook salmon, steelhead, which NOAA
Fisheries is resistant to developing, despite, as Mr. Keppen
said, the National Research Council stating that that would
lead to a preferable outcome.
I have a couple questions. I don't have much time.
Mr. Keppen, can you provide an example of how the
integrated biological opinion in the Klamath, as a comparison,
has functioned more effectively than what we have had with
separate biological opinions in the Sacramento/San Joaquin
Mr. Keppen. Sure, Congressman Costa, although I believe
this is kind of a new development. My testimony focused on what
happened in 2001. We began to get all kinds of national
attention dealing with that issue, because the National Academy
of Sciences actually got involved there, too, came back and
said the decisions that were made by both agencies were not
I think, as far as--oh, I am sorry, I lost my train of
thought all of a sudden. I was thinking about Klamath. Your
Mr. Costa. Instead of having one biological opinion for the
Mr. Keppen. Yes, I am sorry. So, they have done it in
Klamath over the last several years. It took a couple of years
to develop. I think it is actually the first joint biological
opinion between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service that has been conducted in the West.
And my understanding is it is operating better. It has been
But even with that said, I am not quite sure that it would
be as efficient as having both agencies under the same roof.
Mr. Costa. Which you could then better more logically
produce and reproduce on the life cycle of this species.
Mr. Keppen. Right, right.
Mr. Costa. Absolutely. Common-sense logic.
Mr. Keppen. Right.
Mr. Costa. That is what this is about.
Mr. Lamborn. Representative Gosar.
Dr. Gosar. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hamilton, for full public disclosure, you and your
association are currently one of the current plaintiffs in the
Federal Columbia River Power System litigation that has
challenged multiple Federal dam biological opinions over the
past two decades or so. Is that correct?
Ms. Hamilton. Yes, sir. We are.
Dr. Gosar. Thank you. In January of this year, you said,
and I quote, ``Gold-plating dams may not be in our future
because they are outdated, they have outlived their purpose,
and are causing, most of us think, more harm than good. Then we
need to stop investing in them. It is just a waste of money.''
I kind of find it interesting. Most of us? I am not one of
I understand that just four ESA listed subspecies of salmon
migrate through the Snake River dams, and at least nine other
populations flow through other Federal and non-Federal dams on
the Columbia, including Bonneville Dam and several public
utility district-owned dams. Do you believe that all the
Federal and non-Federal power-producing dams on the Columbia
River system are outdated and a waste of time? Do you believe
that they should all be removed? And, if not, which ones should
stay? And why are they the ones that are OK?
Ms. Hamilton. Thank you for the question. Yes, when I see
the four lower Snake River dams are remanded to be reviewed for
costs and benefits, then I disagree and our organization
disagrees with spending money for them to stay in place while
the studies are in place.
That said, we are pretty optimistic about the benefits of
spill. So, I am not sure that this dams-versus-salmon debate or
the environment-versus-jobs debate aren't false choices.
We are keenly interested in seeing how spill works.
Dr. Gosar. Well, for clarity here, I am also a fisherman.
In fact, my first job was fly tying, as a small child. So, from
For the rest of the panel, we will go in reverse order,
from the right to the left--the Federal dams, Federal Power
Act, and a number of other laws require congressional
authorization, meaning that they are long-standing policies
affecting these dams. Do you believe Congress should continue
to have this authority, relative to the Federal, Columbia, and
Snake River Dams? Starting from the right and moving back.
Mr. Heffling. Yes, I agree with that position, thank you.
Dr. Gosar. The gentleman to the right. Young lady?
Ms. Looney. Yes.
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes.
Dr. Gosar. Thank you. I am going to yield the rest of my
time to Mr. LaMalfa.
Mr. LaMalfa. Thank you, Mr. Gosar.
Coming back to Mr. Mikkelsen on that, you have told me and
then several others up in the district there that you really
have a pretty keen interest in the situation up at Klamath. And
I think you told Secretary Zinke that you wouldn't come back to
Washington, DC from retirement unless you got to handle,
basically, the Klamath Project.
What is your particular interest in the Klamath Dam removal
project that would hinge on taking the acting role?
Mr. Mikkelsen. I would say that is probably a bit of a
mischaracterization of any communication I had with the
Secretary on that particular----
Mr. LaMalfa. Well, that is what you tell people in the
district. So, OK.
Mr. Mikkelsen. I have said that I volunteered for the
Klamath, as a matter of professional interest, because I have
about 35 years of experience with respect to conflict
resolution on natural resource issues.
Mr. LaMalfa. Does conflict resolution involve listening
closely to both sides of an issue?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes.
