[House Hearing, 115 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
THE FEDERAL COLUMBIA RIVER POWER SYSTEM: THE ECONOMIC LIFEBLOOD AND
WAY OF LIFE FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
OVERSIGHT FIELD HEARING
COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS
Monday, September 10, 2018, in Pasco, Washington
Serial No. 115-53
Printed for the use of the Committee on Natural Resources
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.govinfo.gov
Committee address: http://naturalresources.house.gov
U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE
31-587 PDF WASHINGTON : 2018
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 Ruben Gallego, AZ
Scott R. Tipton, CO Colleen Hanabusa, HI
Doug LaMalfa, CA Nanette Diaz Barragan, CA
Jeff Denham, CA Darren Soto, FL
Paul Cook, CA A. Donald McEachin, VA
Bruce Westerman, AR Anthony G. Brown, MD
Garret Graves, LA Wm. Lacy Clay, MO
Jody B. Hice, GA Jimmy Gomez, CA
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, AS Nydia M. Velazquez, NY
Daniel Webster, FL
Jack Bergman, MI
Liz Cheney, WY
Mike Johnson, LA
Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, PR
Greg Gianforte, MT
John R. Curtis, UT
Cody Stewart, Chief of Staff
Lisa Pittman, Chief Counsel
David Watkins, Democratic Staff Director
Hearing held on Monday, September 10, 2018....................... 1
Statement of Members:
Lamborn, Hon. Doug, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Colorado.......................................... 2
Prepared statement of.................................... 3
McMorris Rodgers, Hon. Cathy, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Washington............................... 5
Newhouse, Hon. Dan, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Washington........................................ 3
Statement of Witnesses:
Flores, Terry, Executive Director, Northwest RiverPartners,
Portland, Oregon........................................... 14
Prepared statement of.................................... 16
Green, Marci, President, Washington Association of Wheat
Growers, Ritzville, Washington............................. 45
Prepared statement of.................................... 46
Hastings, Hon. Doc, a Former Representative in Congress,
Pasco, Washington.......................................... 8
Prepared statement of.................................... 9
Heffling Jack, President, United Power Trades Organization,
West Richland, Washington.................................. 39
Prepared statement of.................................... 40
James, Daniel, Deputy Administrator, Bonneville Power
Administration, Portland, Oregon........................... 11
Prepared statement of.................................... 12
Johnson, Kris, President & CEO, Association of Washington
Business, Olympia, Washington.............................. 19
Prepared statement of.................................... 21
Oatman, Hon. McCoy, Vice Chairman, Nez Perce Tribe, Lapwai,
Prepared statement of.................................... 37
Rich, Rob, Vice President, Marine Services, Shaver
Transportation Company, Portland, Oregon................... 32
Prepared statement of.................................... 34
Spain, Glen, Northwest Regional Director, Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Eugene, Oregon..... 22
Prepared statement of.................................... 24
Additional Materials Submitted for the Record:
List of documents submitted for the record retained in the
Committee's official files................................. 62
OVERSIGHT FIELD HEARING ON THE FEDERAL COLUMBIA RIVER POWER SYSTEM: THE
ECONOMIC LIFEBLOOD AND WAY OF LIFE FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Monday, September 10, 2018
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Natural Resources
The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:01 a.m., at
Pasco City Hall Council Chambers, Pasco, Washington, Hon. Doug
Present: Representative Lamborn.
Also present: Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and
Mr. Lamborn. The hearing will come to order. The House
Natural Resources Committee meets today to hear testimony on an
oversight hearing entitled ``The Federal Columbia River Power
System: The Economic Lifeblood and Way of Life for the Pacific
By way of introduction, I am Doug Lamborn, the Chairman of
the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water,
Power and Oceans. I also represent the 5th District of
I am grateful to be joined by two former members of the
Committee who represent this region and are extremely familiar
with these issues, Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy
McMorris Rodgers, both from Washington.
To begin today's hearing, I will now defer to my
distinguished colleague, Dan Newhouse, who represents Tri-
Cities, for a brief statement and a few introductions.
Mr. Newhouse. Good morning. I want to say welcome to
central Washington, particularly to Chairman Lamborn and to
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. Thank you.
It is truly a beautiful day here in the Tri-Cities in
Pasco, Washington. I am very proud that this is my district,
the 4th Congressional District. I am also very happy to see so
many members of the community here who are truly engaged in a
very, very important issue not only for our community but for
our state, really for the whole Pacific Northwest, and I would
even venture to say for our Nation.
As you know, many of you were with us outside just before
the hearing began. A lot of community members besides
yourselves were together, and we were serenaded by a group of
young members of our community. You probably know this, but it
was the state folk song, Washington State's folk song, that
Woody Guthrie gem, ``Roll On, Columbia.'' And what a perfect,
perfect song for today's hearing, a great way to kick off the
morning's proceedings as well.
So, I simply want to say thank you, Mr. Lamborn, Mr.
Chairman, for being here today, agreeing to chair and host this
And now, since this is an official congressional hearing,
we are going to begin, as we do every session of the House of
Representatives, with a prayer and a posting of the Colors and
the Pledge of Allegiance.
First I would like to recognize Mr. Wes Hershberger of the
Grandview Church of the Nazarene to lead us in prayer.
Mr. Newhouse. If you will remain standing, I am now proud
to recognize Pasco Boy Scout Troop 159 to post the Colors and
to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
[Pledge of Allegiance.]
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Representative Newhouse.
We will now begin with brief opening statements, as is our
tradition, starting with myself.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DOUG LAMBORN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO
Mr. Lamborn. The Committee meets today to conduct an
oversight hearing entitled ``The Federal Columbia River Power
System: The Economic Lifeblood and Way of Life for the Pacific
What often gets lost in the conversations inside the
Beltway is the impact that this Federal infrastructure has on
the lives of real people and the immense value the Federal
Columbia River Power System creates for the region.
Only since the early 1990s has the system become a partisan
issue. The construction of Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams was
a centerpiece of President Franklin Roosevelt's ``New Deal.''
When President Roosevelt dedicated the Bonneville Dam in
September 1937, he stated that, ``in the construction of this
dam we have had our eyes on the future of the Nation. Its cost
will be returned to the people of the United States many times
over in the improvement of navigation and transportation, the
cheapening of electric power, and the distribution of this
power to hundreds of small communities within a great radius.
As I look upon Bonneville Dam today, I cannot help the thought
that [. . .] we in America are wiser in using our wealth on
projects like this which will give us more wealth, better
living, and greater happiness for our children.''
Eleven years later, speaking about the role that
hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest played in the
United States' War World II efforts, Republican President Harry
Truman stated that, ``had we not had that power source, it
would have been almost impossible to win this war.''
From the days of early settlers in the region, to the
exploration of Lewis and Clark, through World War II, and into
the modern day, the story of the Pacific Northwest and the
Columbia-Snake River System is uniquely American. Those of us
in Congress owe it to you all here today to make good on the
promises of the past and to do everything we can to protect
this critical infrastructure that makes possible the way of
life in the Pacific Northwest.
Before I conclude my statement, I want to give a special
thanks to Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris
Rodgers, who have been passionate and effective advocates for
you back in Washington, DC. They work tirelessly to defend your
livelihoods and the critical infrastructure that promotes a
strong regional economy and way of life.
In fact, we are having this hearing today at their urging
so Congress can be better informed on the critical issues
facing the Pacific Northwest.
I also want to thank our witnesses here, all nine of them,
for taking time out of their busy schedules to be here with us
today. I look forward to your testimony on all sides of the
critical issues facing the Federal Columbia River Power System.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lamborn follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Doug Lamborn, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Colorado
The Committee meets today to conduct an oversight hearing entitled
``The Federal Columbia River Power System: The Economic Lifeblood and
Way of Life for the Pacific Northwest.''
What often gets lost in the conversations inside the beltway is the
impact that this Federal infrastructure has on the lives of real people
and the immense value the Federal Columbia River Power System creates
for the region.
Only since the early 1990s has the System become a partisan issue.
Construction of Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams was a centerpiece of
President Franklin Roosevelt's ``New Deal.'' When President Roosevelt
dedicated the Bonneville Dam in September 1937, he stated that ``in the
construction of this dam we have had our eyes on the future of the
Nation. Its cost will be returned to the people of the United States
many times over in the improvement of navigation and transportation,
the cheapening of electric power, and the distribution of this power to
hundreds of small communities within a great radius. As I look upon
Bonneville Dam today, I cannot help the thought that . . . we in
America are wiser in using our wealth on projects like this which will
give us more wealth, better living and greater happiness for our
Eleven years later, speaking about the role that hydroelectric dams
in the Pacific Northwest played in the United States' World War II
efforts, Republican President Harry Truman stated that ``had we not had
that power source, it would have been almost impossible to win this
From the days of early settlers in the region to the exploration of
Lewis and Clark through World War II and into the modern day, the story
of the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia-Snake River System is
uniquely American. Those of us in Congress owe it to you all here today
to make good on the promises of the past and do everything we can to
protect this critical infrastructure that makes possible the way of
life in the Pacific Northwest.
Before I conclude my statement, I want to give a special thanks to
Representatives Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers who have been fierce
advocates for you back in Washington, DC. They work tirelessly to
defend your livelihoods and the critical infrastructure that promotes a
strong regional economy.
Mr. Lamborn. I now recognize, because we are in his
district, Representative Dan Newhouse, for his opening
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DAN NEWHOUSE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn.
Again, thank you to all of you who are here today.
Over the past few days, members of our community from
throughout central and eastern Washington gathered to
participate in what we call the ``RiverFest: Our Rivers, Our
Way of Life.'' It has been an important opportunity to
celebrate all the benefits our communities receive from the
Snake and Columbia Rivers, as well as to educate the general
public on all of these benefits.
This past Saturday, I, along with thousands of community
members, visited dozens of booths and exhibits with community
partners and organizations highlighting all of the gifts that
our rivers provide. I requested this hearing of the House
Natural Resources Committee, to coincide with these community
events, because I believe it is important that Congress is
educated about how vital our Federal River Power System is to
the Pacific Northwest.
The Columbia and Snake Rivers and the Federal Columbia
River Power System provide irrigation for Washington's
agricultural industry, navigational routes for our export-
driven economy, and flood control for our local communities.
The system provides clean, renewable, affordable power, and
provides for thriving recreational, manufacturing, and
technology industries. These rivers truly are the economic
lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, misguided movements continue
to push for the destruction or the degradation of our river
power system. Along with my colleague, Representative McMorris
Rodgers, and other Pacific Northwest bipartisan colleagues, I
have been working on legislative efforts to protect this system
and our hydroelectric dams.
As you know, a single Federal judge in 2016 overturned the
plan which governs the operations and salmon protection
management plans for the river system. This plan was the
product of painstaking negotiations conducted by both the Bush
and the Obama administrations, scientists and engineering
experts at Federal agencies in affected states, as well as
sovereign Northwest tribes and many local stakeholders.
The judge not only mandated that the breaching of the dams
be considered as an option, but he has even stepped in to over-
ride the scientists and the engineers who run the system and is
now singularly dictating how the dams are managed, including
going against the scientific analysis and ordering spill to
maximum level, known as the gas caps.
Spilling at these gas caps not only threatens the
reliability of the Federal power and transmission system and
causes detrimental impacts to transportation and barging, to
flood control and irrigation, there are also scientific studies
warning that the increased gas levels harm the very fish
species that we are trying to protect.
Six months ago, I sent a request to Washington's Senators,
both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, warning of the $40
million bill that was estimated to fall on the backs of our
constituents due to this spill order and asked them to join us
in our efforts to save our dams. Unfortunately, that action did
not take place, and in the end a $38.6 million bill landed on
the backs of Washington ratepayers. Ratepayers could be facing
the exact same bill this coming year if the Senators do not
join our efforts.
So, I am doing everything in my power to protect ratepayers
in Central Washington, from introducing legislation to protect
the dams, which I am proud to say has now passed the House and
awaits action by the Senate, to drafting an appropriations
provision that stops the reckless spill order, to requesting
today's hearing, and I will not stop working on behalf of this
It is my hope for this hearing today that a national
audience will learn more about the myriad benefits our river
system provides and how our rivers truly do provide for our way
of life. I look forward very much to hearing all of your
testimony, and I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
I now recognize Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers for
her opening statement.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn.
It is great to be with my colleague, Representative Dan
Newhouse. We are delighted to have everyone here today, and I
appreciate the opportunity to join in celebrating the river
Congress created the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)
in 1937 on the heels of the Great Depression to distribute
power generated from the development of two federally
authorized dams, Bonneville and Grand Coulee. These marvels of
engineering provided the Pacific Northwest with the Nation's
most affordable and most reliable energy.
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. These four dams can power
nearly 2 million homes, or a city the size of Seattle, and
provide reliable base load, important energy 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 sun
We have a positive story to tell about how our dams bring
incredible benefits and have transformed a dry, barren region
of sagebrush into one of the most productive in the country.
In Washington State, hydropower provides almost 70 percent
of our electricity needs, and it is clean and renewable.
Our dams also provide barging and irrigation benefits for
our Number one industry, agriculture; flood control for our
communities; and recreational opportunities.
Washington State is the most trade-dependent state in the
country. An estimated 40 percent of our jobs are tied to trade,
responsible for nearly $80 billion worth of exports. Our river
system functions as a superhighway, employing 40,000 people in
various capacities throughout our system of dams and locks.
It would take 174,000 semi-trucks to move the goods which
travel by barge each year. One barge equals 134 trucks. Barging
provides efficient, cost-effective, and low-carbon flow of
Despite all these benefits, we face significant challenges.
Some argue that the four Lower Snake River dams in particular
have negatively impacted migratory fish, yet the data show
average fish survival rates of 97 percent. It is also important
to note that of the 13 fish listed under the ESA, only 4
species pass these dams. These record fish survival rates are a
significant result of Federal research and investments in new
technologies like fish-friendly turbines, new passage
technologies, and modified operations.
In addition, we have implemented with Northwest states and
tribes massive habitat restoration.
All of this comes at a cost. Around one-third of BPA's
wholesale power costs go to fish and wildlife projects, $621
million on fish operations and fish and wildlife projects in
Now, due to a judge's decision in Portland, the region is
spilling even more water over the dams, a mandate that will
cost ratepayers an estimated $38 million. Why is this judge
ignoring science? Why is this judge ignoring years of work on a
Biological Opinion to satisfy the court demands, collaboration
among Federal agencies, tribes, states, utilities, river users
from the Pacific Northwest?
This over-reach by the courts is why I sponsored the
bipartisan bill, H.R. 3144, that passed this Committee to stop
In eastern Washington, we understand the benefits of
healthy salmon runs. That is why we have invested in research
and new technologies and habitat restoration.
We were all saddened to see the recent death of a newborn
baby orca whale off the coast of Washington. However, the four
Lower Snake River dams did not cause the whale to die.
In fact, the Army Corps estimates that the dams would have
a potential 2 percent impact on orca recovery. The larger
impacts are ocean conditions and pollution. In order to protect
orca whales and get them the salmon that they need, 50 percent
of their diet, let's focus on what is actually going to get
In addition, we should also consider the impact of hatchery
fish. Orcas cannot tell the difference between hatchery and
wild salmon, and yet we have reduced hatchery production.
A recent NOAA and Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife report stated that recovering 12 western Washington
rivers are more important to orca whales, and they provide the
majority of the chinook they need to eat, not the Snake River.
Another NOAA report states, and I quote, ``While chinook salmon
population in places such as the Columbia River are surging,
other populations like Puget Sound chinook and Sacramento River
winter run chinook are struggling.''
Last year, the Ninth Circuit mandated an experimental spill
operation to test their theory that it would improve fish
passage. This experiment is not based on science. In fact,
science shows that too much spill will actually kill fish
through increased gas bubbles in the water.
Through the decades, the delegation from the Pacific
Northwest has come together to protect and promote the value of
the Columbia-Snake River System to our region. I appeal to my
colleagues, House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, that we
come together now and stop the courts from mandating theories
not based on science that only add additional cost to
ratepayers in our communities.
The House of Representatives has passed three significant
bills to support our dams. This includes legislation to support
the collaborative BiOp, a proposal to stop the costly spill
requirement, and Representative Herrera Beutler and Senator
Risch's Sea Lion Predation bill. We have a lot to consider.
I stand ready to listen to my colleagues' ideas, and
everyone here today, to help fish, orcas, recreation, clean
power and low rates, transportation, agriculture, our economy,
and our environment. The fact of the matter is that dams and
fish co-exist. Let's keep looking forward to a future that
builds upon our economy and our environment and a great quality
And I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Before we hear from our invited witnesses, I want to take a
moment to urge the audience to submit written comments that
will be printed in the hearing record and will become part of
the official hearing record. We want to include as many
comments as possible. So, there are comment forms at the room
entrance, and you can also submit comments at our website,
which is www.naturalresources.house.gov, under ``Contact Us.''
We want to hear from you, and if you have any questions on how
to do this, please see one of our staff members who are with us
I will now introduce today's witnesses. Our first witness
is the former Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, the
Honorable Doc Hastings from Pasco, Washington; our second
witness is Mr. Dan James, Deputy Administrator for the
Bonneville Power Administration, from Portland, Oregon; our
third witness is Ms. Terry Flores, Executive Director of
Northwest RiverPartners from Portland, Oregon; our fourth
witness is Mr. Kris Johnson, President and CEO of the
Association of Washington Business, from Olympia, Washington;
our fifth witness is Glen H. Spain, Northwest Regional Director
of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
from Eugene, Oregon; our sixth witness is Mr. Rob Rich, Vice
President of Marine Services for Shaver Transportation, from
Portland, Oregon; our seventh witness is the Honorable McCoy
Oatman, Vice Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe from Lapwai,
Idaho--excuse me for mangling that; our eighth witness is Mr.
Jack Heffling, President of the United Power Trades
Organization from West Richland, Washington; and our final
witness is Ms. Marci Green, President of the Washington
Association of Wheat Growers, from Ritzville, Washington.
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 Rule 4(a).
I also want to explain how our timing lights work. When you
begin to speak, our Clerk will start the timer and a green
light will appear. After 4 minutes, a yellow light will appear,
and at that time you should speed up and begin to conclude your
remarks. And at 5 minutes, the red light will come on and I
will ask that you conclude at that time.
Congressman Hastings, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DOC HASTINGS, A FORMER REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS, PASCO, WASHINGTON
Mr. Hastings. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I may, before we
start the official clock, just let me give you a bit of history
here. You mentioned that I am from Pasco. As a matter of fact,
I spent my childhood about six blocks from here, and the
building that you are in right here used to be the high school.
But when I was going to junior high, it was the junior high.
This room right here is where the old gym was. Just a little
bit of background.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you, and it is
nice to see my former colleague, Mrs. McMorris Rodgers here,
and my Congressman, Dan Newhouse. I thank you for having this
I appreciate the opportunity to testify about the
importance of protecting the Northwest hydropower dams and the
economic and environmental benefits that they produce for our
region and our Nation.
Six years ago, when I chaired this Committee, we had a
similar hearing to discuss my legislation on these dams, and I
am pleased that the Committee continued focus on this issue.
BPA's unsustainable financial situation requires a
legislative solution aimed at putting a halt to ongoing
litigation and shoring up the value of our region's greatest
carbon-free hydropower resource.
My testimony focuses on two basic points: (1) the need to
advance the House-passed bipartisan legislation that uses best
available Federal science to effectively stop an unelected
Federal judge from running the river and halt edicts by extreme
groups intent on misusing the ESA to remove dams; and (2) to
highlight the hypocrisy of those that downgrade hatchery salmon
as inferior to wild salmon.
First, I commend and strongly support your efforts to pass
H.R. 3144 to codify the 2014 BiOp, an opinion that is supported
by scientists, three different administrations, states, tribes,
courts, and many more. The Senate needs to take up this
legislation. And if they don't, I would encourage you to find a
vehicle to attach it to before the end of this Congress.
Let me set aside for the moment the role of the dams,
because that will be well-documented by the other witnesses. A
continuing irony is that a vast majority of returning salmon to
most areas of the Columbia and Snake Rivers come from
hatcheries. Hatcheries have been used for more than a century,
decades longer than dams have been around. Yet, some extreme
groups say that there is a difference between so-called
``wild'' and hatchery-bred salmon. They claim hatchery salmon
are inferior and negatively impact wild salmon. They file ESA-
related lawsuits to shut down tribal and state hatcheries,
which actually would help recover salmon.
This flies in the face of a number of scientific studies
and the ESA itself. For example, a 2012 peer-reviewed
scientific study conducted by the Columbia River Intertribal
Fish Commission and Nez Perce tribal scientists found that
hatchery fish did not negatively impact the fitness of wild
fish and that hatchery fish can successfully boost populations
with little, if any, negative impacts. And over a decade ago,
10 independent fishery scientists representing a range of
educational institutions and agencies found that hatchery fish
successfully reproduce in the wild and found no evidence that
they negatively impact wild salmon. In fact, they found that
hatchery fish are indistinguishable when interbred with wild
Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask consent to make those
part of the record, if I may.
Mr. Lamborn. No objection, so ordered.
Mr. Hastings. Many groups also focus on the declines of
wild salmon, while primarily faulting dams for salmon declines,
and they look the other way as huge numbers of wild salmon,
ESA-listed salmon, are harvested. In a recent report to the
Northwest Power Council, NOAA acknowledged that as much as 19
percent of Snake River steelhead; 43 percent, nearly half, of
Snake River fall chinook; and 53 percent, over half, of Lower
Columbia fall chinook are now harvested in the ocean or the
river. These staggering numbers run contrary to the intent of
ESA. We are, in fact, harvesting an ESA-listed species.
So, now it is time for Congress to step up and offer
solutions such as H.R. 3144 that you alluded to. And let me
suggest, too, that there is a model for this, and the model is
the American buffalo. We all know how iconic the American
buffalo was and how it roamed the Great Plains. We knew that
the Native Americans used buffalo as a food source, and also as
a clothing source. And we know that when we settled the West,
the buffalo became a source of food for our settlers that
settled the West, and they roamed the Great Plains.
As civilization moved, we know that the buffalo population
declined. Somebody, or several people, decided well before ESA
was put in place, that the buffalo needed to be preserved. So,
they set up taking buffalo, reproduced them on farms, and so
forth. Nobody to my knowledge suggested that we should wipe out
the Great Plains and have the buffalo run the Great Plains.
So, we now have buffalo, which is a commercial product. You
can buy that virtually any place in the country.
Let me suggest to you that the reason why that is done is
because we have hatchery buffalo.
Mr. Hastings. So, what I would suggest, if we simply take
the adjective ``wild'' out of salmon and put all salmon
together as the number of salmon coming back, I think we will
go a long way to solving our problem, because there is a great
deal of hypocrisy in that.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, and members of the
Committee, for inviting me to testify. I yield back.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hastings follows:]
Prepared Statement of Doc Hastings, Former Representative in Congress
from the State of Washington
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers
for holding this important hearing today.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify about the importance of
protecting the Northwest's hydropower dams and the economic and
environmental benefits they produce for our region and the Nation.
About 6 years ago, as Chairman of the House Natural Resources
Committee, I convened a similar hearing to discuss my legislation to
protect the dams.
I am pleased with the Committee's continued focus on this critical
issue. SPA's unsustainable financial situation requires a legislative
solution aimed at putting a halt to ongoing litigation and shoring up
the value of our region's greatest carbon free hydropower resource. In
addition, the Trump administration can provide immediate policy
leadership in the form of agency guidance and regulation that ensures
dams and fish can co-exist.
My testimony focuses on two basic points: (1) the need to advance
House-passed, bipartisan legislation that uses best available Federal
science to effectively stop an unelected Federal judge from running the
river and halt edicts by extreme groups intent on misusing the ESA to
remove dams; and (2) highlight the hypocrisy of those that downgrade
hatchery salmon as inferior to so-called ``wild'' salmon. This is an
issue that could really benefit from high-level Administration
the importance of a legislative solution
First, I commend and strongly support your efforts to pass H.R.
3144 to ``codify'' the 2014 FCRPS biological opinion--supported by
scientists, three administrations, states, tribes, utilities, ports and
many more. This bill is critical, not just to protect our region's
clean, reliable, renewable power generation and economic viability, but
also to make clear that Congress plays an important role regarding the
authorization of the multi-purpose dams and their legacy. The Senate
needs to take this legislation up, pass it, and the Administration
needs to sign it into law to end the uncertainty, get out of the
courtroom, and allow the plan to protect the dams and salmon.
administration policy leadership--``hatchery'' v. ``wild'' esa salmon
Setting aside for a moment the role of dams, a continuing,
troubling irony is that the vast majority of returning salmon to most
areas of the Columbia and Snake Rivers come from hatcheries. Hatcheries
have been used for more than a century--decades longer than dams have
been around--to mitigate and supplement salmon. Yet, some extreme
groups that distinguish between so-called ``wild'' and ``hatchery''-
bred salmon, claim hatchery salmon are ``inferior'' or negatively
impact ``wild'' salmon. They've filed ESA-related lawsuits to shut down
successful tribal and state hatchery programs, which actually help
This flies in the face of a number of scientific studies and the
ESA itself. For example, a 2012 peer-reviewed scientific study
conducted by Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission and Nez Perce
tribal scientists in Johnson Creek near Idaho's south fork of the Snake
River, found that hatchery fish did not negatively impact the fitness
of ``wild'' fish, and that hatchery fish can successfully boost salmon
populations with little, if any, negative impacts. I have attached a
full copy of that study to my testimony for the record.
Over a decade ago, 10 independent fisheries scientists representing
a range of educational institutions and agencies found hatchery fish
successfully reproduce in the wild, and found no evidence that they
negatively impact ``wild'' salmon. In fact, they found that hatchery
fish are indistinguishable when interbred with wild populations. I have
also attached these findings, which cite more than two dozen scientific
With technology such as DNA that wasn't used when salmon were first
listed, the Trump administration would be wise to revisit and update
its ESA policies and agency findings to ensure hatchery and ``wild''
salmon are treated the same for ESA listing and delisting purposes and
recovery. A similar review of NOAA's policies sanctioning harvest of
ESA-listed salmon should also be conducted.
Many groups focus on declines of ``wild'' salmon, while primarily
faulting dams for salmon declines, and look the other way as huge
numbers of ``wild,'' ESA-listed salmon are harvested. In a recent
report to the Northwest Power Council, NOAA acknowledged that as much
as 19 percent of Snake River steelhead, 43 percent of Snake River fall
chinook and 53 percent of Lower Columbia fall chinook are now harvested
in the ocean or in the river. These staggering numbers run contrary to
the intent of the ESA. Hatchery salmon simply cannot be ignored when
counting and recovering salmon.
Now is the time for Congress to step up and offer solutions such as
H.R. 3144 that seek to protect a clean, reliable energy resource that
continues to drive our region's economy. It is also time for the
Administration to provide policy leadership and put forth innovative
solutions that ensure salmon and dams can continue to co-exist.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you for being here, thank you for your
testimony, and thank you for your service to our country.
Let's see, Mr. James, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DANIEL JAMES, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, BONNEVILLE
POWER ADMINISTRATION, PORTLAND, OREGON
Mr. James. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Dan James. I
am the Deputy Administrator of the Bonneville Power
Administration, and I am really pleased to be here today to
discuss the continuing contributions of Federal hydroelectric
power to the economy and the environment of the Pacific
As Mr. Newhouse and Mrs. McMorris Rodgers have so
eloquently stated, as has Mr. Hastings, BPA was created in 1937
to carry out Franklin Roosevelt's vision for harnessing the
power of the Columbia River. In successive generations, the
value of the river has been expressed in ways that met the
challenges of the times: bringing electricity to rural homes
and farms--I have met people in my life who can say I remember
when the lights came on; powering the factories that built the
ships and planes that won World War II; developing the inter-
regional power exchanges between the Pacific Northwest and
California; delivering the benefits of the Columbia River
Treaty; enabling the development of additional renewable
resources; and restoring the fisheries and wildlife so prized
by the people of the Northwest.
Today, hydropower generation, along with the other
authorized purposes of the Columbia River power system, remains
the workhorse that powers the economy of the Pacific Northwest.
I would like to call our attention to three key attributes
of hydropower that make it especially valuable in the evolving
western electricity market.
First, hydropower is reliable and dispatchable. Columbia
River hydropower provides dependable electricity generation
around the clock and through every season of the year.
Second, here in the Northwest, our coldest weather can last
for many days as high pressure systems hold over the region.
Also, heat waves, including those we experienced this summer,
drive peak demand for electricity, requiring sustained
generation for many days. The hydro system is capable of, and
in fact is planned for, meeting sustained periods of high
The Columbia River Power System delivers carbon-free
peaking capacity that is difficult to replace with alternative
renewable resources. There is no comparable source of firm,
reliable power available that delivers the same value at
anywhere near the cost of the Federal Columbia River
And not far from here, the four Lower Snake River dams
supply up to one-quarter of BPA's operating reserves. Without
the flexibility and operating reserves that these dams supply,
the region would lose a substantial amount of its ability to
deliver reliable energy, including the balancing of variable
Second, hydropower is fundamental to the regional economy.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, low-cost hydroelectric
power has been a major asset for this region's economy since
the Great Depression and the days of World War II. Today,
Federal power continues to serve many remote rural communities
across the Northwest that have few other economic advantages to
offer industry and business.
And third, hydropower contributes to the clean energy
economy. Responding to state mandates, Federal incentives, and
the declining cost of technology, much of the West is
attempting to meet clean electricity goals through other
renewable resources such as wind and solar. As these variable
resources grow in the Western Interconnection, hydro offers
adaptable operational capability to integrate them reliably and
at low cost.
Now I would like to turn to the success of fish and
wildlife investments. The Federal hydro system is also unique
in the extensive modifications and operational changes made for
the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife. BPA's
ratepayers invested billions of dollars to improve design and
operation of the dams. The trend of salmon and steelhead
survival is on the rise. We continue to post returns that by
some measures are near the numbers seen before Bonneville Dam
Still, Federal hydropower operations are subject to ongoing
litigation and environmental review. In 2018, court-ordered
spill above the levels specified in the current Biological
Opinion was valued at $40 million in lost revenue. It resulted
in BPA implementing program funding reductions and a $10
million surcharge in its power rates.
Now I will conclude. I would like to thank you for the
opportunity to participate in this hearing. The Columbia River
hydropower system continues to deliver on President Roosevelt's
original vision to benefit the people of the Pacific Northwest,
while also driving our modern economy and contributing to the
quality of life that we so greatly value here in the Northwest.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. James follows:]
Prepared Statement of Daniel M. James, Deputy Administrator, Bonneville
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. My name is Dan James. I am Deputy
Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)
headquartered in Portland, Oregon. I am pleased to be here today to
discuss the continuing contributions of Federal hydroelectric power to
the economy and environment of the Pacific Northwest.
BPA markets the hydropower from 31 Federal dams in the Columbia
River Basin. These dams are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (the Corps) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).
Bonneville also markets the output of the Columbia Generating Station,
a 1,100 megawatt nuclear power plant near Richland, Washington.
Connecting all of these resources with the rest of the Western electric
grid are the 15,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that
Bonneville owns and operates.
BPA was created in 1937 to carry out President Franklin Roosevelt's
vision for harnessing the power of the Columbia River. In successive
generations, the value of the river has been expressed in ways that met
the challenges of the times: bringing electricity to rural homes and
farms; powering the factories that built the ships and planes that
helped win World War II; developing inter-regional power exchanges
between the Pacific Northwest and California; delivering the benefits
of the Columbia River Treaty; enabling the development of additional
renewable resources; and restoring the fisheries and wildlife so prized
by the people of the Northwest. Today, hydropower generation, along
with the multiple other purposes of the Columbia River power system,
remains the workhorse that powers the economy of the Pacific Northwest.
value of hydro
I'd like to call attention to three particular attributes of
hydropower that make it especially valuable in the evolving Western
Hydropower is highly reliable and dispatchable: Columbia
River hydropower provides dependable electricity generation
around the clock and through every season of the year. For
example, here in the Pacific Northwest, our coldest weather
can last for many days as high pressure systems stagnate
over the region. Similarly, heat waves such as what our
region experienced this summer drive peak electrical demand
requiring sustained generation for days. The hydro system
is capable of, and in fact is planned for, meeting
sustained periods of high demand. As the region has
developed large amounts of wind generation, the Federal
hydropower system has been able to compensate for the
variable nature of wind and preserve reliability during
periods of low wind generation. The dams of the Federal
Columbia River Power System had a sustained peaking
capacity in January of nearly 10,000 megawatts for 120
The Federal Columbia River Power System delivers carbon-
free peaking capacity that is difficult to replace with
alternative renewable resources. There is no comparable
source of firm, reliable power available that delivers the
same value at anywhere near the cost of Federal Columbia
Not far from here, the four lower Snake River dams supply up to
one-quarter of BPA's operating reserves. Reserves are the
capacity that utilities are required to have available to
meet unexpected changes in generation or electrical demand.
Without the flexibility and operating reserves that these
dams supply, the region could lose a substantial amount of
its ability to deliver reliable energy, including the
balancing of variable energy resources.
Hydropower is fundamental to the regional economy: As I
mentioned in my opening remarks, low-cost hydroelectric
power has been a major asset for this region's economy
since the Great Depression and the days of World War II.
Today, Federal power continues to serve many remote rural
communities across the Northwest that have few other
economic advantages to offer industry and businesses. The
new manufacturing economy in much of the Northwest is more
technologically advanced than ever, and these manufacturers
depend on reliable electricity with stable voltage and
Hydropower contributes clean energy: Responding to state
mandates, Federal incentives and the declining cost of
technology, much of the West is attempting to meet clean
electricity goals through other renewable resources,
particularly wind and solar. As these variable resources
grow in the Western Interconnection, hydro offers adaptable
operational capability to integrate them reliably and at
importance of maintaining hydro assets
Preserving these valuable attributes requires constant reinvestment
to replace and upgrade aging equipment. BPA is adopting a more rigorous
approach for hydropower asset management that leads to the most
efficient use of resources, recognizing that our assets do not all
deliver the same value. Achieving these objectives for power requires
collaborative, long-term planning with the Corps and Reclamation, our
Federal partners. Through the Asset Investment Excellence Initiative,
the three agencies have established prioritized goals to drive aligned
investment decisions and improve contracting and project-management
practices. We are already seeing the cost reductions and operational
efficiencies from this effort. Longer term, this approach will produce
the highest economic benefit and derive maximum value from the system,
while meeting non-power purposes and environmental requirements.
substantial fish and wildlife investments
The Federal Columbia River hydro system is also unique in the
extensive modifications and operational changes made for the protection
and enhancement of fish and wildlife. Since the 1980 Northwest Electric
Power Planning and Conservation Act, BPA has invested billions of
dollars in improved design and operation of the dams, as well as in
off-site restoration efforts for the benefit of fish and wildlife
sponsored by tribes, states, and rural communities. The trend of salmon
and steelhead survival is on the rise--we continue to post returns that
by some measures are near the numbers seen before Bonneville Dam was
Nonetheless, hydropower operations are subject to ongoing
litigation and environmental review. In 2018, court-ordered spill above
the levels specified in current Biological Opinions was valued by BPA
at $40 million in lost revenue. It resulted in BPA implementing program
funding reductions and a $10 million surcharge in its power rates.
Also, BPA, the Corps, and Reclamation are undertaking a major
environmental review of the Federal Columbia River hydro system through
the Columbia River Systems Operation environmental impact statement.
significance of the columbia river treaty
The Columbia River Treaty is an agreement between the United States
and Canada that jointly coordinates operations for flood risk
management, hydropower generation, and other benefits. The Treaty went
into effect in 1964 and has been a model of transboundary water
resource cooperation ever since.
We are nearing an important date for the Treaty. In 2024, 60 years
of prepaid flood control space from Canada will end, and the Treaty
will shift to a different flood-risk management regime. Also, either
country may terminate the agreement at any point after September 2024
with at least 10 years advance notice. These milestones present the
opportunity for both countries to reconsider whether aspects of the
Treaty's implementation can be modernized post-2024 to better reflect
today's realities and continue to provide appropriate benefits to the
The United States has begun negotiations with the Canadian
government on the future of the Treaty. BPA is the chair of the United
States Entity and is a member of the negotiation team. The Department
of State, with the United States negotiation team, holds regular
meetings to inform the region and sovereigns of the status of the
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would again like to express my
appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this hearing. The
Federal Columbia River hydropower system continues to benefit the
people of the Pacific Northwest, while also powering our modern economy
and contributing to the quality of life that people so greatly value in
our region today.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Ms. Flores, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF TERRY FLORES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTHWEST
RIVERPARTNERS, PORTLAND, OREGON
Ms. Flores. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn, Representative
Newhouse, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers. I really
appreciate the opportunity to come this morning and talk to you
about not just the benefits that the Federal hydropower system
provides but some of the issues that it is facing, particularly
in the courtroom.
RiverPartners supports salmon restoration policies and
actions that are based in sound science to ensure that the
measures being taken will provide demonstrable benefits to the
salmon and wildlife we are trying to protect and to ensure that
they are a good investment of ratepayer dollars. Sadly, I am
here today to tell you that decisions surrounding the operation
of the Federal hydropower system and endangered salmon that
affect every person in the Northwest are currently not being
made based in sound science or cost-effectiveness, but by a
District Court judge in Portland, Oregon; and anti-dam forces
are once again trying to make the Snake River dams a scapegoat
in salmon and now orca restoration efforts. So, I appreciate
the opportunity to share some of the actual facts surrounding
these issues with you this morning.
I would like to tailor my remarks to two issues: spill
operations at the Federal hydro projects, and then dam removal.
When I talk about spill operations, I want to emphasize that
the spill levels that are out right now are absolutely a case
of diminished returns for both the endangered salmon we are
trying to protect, as well as Bonneville's customers.
Today, the Federal hydro system is at great risk, driven by
over 20 years of ESA litigation and court rulings which have
de-rated the system already by over 1,000 megawatts, increased
Bonneville's rates roughly 30 percent in just the last few
years, and have created huge uncertainty over how the Federal
hydro system will be operated and at what cost to customers,
even next year. That is because the Federal hydro system, as I
mentioned, is being run from the bench in the Oregon District
Court based on spill injunction motions that are being brought
by national and local fish advocate and anti-dam groups.
Even this year, the Oregon District Court, as Dan
mentioned, granted a motion that forced the Federal agencies to
operate the Federal hydro system to maximum spill levels
allowed by law on a 24/7 basis for 6 weeks during the spring
What is spill? Spill involves raising large gates at the
dams which allow water and young fish to shoot out over the
spillways. The theory is that spill will hasten juvenile salmon
migration downstream to the ocean and result in more returning
adults. However, spill also adds dissolved gas to the water,
which can give young fish the bends, like divers, harming or
even killing them.
So, spill is like medicine. The right amount can help you,
and already we are spilling 30 to 40 percent of the Columbia
and Snake Rivers. But too much can hurt or even kill you.
Here's the rub: as Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers
noted in her statement, there is no proof that more spill will
be better for salmon. NOAA Fisheries Science Center modeling of
this year's court-ordered experimental spill operations showed
there would be little to no impact on salmon survival. The
Corps also found it nearly impossible to operate the system at
maximum spill and routinely exceeded the state total dissolved
gas standards that are in place to protect endangered fish.
Dan has already covered the cost of the spill and the spill
surcharge. I would also note that the added experimental spill
operations added 840,000 metric tons of carbon to our skies,
which is a 1.7 percent increase in Northwest electricity sector
Now, let me quickly turn to Snake dam removal. Anti-dam
groups continue to present Snake dam removal as a silver bullet
that will save the Northwest's endangered salmon and now orcas.
It is a false premise but a powerful fundraising tool for some
of these organizations. There is no science that supports
removal of the dams as the best means for salmon recovery.