Mr. LaMalfa. OK. The people that are opposed to dam removal
still don't believe that they are being heard up there, as a
result of a couple of tours recently.
I asked you about the Houser document a few minutes ago.
What did you conclude from the charges brought forth by Mr.
Houser, who, again, was summarily dismissed when his views
didn't seem to line up with the previous administration on the
science involved with the dam removal? What did you conclude
from that document? It was submitted February 24, 2012.
Mr. Mikkelsen. The Houser document referred to a criticism
of a departmental press release, as I understand it. And in
response to all of the allegations that were made here by Mr.
Houser, the Department did institute an independent science
review panel that went through that. And the science review
panel did criticize the press release and how the press release
was handled with respect to the specificity of some numbers.
But they also upheld the Department's action in doing so.
And that was an independent science review panel.
Mr. LaMalfa. That is over a press release. Well, I will
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. OK, and you will have some time in a moment.
But first we will hear questions from Ms. Bordallo.
Ms. Bordallo. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank
the Committee for being here this morning.
My questions are for you, Commissioner Mikkelsen. And this
is for the record.
In 1986, Congress added Texas and the insular areas as
reclamation states. Commissioner Mikkelsen, are you aware that
Guam is eligible for reclamation funding, and has been for
three decades, 30 years?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes, I am.
Ms. Bordallo. All right.
Mr. Mikkelsen. That Public Law 99-396 added that.
Ms. Bordallo. All right, thank you. Question 2, can you
pledge that Reclamation will provide all due consideration to
any funding requests from eligible applicants on Guam,
including our government agency, the Guam Waterworks Authority?
Is it yes or no?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Yes.
Ms. Bordallo. Yes.
Mr. Mikkelsen. To the point that, understand that
Reclamation's grant program is a competitive process.
Ms. Bordallo. Right. My third question--many are surprised
to learn that tropical islands can face water supply
challenges, including groundwater contamination, and even
drought. Are you willing to explore how Reclamation's expertise
can help Guam and other insular areas to further improve their
public water systems and better manage water resources?
Mr. Mikkelsen. The short answer to that is yes. I would
note that we have had one application from a territory in the
Northern Mariana Islands that was selected for our WaterSMART
grants. They are using about $300,000 in Federal funding with
another $300,000 in local funding to install 1,000 new advanced
water meters for both agriculture and domestic customers.
And I would say that entities that are located in the
territories listed are also eligible for all those other parts
of WaterSMART title 16 cooperative watershed management
programs, but we have not received applications for funding
from the U.S. territories for those particular programs.
Ms. Bordallo. Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner. I just
wanted this on record.
Last, I am pleased that this Committee and our Chairman
have committed to do all that we can within our jurisdiction to
help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as they rebuild
from recent hurricanes. Will you pledge, Commissioner, that
Reclamation will do its part by providing all due consideration
to any funding requests from eligible applicants on the Virgin
Islands? Congress made the U.S. Virgin Islands eligible for
Reclamation funding back in 1986.
Mr. Mikkelsen. That is correct, under Public Law 99-396.
And as required by statute, Reclamation does use a competitive
process to identify those projects for grant programs. Each
application will be thoroughly reviewed and scored in a
described manner that everybody has access to.
Ms. Bordallo. Thank you. I thank the Commissioner.
Mr. Chairman, I ask these questions because many times the
territories are forgotten. You have been on Guam, so you know
how far we are and the needs that come about, just like any
Mr. Lamborn. Many times. And I think that has always been
at your invitation.
Ms. Bordallo. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, Mr. Chairman, I would like to enter into the record my
comments on H.R. 3916.
Mr. Lamborn. With no objection, so ordered.
Ms. Bordallo. Thank you, and I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. Representative LaMalfa.
Mr. LaMalfa. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will resume with
that letter with Mr. Mikkelsen here.
In order to get it on the record, two of the charges Mr.
Houser made in submitting that letter--one was, Number one was
Motivated by Secretary Salazar's publicly-stated 2009
intention to issue a secretarial determination in favor of
removing four dams on the Klamath River, which was due March
31, 2012, the Department of the Interior has followed a course
of action to construct support for such an outcome. An example
of this intentional biased falsification reporting the
scientific results is contained in the September 21, 2011,
called the ``Summary of Key Conclusions Draft EIS ER and
Related Scientific Technical Reports.'' Other examples are
provided by third parties.
You talk about the press release. Yes, that is included in
the second portion of the letter. And I will conserve time on
that. But what we have is a problem, that the science involved
is not being taken into account by an unbiased party here.
Indeed, it looks like a conclusion that is being carried
forward, unfortunately, under this Administration's officers.