Don't take my word for it. I am obviously here because I
support those dams. But last fall, Dr. Peter Kareiva co-
authored a paper with a UCLA graduate student, Valeri Carranza,
entitled ``Fealty to Symbolism Is No Way to Save Salmon,'' and
I would submit, by extension, orcas. With your permission,
Chairman Lamborn, I would like to enter that paper into the
Mr. Lamborn. With no objection, so ordered.
Ms. Flores. Here are some key points from Dr. Kareiva's
``There is no doubt that dams have caused salmon declines,
but the operators of the dams have spent billions of dollars to
improve the safety of their dams for salmon, and it is not
certain that dams now cause higher mortality than would arise
in a free-flowing river.''
That is right. Where we are at now, based on NOAA Science
Center analysis, is all of the improvements that have been made
to the dams means that salmon are surviving at levels that are
similar to rivers like the Fraser that are undammed.
He also said, ``The problem is that a complex species and
river management issue has been reduced to a simple symbolic
battle--a battle involving a choice between evil dams and the
certain loss of an iconic species.''
And he also says, ``. . . it has become clear that salmon
conservation is being used as a ``means to an end'' (dam
removal) as opposed to an ``end'' of its own accord.''
Dan has already covered----
Mr. Lamborn. I am afraid we will have to conclude at this
point, because the time is up.
Ms. Flores. OK, thank you very much.
Mr. Lamborn. I am sure you will have some questions, or at
least I anticipate that you can finish up those thoughts.
Ms. Flores. OK. Thank you. Sorry for going over.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Flores follows:]
Prepared Statement of Terry Flores, Executive Director, Northwest
Thank you Chairman Lamborn, members of the Committee and
Representative Newhouse for the opportunity to appear before you this
morning to talk about the myriad benefits the Northwest's Federal
hydrosystem provides to the environment, economy and our quality of
life in the Northwest. I am Terry Flores, Executive Director of
Northwest RiverPartners, an alliance of public utilities, ports,
farmers and businesses joined together in the Pacific Northwest
dedicated to the proposition that salmon and dams are and must continue
to co-exist--and thrive. RiverPartners member organizations represent
more than 4 million electric utility customers, 40,000 farmers, ports
with thousands of employees and large and small businesses that provide
hundreds of thousands Northwest jobs.
We support salmon restoration policies and actions that are based
in sound science to ensure the measures being taken will deliver real
benefits to endangered salmon and wildlife and are a good investment of
ratepayers' dollars. Sadly, I am here today to tell you that decisions
surrounding operation of the Federal hydropower system and endangered
salmon that affect every person in the Northwest are currently not
being made based in sound science or cost-effectiveness but by a
District Court judge in Portland, Oregon. And, that anti-dam forces are
again trying to make the Snake River dams a scape goat in salmon and
orca restoration efforts. I appreciate the opportunity to share some of
the facts surrounding these issues with you today.
the federal hydropower system: myriad and irreplaceable--benefits
The Northwest is unique--and blessed--with an abundance of clean,
carbon free hydroelectricity, nearly 60 percent of it supplied by the
Federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. When President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt signed the Bonneville Project Act in 1937, 81 years
ago, he spoke of how the massive benefits of the Columbia River
hydropower system would benefit the Northwest by providing power at
cost to rich and poor alike, turn the desert into an agricultural
oasis, and power industrialization. That vision came true and, along
the way, the Federal hydrosystem helped win World War II.
The Federal hydropower system provides carbon-free, at cost,
reliable power valued at more than $3 billion annually to the Pacific
Northwest. The system is made up of 31 dams with a capacity to produce
over 22,000 megawatts of energy and in an average year the system
generates 8,700 megawatts of clean, reliable energy. The four Snake
River dams alone produce 5 percent of the Northwest's total hydro
energy, enough to power a city the size of Seattle or the cities of
Boise, Tri-Cities and Spokane, every year.
Those calling for removal of these dams would have you believe that
amount of power is insignificant, or can be replaced by intermittent
wind or solar resources. The truth is this is a lot of carbon free
energy that would be replaced largely by natural gas, adding 2-3
million tons of added carbon to our skies.
The Federal hydrosystem does much more than just provide clean
energy. The system of Federal dams protect rural communities and big
cities alike from devastating floods, creates a river highway that
links the Northwest to the rest of the Nation producing over $20
billion in economic opportunity and wealth; provides recreational
opportunities and irrigation for over 7 million acres of farmland
producing $8 billion in agricultural income. There is no question that
the Federal hydrosystem is the backbone of the region's carbon free
energy supply and the lifeblood of its economy.
the largest species restoration program in the nation
All this bounty came at a cost to the region's indigenous people,
fish and wildlife resources and the land and water they occupy. As a
result, the Northwest is home to the largest fish and wildlife
restoration program anywhere in the Nation, and likely the world. Over
$16 billion has been spent to mitigate for the impacts of the dams on
fish and wildlife since the late 1970s. It is important to point out
that the Northwest is unique in this respect too: almost all these
costs are borne by Northwest families and businesses through their
electric bills--not U.S. taxpayers. Without these costs, BPA's
wholesale power rate would be about a third lower.
Investments in salmon restoration include a complete overhaul of
the Federal dams to make them more fish friendly in the early 2000s, at
a cost of nearly $2 billion. For example, every one of the Federal
mainstem dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have been retrofitted
with state-of-the-art downstream fish passage technologies. These
``fish slides'' and other technologies are helping young fish migrate
downstream safely and swiftly with survival levels ranging from 96
percent to nearly 100 percent. Due to the success of improved passage
and dam operations, NOAA Fisheries and other scientists have stated
that these survival levels are similar to those seen in undammed rivers
such as the Fraser River in British Columbia. The dams also provide for
safe upstream passage for adult salmon which utilize fish ladders
installed when the dams were built to access their natal spawning
The Northwest also is home to one of the largest habitat
restoration efforts in the Nation. In the last 10 years, nearly $1
billion has been spent by Northwest states and tribes to restore
degraded habitat, remove culverts and increase water flows as a result
of BPA's Fish Accord agreements. Nearly 1 million acres, the size of
Rhode Island, have been protected or restored to provide quality
habitat for fish and wildlife (See: www.critfc.org/blog/2018/08/14/
Fortunately, the work being done by the states and tribes and paid
for by Northwest utility customers are paying dividends. Overall,
salmon returns are trending upwards over the last 12 years with some
years seeing record returns. While scientists agree that ocean
conditions, where salmon spend 3 or 4 years of their lives (as compared
to 15-20 days migrating through the hydrosystem) have the most impact
on salmon survival, it's clear all the salmon restoration measures
being taken are helping too. Unfortunately, these positive results for
salmon have not put an end to the ongoing court battles.
focus on spill is a case of ``diminished returns''
Today, the Federal hydrosystem is at great risk driven by over 20
years of Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation and court rulings
which have de-rated the system by over 1,000 megawatts, increased BPA's
rates roughly 30 percent in just the last few years, and created huge
uncertainty over how the Federal hydrosystem will be operated and at
what cost to customers, even next year. That is because the Federal
hydrosystem is being run by an Oregon District court judge from the
bench, based on spill injunction motions brought by national and local
fish advocate and anti-dam groups.
This year, the Oregon District court granted a motion that forced
the U.S. Army Corps (Corps) to operate the Federal hydro system to the
maximum spill levels allowed by law on a 24/7 basis for a 6-week period
this spring. Spill involves raising large gates at the dams which allow
water--and young fish--to shoot out and over the spillways. The theory
is that spill will hasten juvenile salmon migration downstream to the
ocean and result in more returning adults. However, spill adds
dissolved gas to the water which can give young fish the ``bends,''
like divers, harming or even killing them.
Spill is like medicine: the right amount can help you, too much can
hurt or even kill you. Already, 30 to 40 percent of the Columbia and
Snake Rivers are spilled for fish instead of generating clean energy to
power our economy and protect our environment.
Here's the rub: there is no proof that more spill will be better
for salmon. NOAA Fisheries Science Center modeling of this year's court
ordered experimental spill operations showed there would be little to
no impact on salmon survival. The Corps also found it nearly impossible
to operate the system at maximum spill, routinely exceeding the state
Total Dissolved Gas (TDG) standards designed to protect fish and
The added court-ordered spill cost BPA and its customers $38.6
million which BPA managed to whittle down to $10 million this year--by
cutting other fish and wildlife projects. And, it added 840,000 metric
tons of carbon to our skies, a 1.7 percent increase in Northwest
electricity sector emissions.
It's also important to point out another little known fact about
Federal hydrosystem spill: the Army Corps has to obtain ``waivers''
from Oregon and Washington to exceed the state TDG standards that apply
to hydro projects. Other hydro projects must be operated to meet a 110
percent TDG standard; the waivers for the Federal projects allows the
Corps to go up to 120 percent. The states set the TDG standard at 110
percent because it is most protective of salmon and other aquatic
species, based on their own review of the science. Years ago, some of
the same plaintiffs that are now suing to increase spill, sued to keep
TDG standards for hydro project at 110 percent.
Now, plaintiffs in the litigation, the Federal agencies and state
of Washington are discussing increasing spill and TDG levels even
further. To what end? Added spill puts young salmon in the danger zone,
increases BPA and customers' costs, and the benefits to endangered
salmon, based on NOAA Science Center analysis, are decimal dust. This
is a poor use of public dollars in salmon restoration. It does however
keep the focus on the dams and dam removal instead of other measures
that can and should be taken: habitat restoration, hatchery and harvest
snake dam removal: symbolic but no way to save salmon or orcas
Anti-dam groups continue to present Snake dam removal as a ``silver
bullet'' that will save the Northwest's endangered salmon and orcas. It
is a false premise, but a powerful fundraising tool. There is no
science that supports removal of the dams as a means for salmon
Last fall, Dr. Peter Kareiva co-authored a paper with a UCLA
graduate student Valeri Carranza entitled: ``Fealty to Symbolism No Way
to Save Salmon'' (and I submit, by extension, orca whales in Puget
Sound). Dr. Kareiva has an impeccable science vita: Fellow of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences and National Academy of Sciences,
former Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, current Director of
UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. He analyzed the
Northwest's endangered salmon issues directly as Director of
Conservation Biology at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center from
1999 to 2002.
Here are some key points from his and Ms. Carranza's paper:
``There is no doubt that dams have caused salmon declines,
but the operators of the dams have spent billions of
dollars to improve the safety of their dams for salmon, and
it is not certain that dams now cause higher mortality than
would arise in a free-flowing river.''
``The problem is that a complex species and river
management issue had been reduced to a simple symbolic
battle--a battle involving a choice between evil dams and
the certain loss of an iconic species.''
``. . . it has become clear that salmon conservation is
being used as a ``means to an end'' (dam removal) as
opposed to an ``end'' of its own accord.''
The paper also describes how, in 1999, environmental groups
supporting Snake dam removal ran a full-page ad in the New York Times,
stating that if the dams were not promptly removed ``wild Snake River
spring chinook salmon, once the largest run of its kind in the world,
will be extinct by 2017.''
Dr. Kareiva and Carranza point out: ``As we write this, it is 2017,
the dams remain, and spring/summer chinook numbers are much higher than
they were when that confident prophesy of extinction was printed.'' Yet
the drum beat for dam removal continues despite any science indicating
it would actually help, and not harm, endangered salmon and other
species, and despite the enormous costs, increased carbon emissions,
and damage it would cause the economy.
bpa's future is in peril
The uncertainty of ongoing litigation regarding future operations
of the Federal hydropower system has put the agency at grave risk. In
2017, BPA announced a 5.4 percent increase in its wholesale power rate
for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019. This follows four sequential rate
periods with rate increases averaging nearly 8 percent, meaning BPA's
rates have risen roughly 30 percent in the last few years. Rising fish
and wildlife costs have been a key driver in these rate increases. And,
this year, BPA issued a $10 million ``surcharge'' on customers to pay
for the costs of court ordered spill this spring.
Even more concerning is the potential for future rate increases.
Customers' contracts with BPA expire in 2028, however, they will be
making decisions on their future power supplies well before that.
Should BPA's rates continue to climb at their current trajectory, they
likely will not be cost-competitive with other alternative market
supply choices available to customers. And, if that happens, if BPA
loses a few large customers or many small customers or some
combination, it will not have sufficient customers or revenues to cover
its costs including the costs of the fish and wildlife program. This
also could jeopardize its ability to make its annual payment to the
U.S. Treasury, which also affects the Nation's taxpayers.
That is why RiverPartners thanks you, Chairman Lamborn, and
Committee members who supported H.R. 3144, a bipartisan, common-sense
bill that would have put science first and stopped judicial efforts to
run the hydrosystem until a comprehensive environmental review of the
system's impacts on listed fish was completed. I also thank and applaud
Congressman Newhouse, Congresswomen McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera-
Beutler, and Congressmen Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, among others,
for their sponsorship and unflagging support of this legislation and
other actions to help bring more certainty to the operations of the
Federal hydropower system and BPA's future financial health and
As you recognize, as stewards of this great asset, it is imperative
to identify practical and bipartisan solutions to these tough
challenges. As stated, there is no silver bullet when it comes to
restoring our iconic salmon, orcas or other species and the answer
certainly won't be found in a court room. It requires following sound
science, fostering collaboration, and providing strong leadership, as
you have shown.
It is hard, but it is worth it. Every day millions of people depend
on the electricity that hums over BPA's 15,000 miles of transmission
lines. New challenges await, from climate change to the energy demands
of internet servers, but the agency remains at the very center of the
economy and the environment of the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for holding this hearing today and for the opportunity to
testify. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.
Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Johnson, you are now recognized for 5
STATEMENT OF KRIS JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF
WASHINGTON BUSINESS, OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON
Mr. Johnson. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Members of
Congress. Welcome to the 4th Congressional District. It is my
privilege and honor to speak before you this morning on a
critically important tool.
My name is Kris Johnson. It is my privilege to serve as
President of the Association of Washington Business (AWB), the
state's largest employer association, representing nearly 7,000
employers--small, medium, and large--throughout the state of
Washington. Those employers employ just over 1 million
I have a couple of thoughts that I think are vitally
important to our discussion today at the Columbia and Snake
River dams, and they come from two perspectives. First, as a
former Tri-Citian, I know how important the dams are, not only
to this community, but they really serve as the lifeblood of
Second, as the President of AWB, Washington's oldest and
largest statewide business association, I can tell you that
these dams play not only a critical role for the Columbia, for
the state, but for the entire Pacific Northwest. These dams
have fundamentally transformed our state's economy, opening new
opportunities not only to agriculture but also manufacturing
and high-tech. And I believe we all share the same goals: clean
energy, a healthy environment, a sustainable future, and a
strong economy, and that is what we enjoy right here.
Washington's employers and families have taken great care
to protect the air, water, and land for the generations. It is
something we hold seriously. It is not an either/or issue. We
can have healthy rivers and a healthy economy.
Construction of these dams required a great deal of
forethought and hard work from those before us. Investments in
the dams laid the foundations for a strong and robust state
economy. Low-cost power has been a key competitive advantage,
attracting high-tech and manufacturing jobs throughout our
In fact, Washington's manufacturing sector employs over
286,000 Washingtonians, with an average compensation of $87,000
a year. These are great family wage jobs that we enjoy.
In fact, the total output from this sector was $58 billion
in 2016, and the high-tech sector employs just over a half-
million Washingtonians, again statewide. As you came into Pasco
today, you happened to see that we are surrounded by rich,
vibrant farmland, vineyards, and food processing industries,
all made possible because of the dams.
In fact, Washington farmers are proud that they feed the
world, whether it is potatoes, wheat, apples, milk, and so many
other key important products. We are proud that we are a part
of feeding the global economy.
This is also the heart of Washington wine country. I know
when you choose to have a glass of wine at the end of the day,
I am sure you are choosing a Washington-based wine. We are the
second-largest producer of wine in the country. In fact, today
there are 900 wineries here in Washington State, with 55,000
acres of grapes. The wine industry is critically dependent on
two things, irrigation and dependable water. They have both of
The dams provide low-cost, clean, renewable energy. In
fact, nearly 70 percent of Washington's electricity comes from
reliable, clean, renewable hydropower, which accounts for 40
percent of the hydroelectric generation in the entire United
As we have heard today, Washington is a trade-driven
economy. In fact, trade represents 40 percent of all jobs in
Washington and is the largest single driver of the state's
economy. The dams are a critical component for trade. They
serve our growers, our seaports, moving Washington products to
market with a limited carbon footprint. In fact, 60 percent of
Washington's wheat harvest, which is just finished, is worth
billions to the economy and moves by river to the West Coast
ports, where it is sent around the world, and the dams provide
a valuable recreation opportunity. It provides a quality of
life, and we enjoy that in this state. Families enjoy boating,
fishing, and other recreational activities that all drive local
So, for those reasons we support H.R. 3144 to protect the
Columbia and Snake River dams, and I want to thank
Representatives McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse for your hard
work and your leadership on this specific issue that passed the
House on a bipartisan vote earlier this year.
We also vigorously support your appropriations provision to
stop the spill order and hope our Senators will accept this
compromise language to provide certainty for our river system.
It took strong, visionary leaders to build the Columbia and
Snake River dams, the results of which we enjoy today. They
have proved hugely successful, producing powerful results for
our state and our region. They have been transformative, they
have been a catalyst, and they have been dynamic to our state's
economy. They are powering our homes, our communities, and our
On behalf of Washington's employers and the employer
community, we urge you to continue to support the Columbia and
Snake River system. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson follows:]
Prepared Statement of Kristofer Johnson, President and CEO, Association
of Washington Business
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the U.S. House of
Representatives' Committee on Natural Resources, it is an honor to have
the opportunity appear before you today at this oversight hearing on
the Federal Columbia River Power System and its economic impact to the
As the president and CEO of the Association of Washington Business,
which represents nearly 7,000 small, medium and large businesses across
Washington State, I appreciate the opportunity to share with you today
the vital importance of the Columbia and Snake River dam hydroelectric
power system to Washington State's economy.
As a former resident of the Tri-Cities, the dams are vitally
important to the community and the Mid-Columbia region. And, as the
president of the state's oldest and largest statewide business
association, our members rely on the Columbia River Power System to
power their operations in an environmentally friendly and cost-
effective manner. Simply put, the energy system is the lifeblood of
Washington State and the entire Pacific Northwest region.
The Columbia-Snake River dam system transformed Washington State's
economy, opening new opportunities for our agriculture community to
access markets around the world, but to also support a sustainable
future and strong economy.
The hydroelectric dam system aligns with our values--clean water,
clean air and healthy land and waterways today and for generations to
come. Our members--from the smallest businesses in rural communities to
our large urban manufacturers--have proven it's not an either-or; we
can have both healthy rivers and a healthy economy.
Construction of the dams required a great deal of forethought and
hard work by those who came before us. Those investments laid the
foundation for a strong state and regional economy. They knew then what
we know today: Low-cost power is a key competitive advantage,
attracting high-tech and manufacturing jobs to Washington State.
The numbers bear that out: Washington's manufacturing sector
employs more than 282,000 people today and generated a total economic
output of $58.4 billion in 2016. The growing high-tech sector today
employs more than 503,000 people across the state.
And, the dam system allows for robust and productive farm land
where potatoes, wheat, apples and hundreds of other products are grown
and harvested, then packaged by our vital food processing industry,
powered by clean hydropower from the dams. Washington's agricultural
land literally feeds people around the world.
This is also the heart of wine country. Washington State is the 2nd
largest premium wine producer in the country with more than 940
wineries and 55,000-plus acres of wine grapes. This industry, like the
other agricultural land, is critically dependent on the dams' water
infrastructure for crop irrigation.
The Columbia River dam system provides low-cost, clean, renewable
energy. In fact, nearly 70 percent of Washington's electricity comes
from reliable, clean and renewable hydropower, which accounts for 40
percent of the hydroelectric generation in the United States.
Per capita, Washington is the most trade-driven state in the
Nation. International trade today accounts for 40 percent of all jobs
in Washington State and is the largest driver of the economy. And, the
dams are a critical component of trade. They serve growers and our
seaports, moving products to market with a limited carbon footprint.
Sixty percent of Washington's wheat harvest, worth billions to the
economy, travels to West Coast ports via barge on the Columbia River to
where it is shipped around the world.
And, the dams are key to the quality of life in this region.
Families enjoy boating, fishing and recreation, activities encourage
tourism and drive local economies.
For all these reasons, the Association also supported H.R. 3144 to
protect the Columbia and Snake River dams. Thank you to Washington's
U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse for their hard work
on the legislation, which passed the House this year on a bipartisan
vote. We also vigorously support your Appropriations provision to stop
the spill order, and we hope Washington's U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and
Maria Cantwell will accept the compromise language that will provide
certainty for the river system.
It took strong, visionary leaders to build the dams that make up
the Columbia-Snake River Power System. They have proved hugely
successful, producing power for Washington State, the Pacific Northwest
region and the Nation. And, the investments made--and continue to
make--have transformed the region and its economy.
On behalf of Washington's employer community, we urge you to
continue to support the Columbia and Snake River dams.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Mr. Spain, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF GLEN SPAIN, NORTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR, PACIFIC
COAST FEDERATION OF FISHERMEN'S ASSOCIATIONS, EUGENE, OREGON
Mr. Spain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the
Committee. I have the honor to represent much of the West Coast
commercial fishing industry, and I want to talk a little bit
about the salmon fisheries. The Columbia River is our lifeblood
as well, so I think the name of the panel here is quite
appropriate to our interest as well.
A little bit of background. Salmon is a powerhouse in our
commercial fishing industry, but not just here. Keep in mind
that when salmon migrate out, the juvenile salmon go north and
south, so we are talking about an impact--the Columbia River
essentially has an impact through its salmon runs all the way
up into southeast Alaska and all the way down to central
In fact, about 58 percent of the salmon that are harvested
in Alaska come from the Columbia. It is still and once was the
first largest salmon producing river in the world. So, we have
that to look forward to.
In the last few years, our industry has been on the order
between $500 and $600 million in terms of just the wholesale
value of the salmon landed in all of our three states and
Alaska, and that amounts to more than $1.25 billion in economic
benefits. That, however, is only a fraction of what is the
potential productivity for salmon in the river. As you probably
know, the original estimates are that between 10 and 16 million
salmon return to the Columbia River historically. We are down
to about between 1.5 and 2.5 million now. So, we have lost more
than 80 percent of the productivity of the river system.
The question is not the benefits of the dams or the
benefits of other values in the river. We all know those have
great benefits to society. The question which you have raised
and everyone has raised is how can we make those co-exist truly
with salmon runs. There are a multitude of things that are
being tried, and there are a number of things that need to be
tried in the future.
We cannot stop the clock, go back in time, and rely on old
science. It is pretty clear now and increasingly clear, for
instance, that spill is a substantial benefit. I noted some
recent studies, and I want to read into the record a paragraph
from a letter from 47 of Pacific Northwest's most prominent
regional fishery scientists which I referenced. It is an August
2017 letter I referenced in my comments.
``In this letter, the undersigned scientists and fishery
managers reaffirm the benefits of spill for salmon and
steelhead of the Snake-Columbia River Basin as an essential
interim measure awaiting a legally valid, scientifically
credible, long-term plan. Specifically, we support an immediate
increase in spill levels to benefit Snake and Columbia fish for
reasons described more fully below,'' a reference to the
comments themselves. ``Increased spill allows more juvenile
salmon to pass dams safely via spillways rather than passing
through powerhouses or bypass plumbing. With existing dams in
place, spill offers the best potential to improve life-cycle
That is the consensus right now of the scientific
community. Given that fact, to jettison spill as a tool and
return to a discredited, essentially scientifically obsolete
plan is not good policy. I respectfully have to object to the
kind of policy work that has been proposed in the past in that
What we have is potential unexpected consequences from
eliminating spill. Number one, keep in mind that the Pacific
salmon treaty with Canada is an important element of Columbia
River restoration, and the restoration elements in that treaty,
provided for by international law with Canada, are being
essentially abrogated by not using spill as a tool. It means a
reduction in survival rates, which means we could go backwards.
There have been very modest improvements in the runs because of
a lot of the efforts, but we could easily slip backwards,
particularly in adverse environmental conditions such as we are
facing this year. That means we could potentially be wasting
literally billions of dollars of ratepayer efforts for the past
several years by going backwards in terms of our recovery
Another thing is that it is likely to require more water if
we are not using the water at the spillways wisely. The science
is fairly clear that it will require more water from the Upper
Basin to go through this system in order to improve those
survival rates the equivalent of what spill could produce. So,
you are potentially, once again, pitting lower river versus
upper river interests in a water fight that has no end in
We can do better than that. We need a collaborative
approach. We need to look realistically at all the science. We
need to realistically look at all the policy decisions that are
out there for us, and that are in the works now. To interfere
with that with the legislative process would, in my view, be a
[The prepared statement of Mr. Spain follows:]
Prepared Statement of Glen H. Spain, on behalf of the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA)
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am the Northwest
Regional Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations (PCFFA), which is the largest trade organization of
commercial fishing families in the western United States. PCFFA
represents thousands of working men and women in the U.S. Pacific
commercial fishing industry, and has member fishermen's associations
and/or individual members in every U.S. West Coast seaport from San
Diego to Alaska.
part 1--the importance of columbia river salmon to the whole regional
Commercial salmon fishing is indeed the life-blood of a major U.S.
industry, generating many billions of dollars annually to this region's
economy, and supporting hundreds of thousands of family wage jobs in
this region as well as providing high quality seafood for America's
tables and for export.
In Washington State alone, our seafood industry supports more than
58,000 family wage jobs. Salmon fishing is one of the most important
components of our commercial fishing industry west coast-wide, in 2014
generating more than $688 million in direct landings sales at the
docks, and in 2015 more than $509 million, which in turn each year
supports more than $1.25 billion/year in related economic impacts to
this region's economy (see Fisheries Economics of the United States,
\1\ Available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/
The valuable Pacific salmon fishery--and tens of thousands of jobs
in our industry that salmon support--is also greatly influenced by the
health of the remaining salmon stocks in the Columbia River, which even
in its greatly diminished state from its historic productivity
(originally with runs estimated by the Northwest Power and Conservation
Council of between 10 to 16 million salmonids/year) still remains the
single most productive salmon-producing river in the lower 48 states.
Even so, current salmon numbers today are only at best about 10 percent
of what a restored Columbia River could potentially generate, even
including hatchery production which is now the vast majority of fish in
\2\ 13 major wild salmon and steelhead stocks native to the
Columbia Basin are faced with potential extinction and protected under
the Federal ESA. None have yet to meet basic recovery goals.
Columbia River salmon abundances influence harvest allocations all
the way from central California to well into Alaska (see Figure 1). In
fact, approximately 58 percent of all salmon harvested commercially in
Southeast Alaska come originally from the Columbia. Thus, the declines
of salmon in the Columbia have impacted coastal economies all the way
from central California to Southeast Alaska, including in British
Columbia. Maintaining and recovering Columbia River salmon runs is also
a key obligation of the United States under international law as
embodied in the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
.epsFigure 1: Geographical Influence of Columbia River--Origin
Salmon Fisheries from Central California to SE Alaska
The major alternation of the Columbia River system by dams is
relatively recent, but has had devastating effects on the run size and
species makeup of salmon resources throughout the basin. With more than
400 dams \3\ in the Columbia River Basin, more than half of them
dedicated (fully or partly) to generating hydropower, fish passage at
dams has long been a major concern. Of these, only 31 Federal
hydropower dams comprise the Federal Columbia River Power System
(FCRPS), but these are the larger dams and 8 of these large dams are
``mainstem dams'' which affect all salmon runs above their locations
starting from the Bonneville Dam (near Portland). The FCRPS dams'
operations are also coordinated with three major power dams on the
Canadian side of the border through the U.S.-Canada Columbia River
\3\ This is an estimate from the NW Power and Conservation Council,
based on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inventory of ``significant
dams.'' However, no universally agreed upon census of dams in the
Columbia Basin seems to exist.
Additionally, there are thousands of smaller water storage dams,
including at least 2,972 dams in the Interior Columbia Basin, with
1,239 of those involving over 50 acre-feet of water. Only 4 percent of
these smaller storage dams are also used for power generation.\4\
However, even small dams can block important fish passage routes and
\4\ Dam inventory data from Oregon and Washington state
inventories. Because Federal inventory and inspection is only required
for the larger dams and those with downstream hazard potential, and
because state inventories are fragmentary, the total number of smaller
water storage dams is likely larger.
Severe salmon run declines in the Columbia over the past several
decades have had devastating impacts on the economies of many western
states. In an economic study by the Institute for Fisheries Resources
(The Cost of Doing Nothing: The Economic Burden of Salmon Declines in
the Columbia River Basin (Oct. 1996)), that study concluded that up to
$500 million/year in regional economic benefits are being lost each
year from salmon declines in the Columbia Basin, together with
approximately 25,000 lost family wage jobs.\5\ The economic cost of the
current highly depleted salmon status quo on the Columbia is, in fact,
\5\ Available at: http://www.pcffa.org/CDNReport-Columbia.pdf.
Our sister industry, the recreational fishing industry, itself is
also a multi-billion industry supporting tens of thousands of
additional jobs in the Pacific Northwest, according to the American
Sportfishing Association.\6\ That industry too, like the commercial
salmon fishing industry and the jobs they both support, is almost
entirely dependent on healthy rivers for its existence, including
salmon and steelhead production from the Columbia Basin.
\6\ See: http://asafishing.org/facts-figures/sales-and-economics.
Today, the current salmonid runs of the Columbia number only about
2.5 million (20 year annual average), which is less than 20 percent of
historic numbers, and these are almost entirely hatchery fish in origin
(95 percent coho, 60 percent fall Chinook and 80 percent spring Chinook
are hatchery stock). There are an estimated 178 hatcheries active in
the Columbia Basin with their production intended to mitigate for past
wild salmon losses due to the dams, or for supplementation to replace
otherwise lost salmon production.\7\ Unfortunately, this basin-wide
hatchery mitigation program has only been partially successful, and
wild salmon production losses still greatly exceed successful hatchery
\7\ See Report to Congress on Columbia River Basin Hatchery Reform,
Hatchery Scientific Review Group (Feb. 2009), available at: http://
There is a persistent myth that efforts to restore salmon runs in
the Columbia are seeing ``record returns,'' supposedly to justify those
efforts as successful. Unfortunately, this is a fabrication based on a
``statistical trick'' of comparing very recent modest successes in some
rebuilding efforts with near-extinction levels in the recent past. The
truth is that we are not doing more than buying some time by postponing
extinction, but still need to figure out how to meet even minimum
recovery goals, which for nearly every ESA-listed stock have never yet
\8\ See for instance these charts of Snake River Salmon and
Steelhead Returns--1950s--2017: https://tinyurl.com/ycvm8j69.
Salmon throughout the Columbia are in deep trouble, and so are the
fishing families who depend upon them. When fewer salmon return from
the ocean to Washington's rivers, this translates directly to lower
catch limits, shorter seasons, and a reduced ability for commercial
fishing families to earn a living. Salmon harvests fluctuate from year
to year, but the overall trend, especially in the Columbia, has been
one of sharp decline. Chinook (king) salmon and coho salmon are the
most commercially valuable of western Washington's salmon species,\9\
and these are the species that have seen some of the steepest
declines.\10\ From 1950 to 1955 in Washington, commercial landings of
Chinook salmon averaged 10,248,683 pounds and coho averaged 11,779,067
pounds, but from 2011 to 2016, chinook landings averaged only 5,866,870
pounds, a reduction of about 43 percent, and coho landings averaged
only 3,102,894 pounds, a reduction of about 74 percent.\11\
\9\ Gordon Gislason & Gunnar Knapp, Economic Impacts of Pacific
Salmon Fisheries, Pacific Salmon Comm'n (2017), available for download
\10\ See Wash. State Recreation and Conservation Office, Governor's
Salmon Recovery Office, State of Salmon in Watershed 2016 at 2 (showing
declining trend in non-tribal chinook and coho harvests from the 1970s
through 2015), https://stateofsalmon.wa.gov/governors-report-2016/.
\11\ Nat'l Marine Fisheries Serv., Annual Commercial Landing
Statistics (searchable by state, species, and year), https://
Washington's salmon sport fisheries have also been declining for
decades. From 1971 to 1974, the annual sport salmon catch in Washington
averaged 1,224,881 salmon, but from 2010 to 2015, it dropped to an
average of only 783,185 salmon, a reduction of about 36 percent. As
with the commercial fisheries, the more valuable fisheries have seen
the steepest declines. Excluding pink salmon (a numerous but less
valuable species \12\), the sport catch in Washington dropped during
2010 to 2015 to an average of only 539,584 salmon, a decline of 56
percent from the 1971 to 1974 average.\13\
\12\ See Wash. Dep't of Fish and Wildlife, Species Info, https://
wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/9009/ (pink salmon runs only
occur in Washington in odd-numbered years); Kraig & Scalini, supra
n.31, at 3 (nearly 40 percent of the total recreational salmon catch in
Washington in 2015 were pink salmon); Gislason & Knapp, supra n.6, at
12 Exh. 2 (compare weight landed with exvessel value).
\13\ See Kraig & Scalini, supra n.31, at 14 tbl. 4 (average of
total sport catch in even numbered years--2010, 2012, and 2014--is
Make no mistake, decades of gradually lost western states' salmon-
river productivity has meant tens of thousands of lost jobs for our
industry, nearly bankrupted many coastal communities, and caused
widespread economic and social disruption in many rural communities and
towns. On the flip side, however, more recent river restoration
efforts--including the removal of salmon-killing dams when those dams
no longer are cost-effective to keep, or where they were foolishly
located--are helping to restore many thousands of local fishing and
river-related jobs, providing economic lifeblood to once-dying coastal
fishing-dependent communities, and restoring many billions of dollars
to the U.S. economy. In short, more salmon means more jobs and stronger
economies throughout the coastal western states.
And while PCFFA does not represent, and cannot speak for, the many
salmon-dependent West Coast tribes who also depend upon Columbia River
salmon for their livelihoods, sustenance fisheries and cultures, it
should be kept in mind that the continuing decline of salmon runs in
the Columbia have also greatly impacted those tribes and their salmon-
based economies as well.
part 2--columbia river salmon also support the entire regional
The once-great salmon runs of the Northwest never existed in an
ecological vacuum, but were instead an integral part of an entire food-
web that still supports many other species. Salmon are a major or
important food source not just for humans, but for at least 138 species
of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles native to the Pacific
Northwest that have been identified by scientists as predators or
scavengers of salmon at one or more stages of the salmon lifecycle. Of
this group of 138 species, 9 species have a strong-consistent
relationship with salmon, and another 58 have a recurrent relationship
with salmon. Yet another 25 species have indirect relationships that
depend upon healthy salmon runs to support their direct prey base.\14\
\14\ Species numbers and quote from introductory Abstract in
Cederholm, C.J., D.H. Johnson, R.E. Bilby, L.G. Dominguez, A.M.
Garrett, W.H. Graeber, E.L. Greda, M.D. Kunze, B.G. Marcot, J.F.
Palmisano, R.W. Plotnikoff, W.G. Pearcy, C.A. Simenstad, and P.C.
Trotter. 2000. Pacific Salmon and Wildlife--Ecological Contexts,
Relationship, and Implications for Management. Special Edition
Technical Report, Prepared for D.H. Johnson and T.A. O'Neil (Managing
directors), Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington. WA
Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Olympia, WA.
The Plight of Southern Resident Orcas: As just one current example
of the intimate food-web dependency of many species on healthy
Northwest salmon runs, consider the plight of endangered Southern
Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca), or orcas. In 2005, due to their
small population size and significant threats to survival, NOAA
Fisheries issued a final rule designating Southern Resident orcas as
endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.\15\ Scientific
studies have since shown that this whale population is food-limited,
with their main food source Chinook salmon which are becoming
\15\ 70 Fed. Reg. 69,903 (November 18, 2005).
The 2008 NOAA Fisheries Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery
Plan states, ``Perhaps the single greatest change in food availability
for resident killer whales since the late 1800s has been the decline of
salmon in the Columbia River basin.'' \16\ Salmon restoration efforts
on a region-wide basis are necessary to help achieve Southern Resident
Orca recovery goals. Yet given the potential for substantial salmon
recovery in the Columbia River basin, conservation efforts made there
can contribute significantly to adequate and abundant prey for Southern
\16\ National Marine Fisheries Service (2008) Recovery Plan for
Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca). National Marine
Fisheries Service, Northwest Region, Seattle, Washington. At: II-82.
part 3--thinking about dam removal--aging dams as a national
First off, to see why in many cases dam removal makes good sense,
we should consider the current state of the Nation's aging dams. There
are, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' National Inventory
of Dams, approximately 84,000 dams in the Nation providing a range of
benefits and built for a wide array of purposes. This is a staggering
number--almost one dam built in the United States for every day since
the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Yet no dam can exist forever. All have engineered life spans, after
which their reservoirs silt up, their concrete structures crack and
deteriorate, and they can catastrophically fail--endangering the lives,
property and natural resources (including drinking water supplies) of
those who live far below and around them.
An increasing number of the Nation's 84,000 dams are now
economically obsolete, many are near or past their engineered life
span, and quite a few no longer function to provide the benefits they
were intended to produce. According to a January 2009 report by the
Task Committee of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, The
Cost of Rehabilitating Our Nation's Dams, over 4,400 (at that time) of
these 84,000 dams are now considered to be physically unsafe by state
dam safety inspectors. From 2005 to 2008, their report notes, the
states reported 566 dam incidents, including 132 dam failures--and that
number is likely under-reported.\17\ The Nation's dam failure rate is
also expected to accelerate. That report also noted that:
\17\ That report is available at: www.damsafety.org/media/
``Without proper maintenance, repairs, and rehabilitation, a
dam may become unable to serve its intended purpose and could
be at risk for failure. State and Federal dam inspection
programs can identify deficiencies in dams, but inspections
alone will not address safety concern posed by inadequately
maintained or outdated dams. For most dam owners, finding the
funds to finance needed repairs or upgrades is nearly
impossible. The lack of reliable funding to resolve dam safety
issue poses a threat to public safety nationwide.''
That important 2009 study also concluded that the cost of
rehabilitation up to current safety standards of just the Nation's non-
federally owned dams would be $51.46 billion (even more in today's 2018
dollars). To address just the most critical of these dams over the next
12 years, the cost was estimated to be at least $16 billion.
Congressional efforts to help provide those funds, the study noted,
have been few and paltry compared to the urgent need. The report also
notes that, at least at the time written, there was only one Federal
program available for rehabilitation of non-federally owned dams (the
Watershed Rehabilitation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-472, Sec. 313)), and its
funding was orders of magnitude smaller than what is actually going to
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the average life
expectancy of a dam is 50 years, with 25 percent of the dams in the
Army Corps of Engineers National Inventory of Dams now more than 50
years old. This number is projected to increase to 85 percent by the
year 2020.\18\ A number of these aging dams are in the Columbia Basin.
New energy technologies are also making many of these dams increasingly
\18\ Maclin E., Sicchio M. (1999, 16). Dam removal success stories:
Restoring rivers through selective removal of dams that don't make
sense. American Rivers, Friends of the Earth, & Trout Unlimited,
December 1999. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/damsuccess_513764_
7.pdf. See also Army Corps of Engineers National Inventory of Dams
(NID) http://nid.usace. army.mil/cm_apex/
In short, an increasing number of the Nation's dams are aging,
increasingly obsolete, and becoming an infrastructure nightmare with
serious repercussions for the Nation's public health and safety. This
is just as true for the Columbia Basin dams as it is elsewhere in the
Nation. Over the next 100 years, virtually all the dams in the Columbia
Basin will have to be either retrofitted at substantial cost, or
removed and/or replaced.
each dam removal proposal must be judged on its own merits
It is just as illogical to say ``all dams are good'' and should be
kept as they are, as to say ``all dams are bad'' and should be removed.