Are you aware also of another document submitted by a
gentleman named Stephen Coshi that would talk about the
deconstruction of the earthen dams, the Iron Gate and the J.C.
Boyle Dam, that were reviewed by people that have no experience
with earthen dams, with concrete dams. This document talks
about the technical aspects of removing a dam, and it has a
clay core with gravel and other material covering that.
The peril of removing such a dam and the expertise that was
submitted by people that have no experience with that, indeed,
are people that reviewed that and said it was OK, are folks
that are from the--this letter was submitted to a Thomas
Hepler, who is the team leader of The Waterways and Concrete
Dam Group in Denver, Colorado.
The letter talks about stability of slopes in
deconstructing these earthen dams, where you have 174 feet that
have been under water for a very long time, and that the
drawdown on that would have an effect on slope stability,
therefore collapsing into the river, as well as the--I cannot
go into all the technical aspects of the clay core of the dams,
but the issues involved with the clay causing collapse once the
water starts to inundate that, even after the dam drawdown has
Has that been taken into account in the deconstruction
process of the two earthen dams on the system?
Mr. Mikkelsen. Reclamation is not involved in the removal
of these dams, so I would probably have to refer that question
to the KRRC, as successor in interest to PacifiCorp, sir.
Mr. LaMalfa. OK. Well, it evidently has not been. One of my
requests I made of the Secretary early on in this
Administration in April in a letter was one of three things,
and that would include--since science is incomplete by many
different accounts, I request that the Secretary withdraw the
previous Secretary's approval of the Klamath Dam removal and
inform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of the
withdrawal, so decisions are not made without all the science.
Indeed, it was 20 million cubic yards of material sitting
behind the four dams that would then infect the rest of the
river after they are removed. That has been completely glossed
over in the process.
Now, we have had some less-than-forthright process, as
well, with the formation of the removal corporation KRRC, a
colleague that you mentioned, Mr. Ed Sheetz, who we had worked
with to try to have our office and others be included in open
hearings on what the KRRC was going to be doing, going forward.
And we did not have that forthright interaction with the
elected member or the general public, the way it should have.
Indeed, secret meetings were held in this whole process.
So, I am going to once again ask the Secretary to withdraw
the previous approval of the removal and this process, and ask
the Secretary to put someone else as the facilitator up there
in the Klamath system, because our people are not being heard.
With that I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. Representative Gianforte.
Mr. Gianforte. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member.
I want to thank the panelists for being here, for your
Mr. Mikkelsen, as a fellow Montanan, a special welcome to
you. Thank you for being here.
Mr. Mikkelsen. Thank you.
Mr. Gianforte. Mr. Heffling, you gave testimony today that,
based on the scientific data you have, there is a 97 percent
survival rate through the dams of the salmon. We have also
heard that we have seen record returns of adult salmon into the
Based on the scientific data you have available to you, and
your opinion, is it your belief that the dams have virtually no
impact on the salmon?
Mr. Heffling. Yes, that would be correct. I mean they have
minute impact because there are small mortality rates. But that
is in any river, no matter what obstacles they come up against.
And I believe that the plans we have in place now definitely
Mr. Gianforte. So, virtually no impact on the salmon, from
the dams as they exist?
Mr. Heffling. No.
Mr. Gianforte. Thank you.
And Ms. Looney, I have met with members of the Montana
Electric Co-ops, who have talked to me about the ongoing
problems with the Columbia River System. In Montana, we have
about 130,000 families, farms and ranches, small businesses
that get their power from the Bonneville Power Administration,
just as your customers do.
These dams are one of the largest providers of carbon-free,
renewable energy in the area. Yet, we continue to make them
economically inefficient. And you testified yourself that costs
are going up dramatically: $600 million a year, 37 percent
increase--by my calculation without compounding--in rates.
My question is, we just heard that these dams have no
impact on the salmon, and yet we have continuous litigation.
What do you think the point of the litigation is? Is it about
long-term viability of the salmon? We just heard the scientific
data says that is not the reason. Is it that? Or is it really
just an attempt to remove all the dams?
Ms. Looney. Thank you. Excellent question. I do have one of
my members, Lincoln Electric Cooperative, in Montana.
I think it depends on which party you are looking at. I
think some do have an agenda for dam removal. I think some
truly believe that the science that they are referring to is
the accurate science. However, I believe that the Federal
science is the accurate science, and that Federal science is
what we will be operating under if we can continue with this
bill. We will be operating under that Federal science, as we do
today, until a new biological opinion is created after the NEPA
Mr. Gianforte. OK. You also testified that an awful lot of
money has been spent to improve these dams to negate any
potential negative impact on the salmon. Is it also your belief
that the scientific data shows that these dams have virtually
no impact on the salmon?