The fact is, each dam was originally designed and constructed to
provide certain public benefits and engineered only to last for a
specific life span. No dam can last forever--eventually it will either
come down by human design or by catastrophic failure.
Dams also can have a serious economic downside: they can block
valuable rivers, destroying other valuable natural resource industries
(including commercial or recreational fisheries), which in turn
destroys jobs, and can have devastating impacts on water quality and
disrupt natural hydrological flows that cause other societal problems
such as greatly increasing the costs of providing clean drinking water
to communities downstream.
Any rational analysis must therefore conclude that dams that no
longer provide sufficient public benefits to justify their existence,
or which are reaching the end of their engineered life-span and
becoming safety hazards, or which are creating other problems for
society (such as destroying valuable fisheries) which push their
economic value to society into the negative, are potential candidates
for removal. Thus each dam removal project must be evaluated and judged
on its own merits, always on a case-by-case basis.
Dam removals are, in fact, nothing new--and by necessity, as many
dams exceed their engineered life span, are accelerating in number.
Information on 1,403 dams that were removed from rivers in the United
States over the past century is now available to the public, compiled
by American Rivers.\19\
\19\ See: https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/
As more Columbia Basin dams age, many more are becoming candidates
for removal. Other dams can still be upgraded, their hydropower output
improved with new technologies, and can remain in place longer--but
always at an economic cost. If that cost to upgrade or retrofit a dam
to modern relicensing and safety standards surpasses or outweighs the
economic value of any benefits that dam can provide, then that dam
becomes economically obsolete, and it should be considered for removal.
But again, this is a case-by-case judgment that must be made for each
Recent hydropower dam removals in the Pacific Northwest that made
good economic sense, and which also greatly benefited blocked salmon
runs, include the removal of the Condit Dam and the Elwha/Glines Dam
removal projects. In both cases, the salmon runs that those dams
previously blocked are now returning in abundance.
Summary of Part 3: Some hydropower dams still make economic sense,
but in a growing number of instances it is dam removal that makes the
most economic sense, and is increasingly the common sense as well as
Not all dams are created equal. Many of the Nation's dams today,
including a growing number of the 3,036 major hydropower-producing dams
FERC currently regulates, simply no longer make economic sense. Many of
these aging dams use old technologies and are thus functionally
obsolete; some are orphaned or now abandoned; and others would be cost-
prohibitive to retrofit or rehabilitate, and so are economically
obsolete. But if left in place they will ultimately fail
catastrophically. The same analysis also applies to a growing number of
federally owned dams.
The only sensible option in such cases is simply to remove those
obsolete dams entirely and replace their renewable power through more
cost-effective (i.e., cheaper) sources, which can be done now from
nearly anywhere else in the Nation's vast power grid. Recent dramatic
increases in solar, wind, geo-thermal and other non-dam renewable
energy sources increasingly make it possible to cost-effectively
replace hydropower when necessary to do so.
part 4--major problems with h.r. 3144
One of many bad ideas on the current congressional table that would
damage salmon runs in the Columbia and throughout the U.S. West Coast
(as well as jeopardize the international U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon
Treaty) is Rep. McMorris-Rodgers' bill, 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
This badly conceived bill passed in the House on April 25, 2018,
and is now pending in the Senate. However, portions of this bill also
are now appearing in the form of a ``partial rider'' to other bills,
including the draft Conference Energy & Water Appropriations bill (H.R.
5895) currently at Division A, Title V (General Provisions), Sec. 506,
but which may now be wrapped into a proposed appropriations ``minibus''
package currently under Conference discussion in the Senate.
Passing any part of H.R. 3144 into law (whether by regular bill or
by partial ``rider'' on the ``minibus'' or other appropriations
vehicles) would be disastrous for the entire West Coast salmon-
dependent economy, destroying fishing jobs from Southern California to
Southeast Alaska! It would also abrogate U.S. responsibilities under
the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty to recover damaged Columbia River
salmon stocks, potentially triggering another ``fish war'' with Canada
such as we saw prior to the current Pacific Salmon Treaty.
PCFFA and many other fishing industry and recreational fishing
industry businesses, fishermen, conservationists, scientists, and
citizens oppose H.R. 3144 because it would significantly weaken
Columbia Basin salmon restoration efforts, just at the time when they
need to be substantially strengthened, by:
Congressionally overturning and invalidating a May, 2016,
U.S. Federal Court decision finding that the old 2014
Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) salmon
Biological Opinion was arbitrary and capricious and not in
accordance with the best available science, and instead
legislatively requiring all Federal agencies to return to
that obsolete and illegal 2014 plan--in other words,
legislatively mandating that the agencies must operate on
the basis only of pre-2014 obsolete and discredited
This is fundamentally anti-science.
Blocking a related April, 2017, Court decision that
provides much-needed protective measures like ``spill'' for
guiding fragile juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating
past the turbines of the Federal dams on the lower Snake
River and lower Columbia River--a mitigation measure that
actually, provably works. Current Sec. 506 of H.R. 5895 (or
its equivalent if in the ``minibus'' bill) tries to turn
the clock back to 2014 to prohibit ``spill'' of water
through the Columbia River dams to help young migrating
salmon survive by guiding them around and out of the way of
turbines at the dams.
This is fundamentally anti-salmon and anti-jobs.
This legislative end-run around both law and science simply seeks
to congressionally ``lock in'' a failed 2014 status quo that was
harming our region's iconic and economically valuable salmon and
steelhead populations and the communities that rely upon them. These
past flawed salmon policies have already wasted more than $15 billion
on a series of insufficient measures that have failed to recover a
single one of the 13 protected wild populations of salmon and steelhead
in the Columbia Basin. That status quo is not working for anyone today,
and a different approach was clearly necessary. An accelerated
``spill'' program was part of that new approach.
In point of fact, the current Court-mandated ``spill'' program has
proven to be far more successful at increasing overall salmon survival
through the Columbia River dams than anyone had predicted.\20\ As a
result, 47 of the Pacific Northwest's most prominent regional fisheries
scientists wrote to congressional policy makers on August 16, 2017, and
\20\ See: CSS (Comparative Survival Study Oversight Committee)
2017. Documentation of experimental spill management: models,
hypotheses, study design, and response to ISAB. May 8, 2017. 138 p.,
``In this letter, the undersigned scientists and fishery
managers reaffirm the benefits of spill for salmon and
steelhead of the Snake/Columbia River Basin, as an essential
interim measure awaiting a legally valid, scientifically
credible long-term plan. Specifically, we support an immediate
increase in spill levels to benefit Snake/Columbia fish, for
reasons described more fully below. Increased spill allows more
juvenile salmon to pass dams safely via spillways, rather than
passing through powerhouses or bypass plumbing. With existing
dams in place, spill offers the best potential to improve life
cycle survival.'' \21\
\21\ Scientists' Letter to NW Policymakers, Re: Importance of
``spill'' to salmon protections (08-16-17) at: https://tinyurl.com/
Ending this important, and now proven effective, mitigation
practice by legislative fiat just throws one of our best salmon
mitigation tools out the window. This would just promote more
mitigation failures and puts that much more pressure on the other
aspects of the Columbia River hydropower system to provide equivalent
survival benefits they cannot easily provide. This provision is clearly
bad for salmon and salmon jobs.
On June 18. 2018, the president of the Western Division of the
American Fisheries Society (AFS), the Nation's most prestigious
scientific society for fisheries scientists and managers, wrote to
members of the U.S. Senate considering H.R. 3144, and voicing AFS's
concerns about the suppression of science that H.R. 3144 would mandate,
``We write to express concern with H.R. 3144 which was
introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA), passed in the
House in April, and referred to the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works. The bill seeks to overturn
science-based judicial decisions associated with recovery, and
would likely imperil, several important Columbia River Basin
anadromous fish populations. H.R. 3144 would also unduly
suppress the evaluation of the full range of alternatives
available to recover these fish stocks based on the best
available scientific information.'' \22\
\22\ American Fisheries Society Statement on H.R. 3144: https://
This legislative over-ride is all the more troubling when the
need--and opportunity--for durable, better solutions is so urgent. The
provisions of H.R. 3144 further divide us when we need to come
Coastal salmon, fishing, and orca advocates are well aware how
connected our communities are with those in the Columbia Basin. That
means both our problems and our solutions are also shared. We stand
ready to work with people in the Tri-Cities, and throughout the Inland
Northwest, to craft shared solutions that help us make tough decisions
to solve tough problems but in a manner that assures just transitions
and leads all our communities forward. Fishing communities (whether
commercial, recreational, or tribal) know what this is like. We have
already made big sacrifices, have lost many thousands of salmon-based
jobs, have experienced increased substance abuse and other problems
that come with reduced opportunities and economic devastation. We know
what that is like--and we don't wish it on anyone.
It is wrong to pit honest, hard-working food producers--salmon
fishermen and farmers--against each other. We all deserve a fair shake
and opportunity to make a living and to pass on our trades to our
children and the next generation. We need policies that bring people
together, solve problems and create opportunity--not close out options.
part 5--dealing with looming bpa insolvency: the need for a new
There is no doubt that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is
in financial trouble. The problem, however, is that they are still
acting out of an increasingly obsolete, hydropower-only business model.
The organization must rethink its position in the midst of a glut of
energy in the Northwest and the continued emergence of wind, solar and
other non-hydro renewable energy sources that will inevitably play a
far bigger role in the region's future as they become more cost-
competitive and as fossil fuel powerplants are finally phased out.
A very insightful analysis of BPA's current financial crisis is
contained in a recent study by Rocky Mountain Econometrics titled: The
Bonneville Power Administration 2018: Threatened, Endangered, or on the
Brink of Extinction? \23\ The authors of that study also point out that
one of the biggest drains on BPA's coffers are the four Lower Snake
River dams (LSRD), which today can run only at a substantial economic
loss. Since 2009, BPA has not needed a single kilowatt of LSRD energy
to meet contracted customer demand. Wind energy alone has already
replaced all LSRD hydropower three times over.
\23\ Available from: http://www.rmecon.com/examples/
There is much misinformation (and considerable mythology) about the
economic importance of the four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD's). These
are the actual facts:
It is often stated incorrectly that removing them would mean the
supposed ``loss of 3,000 megawatts of power production.'' While it is
true that the combined maximum ``nameplate capacity'' of the four LSRDs
is 3033 MW, to actually produce that amount of power would require all
24 turbines operating continuously every hour of every day for the
entire year, which even under ideal conditions is an impossibility. In
practical operation, their actual average power production over the
past 17 years has only been 943 MW per year, or just 31 percent of
capacity, most of which is produced during spring run-off when both
demand and prices for power are at their lowest.
As far as the Lower Snake Dams benefits in terms of river
transportation (none of which benefits BPA), over the past 20 years,
total Lower Snake River freight volume declined nearly 70 percent.
Lower Snake River reservoirs no longer transport logs, lumber, paper,
pulp, pulse or petroleum. Container shipping is zero. Grain volume has
declined 45 percent. The last dredging needed to keep open the Port of
Lewiston cost taxpayers over $10 million. Finally, barge traffic on the
LSR reservoirs has been declining for over 20 years, and every barge
that leaves the Port of Lewiston now carries a taxpayer subsidy of at
This analysis is explained in more detail in a separate economics
monograph from Rocky Mountain Econometrics, titled: Bonneville Power
Administration and the Lower Snake River Dams: The Folly of
Conventional Wisdom.\24\ We commend your attention to that report and
other citations in this testimony.
\24\ Available from: http://www.rmecon.com/examples/
While some claim that the dams provide stability for the grid for a
few days every year, a recent study has demonstrated that we could have
a far more stable grid (and even replace all the power the dams
generate) with reliable and clean renewable energy, for just over a
$1.00/month for Northwest ratepayers. The cost is likely to be even
lower as prices for wind, solar, and storage technologies continue to
drop below the conservative cost assumptions in the study.\25\
\25\ Lower Snake River Dams Power Replacement Study: Assessing the
Technical Feasibility and Costs of Clean Energy Replacement Portfolios.
NW Energy Coalition (March 201). Available at: https://nwenergy.org/
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Thank you.
Mr. Rich, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF ROB RICH, VICE PRESIDENT, MARINE SERVICES, SHAVER
TRANSPORATION COMPANY, PORTLAND, OREGON
Mr. Rich. Chairman Lamborn, Representative McMorris
Rodgers, and Representative Newhouse, thank you very much for
this rare opportunity to get to be in-district here and to have
a panel such as this get to share the expertise and the
background of the operational views of the river, some
incredible information shared.
I work for Shaver Transportation Company. We are one of the
many barge lines that work the Columbia-Snake River System from
Astoria, Oregon all the way to Lewiston, Idaho, a 465-mile deep
draft system up to Vancouver, Washington, a shallow draft barge
system all the way to Lewiston. As we are all aware, they
transit through eight navigation locks at the Federal
facilities, four on the Columbia River system and four on the
Lower Snake River system.
I am also fortunate enough to be the current president of
the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, and we represent a
wide variety of transportation, agricultural, and port
interests along our coast and up our Columbia-Snake River
System. Again, very thankful to be able to be here today.
We are now a sixth-generation, family-owned company. When I
think of how our company, amongst many others here on the
river, relate to the agricultural interior, Representative
McMorris Rodgers, you mentioned you are a fifth-generation
family, and that goes back a long way. In other words, there
has been a lot of change. There has been a lot of adjustment
made in the work that your family has done, if they have had
the exposure to agriculture, as our family has had, in marine
transportation on the river.
I think of the 1,500 ships a year that cull the Columbia
River system. For many of us in the upper reaches here, we
don't get to see those ships, but we get to see the benefit of
those ships culling the lower river, and that is the export of
agriculture from this area.
There are 27 river elevators that receive wheat by truck
from the inland to load barges between the Dalles and the port
of Lewiston/Clarkston. So, there is a lot of barging activity
that goes on on the river, in any given year 1,200 to 1,500
commercial barge tows a year transiting the river. And as I
mention that number, it sounds like a pretty big number, but
you are running about three, four, maybe five a day, going up
and down the river. That is departing from Vancouver, kind of a
silent service that sees an incredible amount of cargo moved on
We are a dual-feed barge and rail system. When I mentioned
the ships that cull the lower river, the majority of them are
taking exported agricultural products out of our region here,
also receiving those products by rail. Forty percent of the
wheat that is exported out of the Number one wheat export
terminal in the United States--terminal meaning the Columbia
River export terminals down-river--of that, 40 percent is moved
by barge from the inland, 60 percent by rail. Where you have
barge and rail, you have competition. Where you have
competition, you have competition for work that creates a
better balance for shippers and gives opportunities.
Though opportunities in the Snake River Basin as far as
wheat exports go, not so much. If you are a wheat producer in
Whitman County, if you are a wheat producer in Columbia County,
you are shipping by barge. That is your option. There is not a
short-line railroad for you to go to. You are not going to be
moving to trucking. If trucking was more efficient than rail,
if it was more efficient than barging, it would be trucked all
the way to the elevator down in Portland, a 600- or 700-mile
round trip. That is not what we see.
When it comes to trucking, you are looking at 149 miles for
a gallon of diesel to move a ton of fuel. For marine
transportation, inland marine transportation for barging
interests, you are looking at 576 miles. I can't find a more
valued reason for keeping barging in effect. If we are
concerned about the volume of fuel that is used, the volume of
emissions that are going into our air, inland barging is
certainly the most environmentally responsible way to go.
I am going to end with a little written piece here that I
put together. I have given you a lot of facts and figures, but
I just want to leave you with a little piece of heart. As a
multi-generational, family-owned company, we directly relate to
the family farm producers and shippers that we serve here in
the inland Northwest. These families, our company, and the
river system we know today have grown steadily and sustainably
into the primary economic driver of our trade-dependent
economy. From the family farm producers of eastern Washington
and Idaho who have no other access to the Pacific Rim markets
but through barging, to our crews that depend on our jobs for
their livelihood, it is with great respect and pride that we
serve the Columbia River system.
Again, I thank you for this opportunity to share, and I
look forward to questions later on.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rich follows:]
Prepared Statement of Robert D. Rich, Vice President of Marine
Services, Shaver Transportation
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, good morning. My name is
Rob Rich, and I am the Vice President of Marine Services for Shaver
Transportation. I have spent 39 years working on the Columbia Snake
River System since 1979.
I also serve the current president of the Pacific Northwest
Waterways Association, or PNWA. PNWA is a non-profit trade association
that advocates for Federal policies and funding in support of regional
economic development. Our membership includes over 130 public ports,
navigation, transportation, trade, tourism, agriculture, forest
products, energy and local government interests in Washington, Oregon
and Idaho. I represent both Shaver and PNWA here today, and appreciate
the opportunity to provide the perspective of the navigation community
in the Northwest as it relates to the importance of the Columbia Snake
background on shaver transportation
Shaver is now a 6th generation, 138-year-old, family-owned tug and
barge line. We are the oldest continuously operating tug and barge line
on the West Coast.
With a staff and crew of 110 employees, we operate a fleet of 15
tugs and 20 grain barges on the Columbia Snake River System, with over
$9M in payroll. Shaver handles 40 percent of all barged wheat from the
27 river elevators serving the inland empire from The Dalles, Oregon to
Lewiston, Idaho. This represents approximately 500 barge loads of wheat
at 120,000 bushels per barge shipped.
Shaver has built 10 of the last 12 new grain barges added to the
river system since 1996, all told a $35M investment. We also have
increased our upriver barging tug fleet by 40 percent since then, going
from three to five tugs with an investment of $10M.
background on the columbia snake river system
The Columbia Snake River System is essentially a river highway. It
includes our 105-mile deep draft Columbia River channel from Astoria at
the mouth of the river at the Pacific Ocean all the way to Portland,
Oregon. From there, a 360-mile inland barging channel stretches from
Portland to Lewiston, Idaho, with a series of eight locks along the
way. Those dams are why we are here today, and I could not be more
proud to talk about the benefits they provide to our region and the
The Columbia Snake River System as a whole moves over 50 million
tons of cargo worth over $24 billion. The inland portion of the system
helps to feed our deep draft export gateway, with over 9 million tons
of cargo moving through the Columbia and Snake River dams.
This river system is the Nation's Number one wheat export gateway.
Over 50 percent of the Nation's wheat exports moves through our river
system. Barge lines operating on these rivers support over 1,200 barge
tows annually, with the standard grain tow consisting of four barges,
totaling 15,000 tons of wheat. Each four-barge grain tow represents
over $3M in Inland Empire wheat producer income. Adding to this, a rail
to barge transfer station is being constructed at Boardman, Oregon to
shortstop wheat railed from the Midwest, adding to our system's value
to producers located many states away.
Barging through the four Snake River dams is a particularly
critical transportation link for our region. Nearly 10 percent of all
U.S. wheat exports moves through just those four projects, destined for
overseas markets. In 2014 alone, over 4.3 million tons of cargo was
barged on the Snake River. It would have taken 43,610 rail cars to
carry this cargo, or over 167,000 semi-trucks, with increased emissions
and increased safety risks, all at a higher cost to the farmer and
Our barging system also safely and responsibly transports millions
of gallons of refined petroleum products from Portland to the Tri-
Cities, thousands of tons of wood products to downriver mills, as well
as containerized solid waste, aggregates for concrete and asphalt
plants, and scrap steel from Burbank, Washington to Portland, Oregon
for export. In fact, a large portion of the diesel and gasoline used
right here in the Tri-Cities is barged to Pasco and trucked out to our
local gas stations. At certain times of the year, this can be up to 50
percent of the fuel this area puts in our vehicles. In addition, Top of
Form fertilizer is barged into this area to grow potatoes, apples,
grapes and the many other crops prized in our Nation and overseas.
As you may be aware, there continues to be a small but vocal
minority in our region who advocate for removing the four Lower Snake
River dams. These four dams are among the most advanced, fish-friendly
projects in the entire country, and do not block access for endangered
salmon runs. In fact, juvenile fish survival rates past each of these
dams is between 95 percent and 97 percent, which is higher than what is
seen in some undammed rivers. Major improvements in fish ladders, dam
design, optimized river flow, and habitat restoration (all paid for by
revenues from the Snake and Columbia River dams) have resulted in
improvements to salmon returns. The time it takes fish to pass through
the dams is also the quickest it has been since the dams were installed
and continues to decrease with each new improvement.
Northwest ports and navigation interests have always strongly
supported robust salmon recovery efforts that preserve the multiple
uses of the river system. We believe, like most in the scientific
community, that salmon runs have been affected by a variety of factors.
A commitment to improving all factors affecting the fish, including
hydropower, habitat, harvest, and hatcheries, is necessary for listed
species to recover. Extreme measures like dam breaching have been
studied and rejected numerous times over the last 20 years. Mother
Nature will always throw us some curve balls, but the trend lines for
our listed fish species over the last 10 years demonstrates the success
of regional collaboration on fish passage, habitat, and other river
I've given you a lot of facts and figures, but this is what I want
to leave you with. As a multi-generational family-owned company, we
directly relate to the family farm producers and shippers we serve here
in the Inland Northwest. These families, our company, and the river
system we know today has grown steadily and sustainably into the
primary economic driver of our trade dependent economy. From the family
farm producers of eastern Washington and Idaho who have no other access
to the Pacific Rim markets but through barging, to our crews that
depend on our jobs for their livelihood, it is with great respect and
pride that we serve the Columbia Snake River System.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I welcome any questions
you may have.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Vice Chairman Oatman, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. McCOY OATMAN, VICE CHAIRMAN, NEZ PERCE
TRIBE, LAPWAI, IDAHO
Mr. Oatman. Thank you. It is an honor and a privilege to be
before you here, Chairman and Committee members. My name is
McCoy Tamoody Oatman, and I serve as the Vice Chairman for the
Nez Perce Tribe. I have served on Council for 10 years now.
You guys have my written testimony, but the Nez Perce
people are a people of the heart. So, being here today, I have
to speak from my heart. I come from a treaty signer, Old Chief
Looking Glass. In 1877, he signed the treaty, and he actually
rode all the way back from buffalo country to Walla Walla to
ensure that the treaty was adequate.
I come from seven generations from him, and during the
treaty time he said that I am looking out for those that are
not yet here, those that are unborn, so I would like to think
that his foresight and knowledge, and that of the other treaty
signers as well, were looking out for me and the future
I understand what you guys are trying to do for your
constituents and for those that are here today, and I am here
to speak for those that are not here yet, those that are yet
unborn, and to ensure that they have a way of life past the
time that I am here.
There are only 3,500 or so Nez Perce that walk this earth.
So, if we ourselves were a fish species, we would be considered
endangered. We deal with a high rate of diabetes, heart
disease, and a lot of that goes back to our diet, a lot of
processed food and things that our bodies were not able to
Salmon play an integral part in that, in how we live.
Traditionally, Nez Perce, we used to bury just right off the
streams, up on the hillsides, and we would bury in rock. And
the reason we would bury ourselves in the rock is so that when
the water came through and it washed our bodies back into the
river system, and as well know how to fish, know how to get
home. Well, it is by their scent.
So, we would provide ourselves--we would be part of that
life cycle and be nutrients for the salmon, and also provide
them a way of how do they get home.
There have been mentions of other tribes. There are the
accords that the other tribes signed. Well, the other tribes
don't live above all these dams, and the Nez Perce do, so it is
about that we have to continue to fight. When Lewis and Clark
came through, Old Looking Glass' father's name was Wyakaikt,
and he gave Lewis and Clark a token that they would be able to
pass through the Columbia system. And then when he passed, Old
Looking Glass' son was born. But he got his name because Lewis
and Clark gave him a medallion. After that, he wore that
medallion and he became known as Looking Glass.
His son, Young Looking Glass, was the one that was in the
war of 1877, and I am a descendant of his brother, who made it
all the way into Canada when we were chased by the cavalry, and
then they come back to Idaho, and that is why I am able to be
So, this hearing is really important. It is really
important to hear from all parties, but also in particular from
the Nez Perce, the ones that have been here for tens of
thousands of years that have been recorded. I want to continue
that future for my people, for my children. I have three young
daughters--6, 3, and 1. It is my battle here today to ensure
that they have a future, that there will be fish in the waters
We have our own scientists. We have our own biologists that
have been part of this process, that have been part of the
meetings that deal with spill. We want to continue in that
collaborative fashion. We have had our day in court, and so we
understand what others have been saying about the courts
running the system. Well, sometimes there is no other place for
us to go, if people aren't going to listen to us as a people
that have been here for so long, that understand these systems.
As Mr. Hastings mentioned earlier about buffalo, I serve on
the interagency buffalo management plan, and those are the last
pure genetic species of buffalo in Yellowstone. The other
buffalo have been bred with cows, and so it is not really a
fair comparison. We call those ``beefalo.'' They are not
actually referenced as buffalo where we come from.
I thank you for allowing me this time to come and talk to
you, and to talk to the public as well, and hopefully
nationally people will understand where we are coming from as
Nez Perce people. We are just trying to ensure that we have a
river system that is going to support those salmon and that
will also support the future generations. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Oatman follows:]
Prepared Statement of Vice-Chairman McCoy Oatman, Nez Perce Tribal
Honorable Chairman and members of the Committee, as Vice-Chairman
of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, I would like to thank you
for the opportunity to provide testimony on behalf of the Nez Perce
Tribe (Tribe) for this oversight hearing by the Committee on Natural
Resources (Committee) regarding the Federal Columbia River Power System
(FCRPS) and its impact in the Pacific Northwest. The Tribe understands
the premise of the hearing is an appreciation for the current system
and the economy that has grown around it. The Tribe, however,
challenges the Committee to look beyond memorializing the status quo,
and instead conduct an honest examination of all ideas and concepts
that can restore the health of the Columbia Basin such as providing
spill, addressing impacts of climate change, examining dam removal,
restoring habitat, decreasing carbon emissions, and furthering
The Nez Perce Tribe is a federally-recognized Indian tribe with
treaty-reserved fishing, hunting, gathering, and pasturing rights
throughout the Columbia River Basin. The Tribe's traditional lands and
waters encompass what are today northeast Oregon, southeast Washington,
north-central Idaho, and western Montana. The Tribe engages in fishing,
hunting, gathering, pasturing, and associated activities, and in the
co-management of resources, within much of this area. The FCRPS system
has had, and continues to have, a uniquely harmful impact on the Nez
Perce people. The Tribe's fishermen fish in the mainstem Columbia River
where four of the dams are located while the Tribe's Reservation and
many of the Tribe's other usual and accustomed fishing places lie above
the four dams on the lower Snake River.
Despite the impacts from the current operation of the FCRPS, the
Tribe's treaty-reserved fishing right and fisheries within the Columbia
Basin continue to be critically important to the Tribe in maintaining
and practicing its culture, economy, and ways of life as it has done
for thousands of years. In addition, implementation of treaty fisheries
is consistent with the Tribe's legally enforceable treaty-reserved
fishing right and resources and with the United States' treaty and
trust obligations and responsibilities to the Tribe.
The importance of salmon and steelhead to the Tribe and to the
Pacific Northwest cannot be overstated. The Tribe is deeply committed
to restoring salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers to
healthy, harvestable levels for all citizens of the Northwest and to
fairly sharing the conservation burden.
The Tribe has long advocated before Congress and through the
Federal court system for the FCRPS to be managed in a way that
minimizes adverse impacts on fish and the Basin. As a result, the Tribe
disagrees with proposed legislation or any language that would restrict
the use of Federal funds for dam removal or studies related to dam
removal, or that would circumvent Federal court orders related to the
operation of the FCRPS.
For example, H.R. 3144 attempts to short-circuit the Federal
judiciary and Federal appellate process with respect to providing
additional spill to protect fish. The Federal District Court for the
District of Oregon has issued rulings on the dams that make up the
FCRPS only after reviewing thorough and voluminous briefing and expert
scientific information presented by the Federal Government, the states
of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, tribal sovereigns including
the Tribe, and fishing, utility, conservation, and irrigation
The District Court's May 4, 2016 decision held that the 2014
Biological Opinion on the operation of the FCRPS was arbitrary and
capricious under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and that the Federal
action agencies' failure to prepare an environmental impact statement
(EIS) on the implementation of that Biological Opinion violated the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Court observed that
``Perhaps following the processes that Congress has established in the
National Environmental Policy Act and in the Endangered Species Act
finally may illuminate a path that will bring these endangered and
threatened [salmon and steelhead] species out of peril.'' None of the
parties pursued an appeal of the District Court's ruling. In contrast
to H.R. 3144, the Federal agencies are indeed actively assuming their
responsibilities under NEPA, engaging with the public, and with the
After the Federal agencies refused to implement any additional
protective actions for salmon and steelhead during the ordered ESA and
NEPA processes, the state of Oregon, supported by the Tribe and several
fishing and conservation groups in the Pacific Northwest, requested
interim protection for salmon and steelhead in the form of spill in the
springtime that would be implemented only in those years where such
levels of spill would not naturally occur simply as a result of runoff.
The Oregon District Court did not order spill to begin until the spring
2018 migration season, ensuring that ``the parties and experts in the
region ha[d] sufficient time to consider an appropriate protocol and
methodology for spill at each dam, incorporating the most beneficial
spill patterns.'' Tribal Fisheries Department staff were among those
experts in the region and were instrumental in helping craft spill
operations that were feasible and met the intent of the Court's
direction. The District Court's March 27, 2017 order went on to state
that it expects that ``the parties, amici, and other regional experts
will work together to reach consensus.'' No party sought a stay pending
appeal or an expedited appeal of the order. And again, the Federal
action agencies and the region's state and tribal sovereigns have been
actively engaged in, and are making considerable progress in,
developing spill implementation plans.
H.R. 3144 would short-circuit and subvert Federal judiciary and
Federal appellate processes and would undermine collaborative efforts
that the region's sovereigns and the Federal Government are presently
Second, H.R. 3144 attempts to short-circuit the full consideration
of all alternatives to redress the impacts of the Federal FCRPS dams on
salmon and steelhead--including breaching the four lower Snake River
dams. The bill, in Section 4, would prohibit the identified agencies
from even studying removal of the four lower Snake River dams through
any EIS process without additional congressional authorization. This
would undermine the existing EIS process proceeding now under existing
NEPA law that the Court has ordered and that the Federal agencies are
presently engaged in with the public and the region's sovereigns.
Again, as the District Court observed, ``Perhaps following the
processes that Congress has established in the National Environmental
Policy Act and in the Endangered Species Act finally may illuminate a
path that will bring these endangered and threatened [salmon and
steelhead] species out of peril.''
The Tribe has also opposed similar language proposed in the Fiscal
Year 2019 appropriations package for Energy and Water Development,
legislative branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
Section 506 of General Provisions of H.R. 5895 limits the use of Fiscal
Year 2019 funds to operate the FCRPS hydroelectric dams in a manner
that is inconsistent with the Army Corps of Engineers' 2017 Fish
Operations Plan. The Tribe opposes this provision because it will
prevent implementation of District Judge Simon's March 27, 2017 spill
injunction order that the Tribe advocated for to limit the impacts of
the current system operations on fish.
These legislative ``fixes'' are not solutions to the current issues
but instead are roadblocks to ultimately finding answers to the issues
created by the operation of the FCRPS that will work for everyone. They
also cause unnecessary division between stakeholders and distract from
The current history of the FCRPS in the Pacific Northwest is
dwarfed by the ancient history and existence of the Columbia River
Basin prior to the FCRPS' construction. The current dynamic between the
economy and the FCRPS is not natural, nor is it the only path forward.
It is based on assumptions that should be challenged and explored.
There are ways for all people in the Pacific Northwest to thrive
and be successful beyond an unexamined status quo. Pre-FCRPS history
shows a thriving and prosperous economy and way of life for both Nez
Perce and non-Nez Perce. The Nez Perce have had to adjust their way of
life to accommodate the modern status quo. However, that is no reason
to stop questioning and studying and then implementing better ways. The
legislative actions proposed to Congress are attempts to end
examination and exploration of better ways. They are a head-in-the-sand
approach at an exact moment in time when we should all be fearlessly
looking for better solutions. We encourage you to demonstrate your
leadership by helping to support current efforts to find better
solutions, not hide from them. The Tribe would be happy to continue
dialogue with members of this Committee and the Northwest Congressional
Delegation to search for those new solutions.
Thank you for your time today.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Vice Chairman.
We will now hear from Mr. Heffling for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF JACK HEFFLING, PRESIDENT, UNITED POWER TRADES
ORGANIZATION, WEST RICHLAND, WASHINGTON
Mr. Heffling. Chairman Lamborn, Congressman Newhouse, and
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, thank you for this opportunity
The United Power Trades Organization represents the trades
and crafts non-supervisory employees at the 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 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, 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 economies.
The dams of the Columbia-Snake River System are multi-
purpose 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. Hydropower 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.
The cost to operate the Snake River dams is about $65
million per year, which is relatively inexpensive considering
the return on this investment is over $200 million annually.
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 electrical flow, and flexible hydro generation
meets the changing conditions to ensure reliability.
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. Every year, more than 50
million tons of commercial cargo moves up and down the Columbia
and Snake Rivers between Astoria, Oregon and Lewiston, Idaho.
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.
Irrigated agriculture is the economic powerhouse of the
West, with annual revenues of $17 billion and more than 100,000
employees. It is the dams that provide the water for irrigation
and, as a direct result, helps sustain the economy of the
The Walla Walla District employs over 1,100 people, with
over 400 working at the hydroelectric projects. In addition to
being a major employer, the District pumps millions of dollars
into the local economies. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget for the
District was about $240 million.
Removal of the Snake River dams would be detrimental to a
large amount of irrigated agriculture, would eliminate barging
from Pasco to Lewiston, Idaho, and would damage the electrical
infrastructure. Removal of the dams would cost thousands of
jobs. Jobs at the dams themselves would be lost, contracting
jobs would be lost, farm jobs would be lost, and jobs related
to the barging of commodities would be lost. The impact on the
region would be devastating.
As president and spokesman for the United Power Trades
Organization, I can say our organization overwhelmingly
supports H.R. 3144, hydropower, and the dams of the Lower Snake
River. But I am not just a dam employee representative. I am a
senior power plant operator and have been working at one of the
Lower Snake River dams since 1986. As a power plant operator
for over 30 years, I actually understand how the new
technologies installed have benefited fish. The dams have been
upgraded extensively, at great cost, and the improvements work.
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.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Heffling follows:]
Prepared Statement of Jack W. Heffling, President, United Power Trades
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. The United Power Trades
Organization represents the Trades and Crafts non-supervisory employees
at U.S. Army Corp 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 multi-purpose 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
and solar. The cost to operate the Snake River dams is about $65
million per year which is relatively inexpensive considering the return
on this investment is over $200 million annually.
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,
Idaho. The Snake River averages 3.5 million tons of cargo per year
valued at an average of over $1.5 billion.
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 1-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 1,100 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 Fiscal Year 2017 budget for the District was $240
million with about 60 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 multi-faceted 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
hydropower and the dams of the Lower Snake River. But I am not only
just 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
As a power plant operator 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 have 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.
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.
Recent misinformation provided by outside interests blame the dams
for excessive water temperatures on the Snake River and claim the dams
must be removed to restore acceptable conditions. In fact, the opposite
is true. Snake River water temperature data from 1952-1957 shows the
average high water temperature to be over 74 degrees. High water
temperature is actually better controlled by reservoir regulation and
supplemental discharge of cooler water upstream.
It is true that record high temperatures in 2015 created a thermal
barrier at the Lower Granite Dam fish ladder that impeded adult fish
migration. This problem was fixed in 2016 with an ``intake chimney''
that provided cool water to the adult fish ladder.
It has been proven that the dams and fish can co-exist. Historical
data shows fish counts for all species has increased dramatically since
counts on the Snake River began in 1975. For example, the 1975 fish
count showed a total of 209 Sockeye passing through Lower Granite Dam
in 1975. In 2014, that count was 3,219. In 1975, 28,460 Chinook passed
through Lower Granite. The count was 195,167 in 2014. In 1975, 17,311
Steelhead were counted passing through Lower Granite Dam. The count was
164,106 in 2014.
Yes, the last couple of years has shown a decline in returning
fish. However, due to ocean conditions, there have been declines in
numbers of fish everywhere on the Pacific Coast including Alaska. A
warming trend in the Pacific has been the culprit and can't be blamed
on the dams. Recent data shows that warming trend may be reversing so
runs will again return to historic numbers as ocean conditions improve.
Thank you again for this opportunity to testify before the
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Ms. Green, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF MARCI GREEN, PRESIDENT, WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF
WHEAT GROWERS, RITZVILLE, WASHINGTON
Ms. Green. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn, Congressman
Newhouse, and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. I am a sixth-
generation farmer from Fairfield, Washington. My sons are
seventh-generation wheat farmers. On our farm we grow wheat,
blue grass seed, dry peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans.
I am also president of the Washington Association of Wheat
Growers, a non-profit trade association that is comprised of
Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the
importance of the Columbia-Snake River System, which provides
significant transportation and navigation benefits to our
region. The river system is a 465-mile river highway that
provides farmers and other producers as far as the Midwest
access to international markets.
The Columbia-Snake River System is the top wheat export
gateway in the United States, transporting over 50 percent of
all U.S. wheat to markets overseas. Eleven states export
through our rivers, which moved over 12 million tons of wheat
in 2016. Over $500 million has been invested into Columbia
River grain export terminals, and barge unloading capacity has
been expanded by over 21 percent in expectation of increased
sales in Asian markets. Besides grain, nearly $3 billion worth
of commercial cargo is moved across the river system.
As wheat farmers, we are dependent upon the barging system
to transport our products to export. Barging is one of the
lowest cost, most environmentally friendly modes of
transportation we have to get our wheat to major grain
elevators in Portland, which is the gateway to world markets. A
typical four-barge tow moves the same amount of cargo as 140
rail cars or 538 trucks using just a fraction of the fuel.
Personally, transporting my crop to the market is a notable
cost. Currently, I pay 80 cents a bushel to transport my wheat
to ports. Even if wheat is at $6, that is a significant
expense. Without a navigable river system, barging would not be
an option. Farmers would have to substitute rail transportation
or trucks to get their wheat to ports, which would be more
expensive and less efficient. Having three different
transportation options also keeps costs more competitive and
As price takers who compete in a global economy, we are
very sensitive to increased costs to get our products to
market. To move the same amount of wheat currently barged on
the river system would require 137,000 semi-trucks or 23,900
rail cars, leading to increased fuel consumption, increased
emissions, and increased wear and tear on our transportation
infrastructure. The current rail capacity in the Pacific
Northwest is insufficient to meet current as well as projected
wheat transportation needs, and barging remains the most
efficient way to move wheat to export terminals.
The river system is vital to the entire agricultural
industry by providing multiple benefits in addition to
navigation and transportation, including irrigation and flood
control. Agriculture is the second largest contributor to our
state's economy and represents a significant component of our
agricultural industry nationally. Six percent of the Columbia
River Basin's yearly runoff is used to irrigate about 7.8
million acres of Northwest farmland. Greater irrigation
efficiency in the Columbia River Basin has decreased water use
by 10 to 25 percent per acre over the last decade. Several very
large storage dams in the Columbia Basin also provide critical
flood control benefits.
In addition to providing businesses with affordable,
reliable transportation to move our goods to market, the dams
provide the region's largest source of carbon-free, renewable
electricity. The majority of the Northwest's renewable energy
comes from hydropower dams which not only is clean, reliable
power, but affordable electricity that attracts business to our
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers was proud to
support H.R. 3144, legislation introduced by Representatives
McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse, with other Pacific Northwest
Members of Congress, to preserve the current operations plan
for the eight Lower Snake and Lower Columbia River dams. The
current court order forcing these dams to spill more water
threatens the river power system and could be detrimental to
the infrastructure of our dams and the reliability of
navigation on our rivers. We also support Representatives
Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers' appropriations provision to stop
the spill order and thank them for their continued advocacy in
support of the system.