Ms. Looney. Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Gianforte. OK, thank you.
And Mr. Keppen, Ag. is our Number one industry in Montana.
And I am asking an obvious question, but for a farmer ranch
that depends on irrigation water that might be diverted from
one of these dams, if I run a farm and I have relied on the
irrigation water--you testified that, in fact, in certain cases
this water is turned off. Could you just describe the impact on
a farmer of not getting irrigation water?
Mr. Keppen. Sure, thanks. Actually, I think the first time
I ever testified before one of these committees was after the
2001 water shut-off in Klamath Falls. I used to run the Klamath
Water Users Association, which represents those irrigators. And
it is terrible. I kind of mentioned it in my written testimony.
Not only are the farmers impacted, but the surrounding
environment, the National Wildlife Refuges, there is a ripple
effect that hits, obviously, the tractor suppliers, the
fertilizer dealers, the business community. There was a
tremendous rise in anti-depressants that were prescribed by
local pharmacists. And those were just the short-term impacts.
I think in our community it was about a $300 million impact
in 1 year. Generally Ag., right now, creates about a $600
million boost to our economy.
And then, what I testified on back in 2002 before the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was the lasting
effects, when you have----
Mr. Gianforte. But for an individual family farm who is
dependent on water, for that family, what did they experience?
Mr. Keppen. Oh, it is terrible. Without water, you cannot
produce food. And some people were able to drill wells and have
a back-up supply. That creates sort of a have versus have-nots.
It creates a terrible dynamic in the community. It is something
I never want to go through again.
And not only that, the following year, if you have not
irrigated and produced on your land, you get weed problems,
equipment that hasn't been used for a year. There is just a
long range of impacts that last. Not just like a 1-year sort of
Mr. Gianforte. Great, thank you.
I will yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the
members of the panel for coming here this morning and helping
us through this important conversation about an issue that is
of primary importance to my district. I represent the central
part of Washington State. Many of these dams that we are
talking about, if they are not in my district, they certainly
impact me directly. So, I want to thank everybody on the
Committee, too, their interest in helping to solve this
And certainly to welcome one of my constituents, Mr.
Heffling, I appreciate your coming here and talking directly
from your knowledge of these matters. He has an extensive
background that I think is very important to this conversation.
Thank you for that, as well as everyone else that brings their
expertise this morning.
One of the drawbacks of being the last one to ask questions
is that a lot of things have been asked already. They are very
important. But just to, I guess, underscore some of the points
that have been made, we all know that there has been a
tremendous amount of scientific research that has gone into the
successful passage of fish through dam structures, monitoring
processes, lots of technologies that have increased the
survival rates for these listed species, particularly in the
Columbia River system.
So, Mr. Heffling, you have already made the point that--I
think you said that dams and salmon can co-exist. I think
several people have made that point this morning. I guess I
would like to give you the opportunity to talk a little bit
more about this ongoing debate that we have this morning about
the 97 percent or 95 or 98 percent survival rate that we are
experiencing right now that demonstrate to me the very
successful co-existence of the fish and the dams. Is there
anything else you would like to add to that?
Mr. Heffling. Yes, there has been a lot of talk, with all
due respect to Ms. Hamilton, about increasing spill. And, I
kind of chuckle at that, because we already have spill
incorporated into the current BiOp. And I talked previously
about super-saturation of nitrogen into the water.
Mr. Newhouse. Right.
Mr. Heffling. Well, this has a cumulative effect through
each of the dams that spill water.
So, right now, even though we are ordered to spill water
for some augmentation and fish passage, we are limited by--that
dissolved gas is measured by the agency--so we are limited to
our spill to where our dissolved gas levels are at. Even if
there was some kind of order to increase spill, it could not be
done without being incredibly dangerous to the fish.
So, I don't understand where some of this increased spill
comes from, but it is not what works. The increase in fish
survival has been multi-functional. It has been barging, it has
been fish screens in the intakes of the turbines. It has been
RSWs that are actually a simple device, they are not Rube
Goldberg at all. They are very expensive devices, but they have
So, it is not spill that has really increased the survival
rate, it is all the ways that we have improved the structures
to pass fish, plus--I am a power plant operator, myself, and
have to abide by the fish passage plan, which is based on the
BiOp. Everything we do, what generator we start, at what level
we run the generation, what spill we are at, all of this is
according to this fish passage plan that is meant for increased
survival of the fish, so we are doing everything possible to
Mr. Newhouse. The crux of the question here is the current
biological opinion. Just for the record, would you agree that
the current BiOp is working, that it is vital in order to
support the Federal Columbia River Power System, as well as
allowing salmon to continue recovering at their record rates
that we see?