In closing, thank you for the opportunity to testify about
the multiple benefits the Columbia-Snake River System provides
to the agriculture sector. It literally is the economic
lifeblood and way of life for the Pacific Northwest. Our region
is blessed to have it. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Green follows:]
Prepared Statement of Marci Green, President, Washington Association of
Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva, and the esteemed members
of the House Natural Resources Committee, for the record my name is
Marci Green. I am a sixth-generation farmer from Fairfield, Washington.
My sons are seventh-generation wheat farmers. On our farm, we grow
wheat, blue grass seed, dry peas, lentils and garbanzo beans.
I am also the president of the Washington Association of Wheat
Growers, a non-profit trade association that is comprised of 1,700
members which includes wheat farming families and industry supporters.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the importance of
the Columbia Snake River System which provides significant
transportation and navigation benefits to our region. The Columbia
Snake River System is a 465-mile river highway that provides farmers
and other producers as far as the Midwest access to international
The Columbia Snake River System is the top wheat export gateway in
the United States, transporting over 50 percent of all U.S. wheat to
markets overseas. Eleven states export through our rivers which moved
over 12 million tons of wheat in 2016. Over 50 percent of Idaho's wheat
is exported through the Columbia Snake River System. Over $500 million
has been invested into Columbia River grain export terminals, and barge
unloading capacity has been expanded by over 21 percent in expectation
of increased sales in Asian markets. Besides grain, nearly $3 billion
worth of commercial cargo is moved across the river system.
As wheat farmers, we are dependent upon the barging system to
transport our products to export. Barging is one of the lowest cost,
most environmentally friendly modes of transportation we have to get
our wheat to major grain elevators in Portland, which is the gateway to
world markets. A typical four-barge tow moves the same amount of cargo
as 140 rail cars or 538 trucks using just a fraction of the fuel.
As a wheat farmer, transporting my crop to the market is a notable
cost. Currently, I pay 80 cents a bushel to transport my wheat to
ports. Even if wheat is at $6, that is a significant expense and
clearly not my only one.
Without a navigable river system, barging would not be an option.
Farmers would have to substitute rail transportation or trucks to get
their wheat to ports which would be more expensive and less efficient.
Having three different transportation options also keeps transportation
costs more competitive and reasonable.
As price takers who compete in a global economy, we are very
sensitive to increased costs to get our products to market. The price
farmers ultimately pocket after factoring in all their expenses makes
the ultimate difference whether they can stay in business.
To move the same amount of wheat currently barged on the river
system would require 137,000 semi-trucks or 23,900 railcars, leading to
increased fuel consumption, increased emissions and increased wear and
tear on our transportation infrastructure. The current rail capacity in
the Pacific Northwest is insufficient to meet current as well as
projected wheat transportation needs, and barging remains the most
efficient way to move wheat to export terminals.
The river system is vital to the entire agricultural industry by
providing multiple benefits in addition to navigation and
transportation, including irrigation and flood control. Agriculture is
the second largest contributor to our state's economy and represents a
significant component of our agricultural industry nationally. Six
percent of the Columbia River Basin's yearly runoff is used to irrigate
about 7.8 million acres of Northwest farmland. Greater irrigation
efficiency in the Columbia River Basin has decreased water use by 10 to
25 percent per acre over the last decade. Several very large storage
dams in the Columbia Basin also provide critical flood control
In addition to providing businesses with affordable, reliable
transportation to move our goods to market, the dams provide the
region's largest source of carbon-free, renewable electricity. The
majority (90 percent) of the Northwest's renewable energy comes from
hydropower dams which not only is clean, reliable power, but affordable
electricity that attracts business to our region.
In closing, thank you for the opportunity to testify about the
multiple benefits the Columbia Snake River System plays to the
agriculture sector. It literally is the economic lifeblood and way of
life for the Pacific Northwest. Our region is blessed to have it.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Ms. Green.
I want to thank all of you for your very informative and
helpful testimony. We really appreciate that.
We will now begin questions for the witnesses. We will have
at least two rounds of questions. To allow all of our Members
to participate and to ensure that we can hear from everybody,
Members are limited to 5 minutes for their questions.
I now recognize myself for 5 minutes.
Ms. Flores, I have a question for you. And, Mr. James, I am
going to ask you to tag on and also respond to it.
There has been some discussion about how all of the
stakeholders had previously agreed to a spill program that was
optimized for salmon health, and getting the latest court order
from an Oregon District Court judge, according to your
testimony, has upset that balance. What are your views?
Ms. Flores. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn. I am happy to
In 2014, a Biological Opinion was issued that included,
among many other things, spill operations that were agreed to
by states, the vast majority of the Northwest states and
tribes, and those spill operations were developed in a
collaborative process with those states and tribes. But what we
have seen was the District Court rejected that Biological
Opinion yet again and instead has been granting spill
injunction orders brought by the plaintiffs, and I mentioned
the one that was implemented this year, which was 24/7 spill to
the maximum Gas Caps.
So, we literally do have a situation now where, since the
BiOp is being re-done, operations are kind of up in the air and
we are waiting to see if another injunction is brought this
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Mr. James. Sure. As a Federal agency, of course, we work
with the other Federal agencies to follow the law, and the
judge gave us the order, so we operate the river that way.
While we certainly seek consensus on current and future
spill operations, we also know that as an agency we are under
risk of being uncompetitive in the future in terms of the cost
of power that we sell. So, at the same time that we were
implementing new spill orders, we have also been reducing our
investments in fish and wildlife projects, and we have, in
fact, been reducing our agency budget across the board to
become more competitive, but that included reducing investments
in fish and wildlife in order to meet these new spill orders.
Mr. Lamborn. OK, thank you.
And also for the two of you, Ms. Flores, you mentioned that
the recent controversial spill order has actually led to an
increase in the emission of carbon dioxide. Can you explain
that in a little more detail, please?
Ms. Flores. Yes, back to what spill is. When you are
spilling water to move young fish more swiftly downstream in
their downstream migration, you are obviously not generating
power. So, because you are not generating carbon-free power,
you have to replace it. And if you replace it today, you are
replacing it with natural gas and perhaps other thermal
resources, and natural gas and other thermal resources add to
carbon emissions. So, if you are spilling, you are
automatically increasing carbon emissions.
Mr. Lamborn. And, Mr. James, as BPA Deputy Administrator,
can you explain that in a little more detail?
Mr. James. In order to continue to operate the system,
loads and generation must always balance. You have to have as
much coming off the system as you have coming on the system.
So, the way that markets work is that you have to put the exact
amount onto the system that you need. If we need to buy
replacement power at certain times, we need to buy it when we
need it. And as has been pointed out, that is likely to come in
terms of cost and availability from a carbon-generating
resource, most likely gas.
Mr. Lamborn. And, specifically, where have some of those
purchases come from in terms of power coming into the system
Mr. James. I can't say specifically what generators they
are coming from, but I know that just in general they are
likely to have come from gas.
Mr. Lamborn. OK, I understand. Thank you.
Mr. Newhouse, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would also like to thank all of you for providing your
testimony this morning. It was very informative, and it was
also interesting to find out how quickly 5 minutes goes by.
Mr. Newhouse. First of all, Mr. James, thanks for being
here. Last week, I was able to speak with your boss, Mr.
Mainzer, the Administrator of the BPA. He told me that he was
working with our governor, at least for the last several
months, on coming up with ways to negotiate a compromise, so to
speak, to manage the river that could actually increase or
provide higher rates of dissolved gases by managing the higher
I just had a couple of questions about this whole thing. At
least a lot of this centers around this increased spill. I like
Ms. Flores' comparison to medicine: a little is good, maybe too
much not so good. So, just a couple of quick questions.
Isn't it true that some of our Federal agencies have stated
that 110 percent saturation of total dissolved gases could have
detrimental effects on fish?
Mr. James. I would have to defer that to the Environmental
Protection Agency, which sets those gas standards and which, of
course, the states then have to abide by. The states, as you
know, then implement those standards and can, in fact, grant
waivers on those gas levels. That is what is being considered.
Mr. Newhouse. It is also true that the current spill order
mandated by a judge has raised those levels up to 120 percent,
Mr. James. Yes.
Mr. Newhouse. Your boss stated to me that our governor is
now advocating to raise those levels even higher, up to 125
percent. And like you said, every state has their own water
quality standards to determine what the safe level is. I fully
understand the pressure the governor is under, as well as BPA,
but certainly the recent news reports of the orcas and the
challenges that they are finding for food right now, I
certainly find it incredible that we are calling for more
spills supposedly to help the fish, and yet that places what
seems to be a high level, a toxic level of gas in the water.
So, at the same time we are trying to help one species, we are
harming another, and this just doesn't seem to be based on
sound science to me.
So, this is, to me, the crux of the question here. Ms.
Flores, do you have any comments on all of this? If the level
of gas at 110 percent is dangerous, tell me more about 125
Ms. Flores. I can shed a little bit more light on that.
Unfortunately, I didn't do it when I was speaking. It is in my
testimony. But the Washington Department of Ecology for dams in
the state of Washington sets TDG levels, total dissolved gas
levels, at 110 percent gas saturation to be protective of
salmon and other aquatic species--lamprey, sturgeon, all the
aquatic species in the rivers.
The Federal system is somewhat unique in that the Army
Corps gets waivers from those standards of 110 to be able to
spill up to 120. The Federal hydro system, with the exception
of the mid-seas, which have temporary waivers to exceed the
standards now and again--but the Federal hydro system is the
only dam system that is actually spilling as much as it does.
So, with respect to the discussions, there are discussions
going on, as I understand it, with Governor Inslee and
Bonneville, and we do know that part of the discussions are
intended to perhaps be able to spill less than we do now, but
then the exchange would be maybe spilling at higher levels. We
are concerned about going up to the 125 because we are
concerned about the science, as you heard me discuss, and what
the impacts might be on fish. We want to make sure that the
ratepayers that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars
every year don't undermine those investments by unintended
consequences of spilling to an even higher level.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you.
I know my time is almost up, Mr. Chairman, but I just
wanted to say that I was at McNary Dam this spring, and the
operators at the dam, and that was right after the spill order
began, were already seeing fish with symptoms of gas poisoning
at that point, and that apparently was at the 120 level.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Representative McMorris Rodgers.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you, Chairman.
I, too, want to thank everyone for being here and sharing
your testimony with the Committee. It is very helpful.
I have a few questions of just about everybody, but we will
get started with Ms. Flores.
I wanted to go to the example of the Elwha Dam that was
authorized by Congress for removal in 1992. It wasn't until
September 2011 that the dam actually came down. As we think
about this call to remove the Lower Snake River dams for the
purpose of saving the orca or somehow benefiting salmon--I was
recently in Walla Walla, sat down with the Army Corps again and
they said they don't believe it is going to benefit, it
wouldn't have a positive impact on salmon returns beyond what
we are doing today--I just wanted you to shed some light on how
long you think it would actually take to remove the dams and
how much it would cost, and what is your sense as far as how we
replace the energy from those dams?
Ms. Flores. Thank you, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers.
You are obviously correct, the removal of the Elwha Dam
took about 25 years, and I would note that Elwha Dam is in no
way, shape, or form similar to the Snake River dams. Those dams
provided very, very little power output, which went to a local
paper mill. There is no navigation. There is no trade. There is
no commerce. There just is no comparison. And even so, removal
of those dams took congressional authorization, and it took 25
years, and appropriations.
I find it very discouraging and sad that people are again,
when they talk about removing the Snake dam, saying we can do
this without congressional authorization, we can get it done by
the end of this year. Truthfully, there are people submitting
comments into the orca record and so on and so forth saying we
can get this done swiftly. That is just not true.
Obviously, Congress has been appropriating dollars to
maintain these Snake dams and the other dams in the Federal
system for years, decades. I don't see that coming to a stop. I
do believe that members of the delegation fully appreciate the
value of the Snake dams. So, to get an authorization and
appropriations I think would take decades. I think that whole
argument that it be done swiftly just undermines efforts to try
to take reasonable measures to help endangered salmon in the
With respect to replacement power, you will hear that we
can easily and swiftly replace the output of the Snake dams
with wind and solar resources, and that is just not true right
now. We don't have the ability to store those resources on a
large scale. We may, but we don't right now, and it may be
decades before we have the ability to store those resources.
So, again, right now, should those dams be removed, it
would likely be with natural gas replacement.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Very good. Thank you.
I would like to move to Dan James, Deputy Administrator.
Would you also give me your thoughts on how easy it would be to
replace the energy that is generated at the Lower Snake River
dams with resources like wind and solar? Do you think that is
possible? What do you think is the most likely replacement?
Mr. James. Sure. I think that currently we don't believe
that it is possible on a 24/7 basis because the system has to
operate all the time, and the system always needs to balance.
So, the question is, how do you meet the needs at any given
time, the hottest day of the year, the coldest day of the year?
Clearly, what would be the energy source that would most
likely replace these dams? If we are talking about cost and
dispatchability--in other words, what could be there all the
time--the answer is most likely natural gas. On the other hand,
does the system--we have lots of generation onto the system at
given times. The question is when do you have capacity? How do
you actually keep the lights on? How do you meet needs 24/7?
So, capacity is one of the issues that we must deal with.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Do you believe that we could see
Mr. James. I would have to dive into that question a little
more, and I would be happy to give you more of a substantive
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. OK. Thank you.
I will yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you. We will have another round of
Ms. Flores, I am going to ask you one question, and then I
am going to broaden it to some of you who haven't responded to
a question yet.
We had a bill recently in our Subcommittee and in the Full
House on sea lion predation. To me, it was a no-brainer. If a
sea lion is killing literally thousands of salmon, sometimes
just biting a chunk out of it and then letting it go, or
devouring the whole thing, when you balance that--and sea lions
are not an endangered or threatened species, but they are
protected under the Marine Mammal Act, but the salmon are
threatened and endangered. So, it is pitting one against the
other, which is unfortunate.
We had a bill to say if a sea lion cannot be removed
because if you do that and it comes back, you don't solve the
problem, that in some cases, some extreme cases, lethal force
could be authorized. But we had people, even though they
professed to support and love the salmon, who voted against
that. I did not understand how, if you want to preserve the
salmon, you wouldn't want to preserve them in that case as
well. But we had a whole number--I don't know, 100, 150 people
in Congress--who did not support that legislation that
Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler, to her credit, did
introduce, and we did pass it from the House to the Senate.
What is your comment on that?
Ms. Flores. Well, I think it is understandable that it is
very challenging and difficult for people to wrap their brains
around the need to lethally remove sea lions. But if you look
at the information and the data, it is overwhelming, and it is
not just in Astoria or on the Columbia. It is up in Puget
Sound. I am hearing that the sea lions up there are taking as
much or more than commercial sport and tribal fishing combined
of our endangered salmon. We know on the Willamette River that
there is a 90 percent chance that steelhead will go extinct due
to sea lion predation.
So, I can understand from an emotional perspective, but at
the end of the day we need to take tough measures, and we are
really happy and very supportive of the sea lion bill because
we think that is one of those tough measures that needs to be
Mr. Lamborn. I was just amazed. Some people say that they
want to protect the salmon, but when it came time to vote to
protect the salmon, they abandoned the salmon, in my opinion.
Doc Hastings and Kris Johnson, I want to ask you about
irrigation. One of the benefits of the Lower Snake River dams
is the benefit to agriculture through irrigation. What would
happen to the economy of this part of the country, Washington
or even other neighboring states, if those dams were to go
Mr. Hastings. Let me first respond to the sea lion question
here. I remember when I was in Congress, I toured Bonneville
Dam and saw the sea lions, and the first thing to remember is
that the sea lions in question at the Bonneville Dam at that
time were not indigenous. They are California sea lions, and
because they proliferated so much in California because they
are protected, they had to go someplace to find their food.
So, these are not indigenous sea lions on the Columbia
River, and that needs to be taken into account.
Let me broaden your question by simply saying that the
Snake River, I forget how many acres the Snake River irrigates,
but it is quite a bit. An analogy to that would be the
reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam, Lake Roosevelt. That
irrigates 500,000-plus acres.
A case in point: without irrigation, we wouldn't have an
agriculture economy of any sort. Last year, our average
rainfall I believe was around 7 inches, which is lower than
normal here in this part of the country. I think to date, the
average rainfall to date is less than 4 inches here in the Tri-
Cities, and I could be off by a half-inch. But still, the point
is you have to have water in order to irrigate our diverse
agriculture economy. If you take that away, that would have a
huge, huge impact on our economy, no question about it.
Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Johnson?
Mr. Johnson. I think a couple of things to have some
perspective on. When the dams were first opened in 1962, the
state had about 2.9 million population. Today, it is 7.4
million. The mid-Columbia, where you are sitting, had 50,000
residents. Today, it has 300,000 residents. Those 300,000
residents in this region help produce 600 million pounds of
French fries to go across the country and across the world,
right? So, that is how transformative base load power has been
to this region and to this state's economy.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
Mr. Newhouse. I was just told recently that there was a
meeting last week in Seattle, that the gist of the meeting was
that there is a direct correlation between the dams and the
plight that the orcas find themselves in at Puget Sound. I was
going to ask Ms. Flores, could you speak to the nature of the
Columbia River's fish species as being a source for food for
the orcas? I think you brought that up in your testimony. My
understanding is that they play a very small role, but I want
to be sure about that.
Ms. Flores. Yes, thank you. Again, back to the science.
According to NOAA Science Center analysis, the Columbia and
Snake chinook stocks in particular do provide food for orcas,
but they are just one of many, many sources. And contrary to
what you may be hearing, they are actually a bright spot in
terms of providing chinook salmon for orca consumption.
Again, you have to go back and look at the actual data and
information. Do salmon from Columbia and Snake provide a food
source? Absolutely. But they are one of many. Right now in the
summer, 90 percent of the orcas in Puget Sound, their food
source is salmon from the Fraser River.
Mr. Newhouse. Ninety percent?
Ms. Flores. Ninety percent in the summer. So, yes, they do
provide a source of prey, but, in fact, they are kind of a
bright spot in terms of providing salmon for orca consumption.
Mr. Newhouse. So, just to prove that these hearings, people
do look at the Congressional Record, I know that 6 years ago
when Chairman Hastings had a field hearing on similar issues,
Mr. Heffling, both you and Mr. Spain--is that how you pronounce
your name?--were in attendance at that hearing, and you were
both asked whether it was a good thing to have a judge
dictating the management of the river system. You both answered
no, and I think in your testimony this morning, Mr. Spain, you
talked about a collaborative approach.
What I find strange is that the years of painstaking
negotiations that were conducted by both the Bush and the Obama
administrations in coming up with the Biological Opinion which
was worked on by scientists, engineers, Northwest tribes, all
the stakeholders involved, doesn't equate to such an effort of
So, I guess I would ask your opinion, Mr. Heffling. Do you
think it does? Do you think it does demonstrate a concerted
effort to manage the system in the best way possible for both
fish and hydropower and all the other uses of the river?
Mr. Heffling. Of course we support the BiOp, and the BiOp
works. It has been working for many years. I mean, we were
returning to record numbers of returning fish. The additional
spill ordered by the judge, it makes me wonder what the purpose
of the outside interest groups are, if they are really trying
to recover salmon or if they want to make it worse on them so
they have a reason to remove the dams.
For one thing, all the water spilled, fish passing through
those spill gates have less chance to survive than when they
are collected at the projects and transferred downriver by
barge, five times more likely to survive.
So, I have to wonder why additional spill would do any
good, not to mention the additional dissolved gas. I mean, for
those of us who work at the dams, it is a no-brainer. You see
all the spill and you look out there and downstream of the
spill gates you see all these birds which are feasting on
smelts that have been killed by dissolved gas or just the
trauma of passing through spill gates.
Mr. Newhouse. And real quickly--I know my time is short.
Mr. Rich, I think it bears more focus that you talked about the
number of trucks it would take to replace the barges that move
freight up and down the river. Could you expand on that for
just a second?
Mr. Rich. Sure. Of course, it will depend a little bit on
the size of the truck. But your basic semi, where you are 26 to
32 tons, with a 3,600-ton barge, I was looking at some numbers
this morning, you are between 120,000 and 160,000 trucks. Now,
the reason I am saying 120 to 160 is because you have varying
volumes of wheat that are produced each year. But rather than
just the number of trucks, we think of the drivers, we think of
all that it takes to produce those trucks, and we get back to
the ton-mile-per-gallon of trucking.
Trucking is very efficient. I mentioned earlier there are
149 miles to move a ton of cargo on a gallon of diesel. That
has come up tremendously in the last several years. Again, in
marine transportation, 576. When we just look at the fuel
consumed itself, adding the trucks to the freeways at a minimum
of 120,000, I actually can't imagine what that would do to
When you say the word ``congestion,'' that means different
things to different people, but at some point you end up with
gridlock. Is it a good goal to have 120,000 semis transiting
from the Columbia-Snake River Basin to the seven export
elevators in the Portland/Long View/Vancouver/Kalama market? I
cannot believe that that would be in the best interest of
anyone who is interested in supporting our environment.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lamborn. Representative McMorris Rodgers.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to go back to BPA and spend a little more time
on the Biological Opinion and the work that was done to put
that together in 2014. The legislation that we introduced that
is known as H.R. 3144 would have preserved the current
Biological Opinion until the current NEPA process could be
I would like you to address some of the steps the region
took to come up with that Biological Opinion and speak to the
support of the stakeholders.
Mr. James. Sure. It was a collaborative process with
elements that were reviewed by a number of constituencies and
independent science advisors. It was supported by most, if not
all, constituencies, including most of the states and most of
the tribes, to develop the 2014 Biological Opinion.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Does BPA support the legislation?
Mr. James. I can't say I support the bill until the
Administration takes a position. BPA and the other action
agencies do support concepts of the bill. We believe that there
is a thorough need to analyze the alternatives that could be
beneficial to threatened and endangered fish. We are standing
behind and are directly involved in helping the Corps and the
Bureau complete an EIS, which is part of the Columbia River
System operation, which will tell us a lot about the future of
the Columbia River System. The bill would provide us the time
necessary to develop a scientifically sound interim,
experimental spring operation and continue to analyze it
through the CRSO.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Would you speak to the path forward?
Because right now, we have a pretty significant dispute over
the science, and the science that was used--you spoke to the
independent science advisors, whether it is the Corps, BPA,
NOAA--the science is suggesting that this additional spill is
not benefiting salmon, and yet that argument is out there and
we are being forced by a judge in Portland now to test this
I know that if BPA is to cut a deal with the states of
Oregon, Washington, and others, to try to avoid further
litigation, I guess I would like you to speak to the
possibility of us being able to come together as a region to
reach some kind of an agreement to move forward that will avoid
litigation moving forward.
Mr. James. Administrator Mainzer and others are deeply
committed to a collaborative regional process that intersects
with Columbia River System operation that we are conducting
with the other agencies. I truly believe that for there to be
consensus, we will need a very robust collaborative effort
amongst the agencies and the sovereigns, the tribes, the
states, and others.
So, while we negotiate an interim spill operation
potentially, there is no agreement on what that might look like
because there are unanswered scientific, operational, and
economic questions as a result of that.
We also are committed to a robust EIS process with the
other agencies. That is a public process that many people in
this room are involved with.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Glen Spain, could you speak to the
possibility of us being able to negotiate this?
Mr. Spain. There are already some collaborative efforts
that the Columbia Basin Partnership, which I am a member in,
and several other people have representatives there as well.
The Columbia Basin Partnership is an ongoing process to try to
work around this and envision a 100-year restoration effort,
what do we want the basin to look like after we fix it, what
will it look like fixed. So, there are those efforts.
I want to correct one thing that I think needs correction,
and that is the judge threw out the 2014 BiOp because it was
based on an illegal standard. But also, the science continually
moves forward. We had no anticipation that spill would be as
useful or as effective a tool as it turns out the recent
studies have shown that it is. That was not factored into the
original BiOp. That will be factored into the next BiOp.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Why do you think the NOAA science,
the Corps science does not back that up?
Mr. Spain. Well, actually, it does, and I would refer you
to Note 20 and 21 of the two recent studies where it is fairly
conclusive, with broad scientific consensus, including the
agencies, that spill is an effective mitigation measure. That
was not known back then. Keep in mind that the----
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Are you speaking to the additional
spill? Because we are not saying go backwards, but we are
saying let's make decisions based upon science and what is best
for the fish moving forward.
Mr. Spain. There we very much agree, but the old BiOp was
based on old science. Science moves forward. We need to
incorporate, and the judge required us to incorporate the best
available science. That is what we are working on.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. OK, thank you.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. We are going to start our last and
concluding round of questions. I will begin.
I want to thank Representative Newhouse. This morning you
helped me, you led a tour of the Ice Harbor Dam east of the
city here, and that was very informative. The Army Corps of
Engineers is there. The dam administrator and other people were
there. We heard a lot about the science and engineering that
goes into not just the dam itself but the efforts to make sure
that the fish going upstream and the juvenile fish going
downstream have as easy a road as possible. So, it was very
informative and fascinating, and was very helpful to this whole
I want to ask Ms. Green a question, and, Mr. Rich, feel
free to jump in as well. Without dams on the Lower Snake River,
transportation would be devastated. There would be no barge
traffic. What does that do for the agricultural producers, and
are there some areas of production that don't even have access
to other transportation at this point in time?
Ms. Green. I would say there are areas that don't have
access to rail transportation.
Mr. Lamborn. OK.
Ms. Green. I think we all have access to trucks. But as we
have stated, the increase in the amount of trucks it would take
to transport the wheat that is currently transported on barges
would probably be devastating to our infrastructure. I don't
believe we have the highway system to support that.
And as far as a farmer, as a producer, economically, it
would significantly increase our cost of production, our cost
to transport our crop to the market. Having the three different
modes of transportation, which is barge, rail, and truck, they
tend to keep each other in check. We are not subject to a
monopoly. So, I am sure that our transportation costs would
significantly increase. We already operate on very tight
margins, so that would be devastating.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Thank you.
Mr. Rich, real briefly, and then I am going to finish up
with someone else.
Mr. Rich. The barge industry, when I take a look at this, I
see the 13 elevators between the Tri-Cities and Lewiston, and
if those elevators had another way to go that made more sense
for them economically, they would take it. I look back at the
extended lot closure that occurred here on this river, the
first one back in 2010-2011, there was quite a concern that the
barge wouldn't be able to get to market. Through a series of
efforts to educate the wheat availability, the long and short
of it is that over the 3-month period that there was not
barging available, that wheat came down the river afterwards.
It was rather amazing to our industry to see that when given
the choice between paying higher rail or incredibly high truck
prices--and, by the way, this isn't a comment about high prices
with trucking, it is just a cost of transport. So, to be able
to see that the people who had a choice for 3 months to choose
to hold their product and ship it by barge shows how incredibly
important it is to those shippers. And those shippers aren't
just companies, those are people and farmers.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
My last question is for Ms. Flores. One of the phrases that
caught my attention this morning is from one of the
administrators of the dam. He said that their goal was to make
the dams transparent to the fish so that going downstream, as
well as coming upstream, it was as if the dam wasn't there. In
other words, to make their course both ways just as if it was
natural conditions in terms of survivability. I think you
pointed out it is not 100 percent, even in the wild it isn't
Was the old agreement better to achieve that goal, which I
think is a goal we all share, than the new spill order from the
Ms. Flores. In my opinion, yes. And the reason for that is,
again, back to more spill isn't always better. One of the
things that more spill also does is it pulls young fish
migrating downstream away from the fish slides that have been
installed at the dams, or their equivalent, and we have Army
Corps data that show the highest route of passage at the dams
is over those fish slides. So, when you spill more, you are
literally pulling the fish away from the highest route of
When the dams were overhauled and $2 billion was spent on
fish slides and other bypass means, they actually worked. They
are providing very high survivals on the level, as stated by
Dr. Kareiva, as undammed rivers.
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you. It was kind of amazing to see the
movable apparatus. What was that called?
Ms. Flores. Movable spillway wares.
Mr. Lamborn. Yes, movable spillway wares, a marvelous piece
of technology that helped the fish survive going downstream in
higher percentages, which I think is a goal that we all
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have a letter here from the Tri-Cities Legislative
Council, writing with their support for H.R. 3144, as well as
for the passage of some of the critical measures to return
stability and certainty to our river power system. I just want
you to know the Legislative Council is made up of local
businesses and Chambers of Commerce, public utility districts,
and economic development organizations.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to submit this
for the record.
Mr. Lamborn. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you.
Just a couple more questions. And, again, thank you to all
the panelists for being here today.
Mr. James, I have worked very hard in my short time in
Congress to support the Bonneville Power Administration and
public power as a whole. Mr. Mainzer testified in front of this
very Committee in our Nation's capital that H.R. 3144, the
legislation introduced by Representative McMorris Rodgers and I
to provide certainty and reliability for the Federal river
power system, would help BPA better manage the transmission
system in a more effective and constructive manner. I am sure
you know word for word his testimony. Would you agree with that
Mr. James. Yes.
Mr. Newhouse. OK. Let me just share with you that while
working on your behalf, I need your help as well. You have to
be an advocate for yourself by helping to push for this
legislation to be signed into law. Frankly, I have not always
found BPA's support for this legislation to be shared as
strongly and directly with those who need to hear it most. You
guys are the experts, and people need to hear from you.
So, just a simple question, Mr. James--can I count on you
to be a more vocal, steadfast partner in this effort?
Mr. James. We will absolutely provide all the information
that is asked of us, absolutely.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, appreciate that. We desperately
Just one other question, Mr. Heffling. Your knowledge and
expertise is a testament to over 30 years of experience in
working this river system. It was more than 30, wasn't it?
Thirty-seven? Did I hear that?
Mr. Heffling. Thirty-three.
Mr. Newhouse. Thirty-three. Don't want to age you too soon.
My humble opinion is that one judge in Portland doesn't
know how to manage this river system better than the experts
and the professionals, the workforce who work day and night to
keep the lights on for the entire Pacific Northwest. Did you
have any thoughts on that?
Mr. Heffling. Just that a judge or outside interests cannot
know how all of the improvements that have been put into place
work and how they actually benefit fish. Those of us that are
there every day operate this equipment, maintain this
equipment. We see the results. We see how it works. We see how
the fish pass.
I would just say we see it work, so I would think we have a
better idea of what works, what we should be doing, and besides
that we have the fish passage plan that we always follow when
doing anything, what units we run, what load we run, what spill
gates we operate. It is all part of the fish passage plan, and
when we move outside of that, I don't see how anybody can
determine what is working if you are not using an established
plan and finding out what the results of that plan are.
Mr. Newhouse. Yes. It is a complex system, to say the
least. Thank you very much, and thank you for your years of
service in that effort.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I will yield back the balance of
Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
We will have the final questions from Representative
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think in
my final question I would just like to reflect a little bit on
the importance of that established plan. Since the salmon were
first listed, and we have reflected this morning a lot on the
Columbia-Snake River System and all that it means to us, the
lifeblood of our economy. It is the foundation of our economy,
whether it is agricultural, manufacturing, technology. We have
reflected on billions of dollars of investment in research and
in technology to improve the fish runs. We have highlighted
that fish runs are improving across the board, and that we have
actually seen fish runs that exceed when the dams were actually
Why I believe it is so important that we get the Biological
Opinion in place is the certainty that we need. For me, the
question is who is going to be the one putting this plan in
place? We have been in the court now for a couple of decades
trying to get a plan in place, and we continue to run up
against a judge who thinks that they know better as far as how
to manage the Columbia-Snake River System.
I want to start with Ms. Flores and ask you--and I want to
ask others too, as time allows. Would you speak to the
financial impact on BPA that is passed on to the Pacific
Northwest ratepayers due to the litigation, and what is the
potential risk if litigation and unpredictable court rulings--
what is the impact of that continued litigation on our
hydropower generation and BPA's solvency?
Ms. Flores. Yes. As I noted in my comments, Bonneville, in
part, fish and wildlife is a prime driver of recent Bonneville
rate increases. Over the last few years, they have had to
increase their rates by 30 percent. There was a 5.4 percent
rate increase for 2018-2019, and then we had the spill
surcharge. And all of this is adding to Bonneville's current
What I would say is of even more concern is the possibility
for future rate increases. Can you imagine not knowing how the
Federal hydro system is going to be run next year? That is
amazing to me. We don't know exactly how much more that might
cost, if anything, but we are very concerned about the
prospects for future rate increases, which then contribute more
to Bonneville's financial woes.
Contracts with the customers expire in 2028. Customers that
purchase all or most of their power from Bonneville, they will
be looking for options many years before that, and they want
Bonneville to be solid and stable and a preferred choice. But
they are obligated, if there are market choices, to go out to
the market and get the most cost-effective power they can for
So, I think we are all in agreement that we want Bonneville
to stay healthy and stable, but where this fish issue is going
with respect to the BiOp and litigation, we are very, very
concerned about how that will translate into future rate
increases and what that means for Bonneville.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Mr. Bonneville, do you want to
Mr. James. What Ms. Flores raised, we describe as our
efforts manifested in the strategic plan that we released in
January of 2018. The thesis statement is, for BPA to continue
to meet its public purposes, it must be a commercially viable
business. That means that we have to have customers. And that
means when our 20-year contracts expire in 2028, that our
desire is to be fully subscribed.
But, as Ms. Flores stated, our customers will have choices,
so we are working very hard to drive our costs down. I
mentioned that one of the things that we have done is to cut
agency spending across the board, including in fish and
wildlife spending, to meet our obligations. One of those
obligations was additional spill.
So, back to something Chairman Lamborn asked me earlier,
where does that replacement power come from? That manifests
itself both in revenue foregone, power that you cannot generate
and cannot sell, and it also means replacement power. That ends
up being a cost. I said it could come from natural gas, that
replacement power could come from any variety of places. It
could come from wind or solar or other hydro, other renewables.
But at the end of the day, we know that it drives our
costs. So, while we drive our costs down across the agency, we
have to carefully manage our fish and wildlife portfolio.
Mr. Lamborn. Coal and nuclear, too.
Mr. James. I'm sorry?
Mr. Lamborn. Coal and nuclear, too.
Mr. James. Oh, exactly, it could come from any number of
sources. BPA also integrates the power from the Columbia
generating station, which is just a few miles from here in the
4th Congressional District.
So, you are right, it could come from any number of
sources, but it is a cost driver for us.
While we manage our costs across the board, we have cut
departments. We are selling an airplane. We have done things
across the board to do exactly what our customers are doing,
which is to tighten their belts. We must also do that with fish
and wildlife, which means that when we are not able to sell
electricity, or when we have to buy it, then that comes at a
cost. We have to manage that like we do everything else.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers. Thank you. I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. That concludes our questions.
I am going to ask unanimous consent to enter three reports
into the record: something from the Washington Policy Center, a
report from NOAA, and an article from the Seattle Times. These
talk about the adverse impacts of spill, the relationship
between dams and orcas, and the cost of replacing power with
wind and solar.
Without any objection, so ordered.
Mr. Spain. Mr. Chairman, something came to my attention.
There was a letter submitted by the American Sport Fishing
Association. I would like that entered into the record too, if
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Without any objection, so ordered.
Now I am going to ask Representative Newhouse to make any
concluding remarks, and then I am going to wrap things up.
Mr. Newhouse. Thank you, Chairman Lamborn. Thank you,
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, both of you, for being here
I am going to also thank our witnesses for providing their
expert testimony, helping us to better understand this complex
system we have here called the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I
think this has been a truly valuable opportunity to help
analyze some of the benefits that we have that we receive from
the power system.
I think there was something I picked up on in Ms. Flores'
comments, and I can't pronounce his name, Dr. Peter----
Ms. Flores. Kareiva.
Mr. Newhouse [continuing]. Kareiva. If you didn't catch his
credentials, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He is a former
Chief Scientist at the Nature Conservancy. He is the current
Director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and
Sustainability. And perhaps most pertinent, he is the former
Director of Conservation of Biology for NOAA at their Northwest
Fisheries Science Center, where he analyzed the Northwest
endangered salmon, and he wrote this just last year, and I
think this is what you referenced, Ms. Flores.
I quote, ``It is not certain that dams now cause higher
mortality than would arise in a free-flowing river. The problem
is that a complex species and river management issue has been
reduced to a simple symbolic battle, a battle involving the
choice between evil dams and the certain loss of an iconic
species. It has become clear that salmon conservation is being
used as a means to an end, as opposed to an end of its own
accord.'' I end the quote there.
While some interests will continue to try to claim that we
must pick one or the other, fish or dams, we know that that
does not have to be the case. We can indeed balance economic
prosperity as well as the environmental stewardship. Fish and
dams can co-exist. We see that happening every day. The Snake
and Columbia River system is a great example of that.
So, I have an ask. I am encouraging all the members of this
community to use their voices to be heard. I will continue to
implore our Senators Cantwell and Murray to help stop the spill
orders, to protect and to save our dams, and to recognize the
magnitude of the benefits that are received by both rural and
urban communities on both sides of the Cascade Mountains that
we get from our rivers. They really do provide for our way of
life, and I would ask you to do the same thing.
I want to thank all of you, our witnesses, everyone in the
audience that has been here this whole morning. I certainly
want to thank the Pasco City Council for allowing us to utilize
this beautiful facility. Thank you, Doc, for letting us be in
your old gymnasium. It has been a pleasure to be here, and I
truly express my appreciation to you, Chairman Lamborn, for
being here. And as always, to my good colleague and friend,
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, thank you for being here as well.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Thank you for your hospitality and
Cathy, I appreciate what you offered as well.
Doc, did you start representing Congress in this area
before the dams were built?
Mr. Lamborn. I know it was a long, long, long time ago, a
long time ago.
Mr. Hastings. No, but the arguments that you hear today are
exactly the same as they were 25 years ago.
Mr. Lamborn. OK. Well, I thank all the witnesses for their
testimony, and I want to thank the audience for your interest.
Please submit any last comments that you might have.
If there is no further business, the Committee stands
[Whereupon, at 12:11 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
[LIST OF DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD RETAINED IN THE COMMITTEE'S
Rep. Lamborn Submissions
-- Article titled ``Errors and Arbitrary Assumptions
Plague Study on Replacing Energy From Snake River
Dams,'' Washington Policy Center, by Todd Myers,
dated April 6, 2018.
-- NOAA Handout titled ``Southern Resident Killer Whales
and Snake River Dams,'' 2016.
-- Article titled ``Dam spills extra water; tons of fish
are killed,'' Seattle Times, by Craig Welch, dated
May 26, 2011.
-- Public Comments Submitted at the Field Hearing.
Rep. Grijalva Submissions
-- Statement for the Record from Shoshone-Bannock Tribe,
by Nathan Small, Chairman, dated September 19,
-- Letter addressed to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member
Grijalva from the American Sportfishing
Association, dated September 7, 2018.
-- Letter addressed to Members of the Committee from Norm
Cimon, InfoSynchronicity LLC, dated September 8,
Rep. Newhouse Submission
-- Letter addressed to Reps. McMorris Rodgers, Herrera
Beutler, and Newhouse supporting H.R. 3144 from
Tri-Cities Legislative Council dated September 5,
Mr. Flores Submission
-- Article titled ``Fealty to symbolism is no way to save
salmon,'' Oxford University Press, by Peter Kareiva
and Valerie Carranza, 2018.
Mr. Hastings Submissions
-- Article titled ``Supportive breeding boosts natural
population abundance with minimal negative impacts
on fitness of a wild population of Chinook
salmon,'' Journal of Molecular Ecology, by Maureen
A. Hess, et al. 2012.
-- Proposed National Marine Fisheries Service Listing
Policy for Hatchery Fish Under the Endangered
Species Act, dated February 2003.