Mr. Heffling. Oh, I would definitely agree that BiOp is
what has actually worked, and that is why we have an increase
Mr. Newhouse. Good, I appreciate that. And there are still
people talking about removal of the dams, particularly the
Snake River dams. Could you talk a little bit from your
experiences what it would take to replace these dams, as far as
power generation? Perhaps more nuclear? What other kind of
things that might be necessary?
Mr. Heffling. Yes, for the lower Snake River dams, it would
probably take 2 nuclear, maybe 3 coal-fired, 6 gas-fired power
plants, just to replace the annual power production. For
peaking capacity, you are talking about 3 nuclear, 6 coal-
fired, or 14 gas-fired power plants to provide just that peak
But these dams are more important than just what they can
generate annually, or whatever. These plans that are on the
Snake River Columbia System are run under what BPA called AGC,
and that is Automatic Gain Control. Peak power is not just a
certain time of year, it is daily. When everybody gets up in
the morning, turns their heat up, starts making their
breakfast, the need for power rises way up, and in the evening,
when people come home from work.
So, that is the main function of these dams, peak power. We
go to full load in the morning, we go to full load in the
evening. You cannot request wind, ``Come on, blow harder
because we need you right now,'' and you cannot say, ``Well,
come out, sun, we need peak power right now.'' That can only be
done by these types of projects.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, my time is up, but I want to thank you for
holding this hearing, and also express my appreciation to
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers for her main sponsorship of this
bill. And I look forward to working with you.
Mr. Lamborn. All right. I would like to thank all the
witnesses for their valuable testimony. You have come a long
way to be here, and I and all of us appreciate that.
Members of the Subcommittee may have additional questions
for you, and we would ask that you respond to these in writing.
Under Committee Rule 3(o), members of the Committee must submit
questions to the Clerk within 3 business days following the
hearing. And the hearing record will be open for 10 business
days for these responses.
If there is no further business, without objection, the
Committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:39 a.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[LIST OF DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD RETAINED IN THE COMMITTEE'S
Statement for the Record from the Department of the Interior
on H.R. 3916, dated October 12, 2017.
Statement for the Record from Representative Bordallo on H.R.
Rep. Huffman Submissions
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from the Orca Salmon Alliance commenting
on H.R. 3144, dated October 11, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition
commenting on H.R. 3144, dated October 11, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Scott Spellmon of the Army Corps of
Engineers, Elliot Mainzer of Bonneville Power
Administration, and Lorri Lee of the Bureau of
Reclamation from the Orca Salmon Alliance
commenting on the Scoping, Columbia River System
Operations Environmental Impact Statement, dated
February 5, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Northwestern Division from EarthJustice commenting
on the Scoping, Columbia River System Operations
Environmental Impact Statement, dated February 6,
-- Open letter to ``Policymakers'' discussing H.R. 3144,
signed by multiple organizations, dated August 23,
-- Research article titled, ``Population growth is limited
by nutritional impacts on pregnancy success in
endangered Southern Resident killer whales by
Samuel Wasser, Jessica Lundin, Katherine Ayres,
Elizabeth Seely, Deborah Giles, Kenneth Balcomb,
Jennifer Hempelmann, Kim Parsons, and Rebecca
Booth, published June 29, 2017.
-- Opinion article written by Josh Mills titled, ``Bill
would rubber-stamp salmon failure,'' dated August
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member
Huffman from the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations commenting on H.R. 3144,
dated October 9, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from the NW Energy Coalition commenting on
H.R. 3144, dated October 11, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member
Huffman from American Rivers commenting on H.R.
3144, dated October 12, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from the Alaska Trollers Association
commenting on H.R. 3144, dated October 9, 2017.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from Jeremy Brown, President of the
Coastal Trollers Association commenting on H.R.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop, Chairman Lamborn,
Ranking Member Grijalva, and Ranking Member Huffman
from John Twa commenting on H.R. 3144, dated
October 12, 2017.
-- Letter addressed Chairman Bishop, Chairman Lamborn,
Ranking Member Grijalva, and Ranking Member Huffman
from the Northwest Resource Information Center
commenting on H.R. 3144, dated October 12, 2017.
-- Open letter from James Waddell, commenting on H.R.
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop, Chairman Lamborn,
Ranking Member Grijalva, and Ranking Member Huffman
from Idaho Rivers United commenting on H.R. 3144,
dated October 11, 2017.
-- Open letter from multiple groups commenting on H.R.
3144 and H.R. 3916, dated October 11, 2017.