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Local Utilities Support Balanced, Focused Columbia River Management

Local Utilities Support Balanced, Focused Columbia River Management

by Mason PUD 3 on

July 25, 2017

Mason PUD 1 and Mason PUD 3 are backing federal legislation supporting the stable management of the Columbia River for multiple uses.

john-day-dam-2.jpg(MASON COUNTY, WA) – Mason County’s two public utility districts have thrown their support behind federal legislation to ensure steady and reliable management of the Columbia River system for power, fish and wildlife, flood control, recreation, and shipping.

Mason PUD 1 and Mason PUD 3 adopted resolutions in support of “House Resolution 3144.” The measure requires federal agencies to follow the current Columbia River management plan. Congressional sponsors include: U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR).

Benton PUD and Franklin PUD, based in the Tri-Cities, have also approved resolutions supporting the federal proposal.

There have been concerns in the Pacific Northwest that moving from a focused approach to one, which suggests experimental measures that may affect reliable energy production, threaten successful salmon restoration efforts, and increase power costs for electricity customers throughout the region.

The legislation would require federal agencies responsible for river management to operate the hydro system in line with a plan implemented in 2014 for salmon recovery, hydropower generation, flood control, shipping, and recreation. The plan would remain the guideline for river system operations through 2022, unless replaced under an evaluation process now underway.

Despite the success of the current river management plan, Judge Simon, United States District Court for the District of Oregon, rejected it and ruled more options need to be reviewed. This could include breaching or removing one or more of the four Snake River dams.

“If approved, the bill will provide relief to what seems like endless lawsuits filed over federal hydro system operations,” said Linda Gott, Mason PUD 3 Commissioner. “The management of the Columbia River system has been scrutinized and supported by top scientists through several presidential administrations. Changes in dam operations by using new fish passage technologies have resulted in wild salmon numbers trending significantly upward.”

“BPA has spent $15.28 billion on infrastructure and fish mitigation projects since 1978,” said Jack Janda,” Mason PUD 1 commissioner. “All of that money comes from rates paid by Pacific Northwest public power customers through their electricity bills.”

Background

The federal legislation 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”:

  1. Offers a creative solution that is good for both listed salmon and the economy of the Pacific Northwest and Mason County.
  2. Provides relief from continuous litigation over federal hydro system operations by directing federal agencies to implement the current federal salmon plan, known as the 2014 Supplemental BiOp. The BiOp was scrutinized and supported by the Obama Administration’s top scientists. It has resulted in wild salmon numbers trending significantly upward due to changes in operations, and installation of new passage technologies.
  3. Provides time for federal agencies to complete court-ordered National Environmental Protection Act environmental review processes analyzing federal hydro system operations, and focuses the general agencies limited resources on determining correct solutions.
  4. Without the legislation, the agencies would be compelled to author a new 2018 BiOp without the benefit of the new science and public input provided by the comprehensive NEPA review.
  5. Avoids experiments or spill tests at eight Columbia and Snake River dams (dams); studies and modifications at the dams which would restrict electrical generation; and which creates uncertainties in BPA’s power costs and supply, thus affecting Pacific Northwest electric customers’ rates.

RESOLUTION 1687

A resolution of the board of commissioners of

public utility district no. 3 of MASON county

Supporting H.R. 3144 Federal Legislation Addressing THE Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion

           

WHEREAS, Customers of Public Utility District No. 3 of Mason County, Washington, (the District), receive 84% of their electricity from hydroelectric dams in the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS); and

            WHEREAS, hydropower provides 70 percent of Washington state’s renewable, affordable and reliable electricity and 60 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s electricity, the majority of which is generated by the FCRPS; and

            WHEREAS, hydroelectric dams also provide many benefits to the region, including hydroelectric generation, flood control, navigation, irrigation, and recreation; and

WHEREAS, federal legislation requires the federal agencies responsible for the management of the FCRPS – Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), U-S Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation – to operate the hydro system in compliance with the Biological Opinion (BiOp) approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in 2008/2010 and supplemented in 2014; and

            WHEREAS, the FCRPS Biological Opinion (BiOp) has successfully improved fish runs including 97% of young salmon successfully passing by each dam, proving that dams and fish can coexist; and

            WHEREAS, BPA and its public power customers have spent $15.28 billion on infrastructure and fish mitigation projects since 1978; and

            WHEREAS, despite the success of the current FCRPS BiOp, in March 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon (Court) raised concerns on how the FCRPS has been managed; and

            WHEREAS, the Court directed the federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review of hydro operations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and strongly urged the federal agencies to include analysis of the removal, bypass or breaching one or more of the four lower Snake River dams; and

            WHEREAS, 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”, was introduced in the United States House of Representatives to ensure the FCRPS BiOp remains in effect until 2022, and

WHEREAS, the federal legislation would continue federal hydro operations through September 30, 2022 or until the court-ordered, comprehensive environmental NEPA process concludes and judicial review is complete, and

            WHEREAS, the federal legislation would allow for limited agency flexibility in hydro operations should there be a need to protect public safety, transmission and/or grid reliability and stability, and

            WHEREAS, the federal legislation would prohibit, unless approved by Congress, studies, plans or structural modifications at the dams which would impair hydroelectric power generation or navigation on the Columbia River; now therefore

            BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utility District No. 3 of Mason County (the Commission), Washington, supports federal legislation H.R. 3144, introduced to provide for operations of the Federal Columbia River Power System pursuant to a certain operation plan for a specified period of time.

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the District supports this legislation as it:

  1. Offers a creative solution that is good for both listed salmon and the economy of the Pacific Northwest and Mason County.
  2. Provides relief from continuous litigation over federal hydro system operations by directing federal agencies to implement the current federal salmon plan, known as the 2014 Supplemental BiOp. The BiOp was scrutinized and supported by the Obama Administration’s top scientists. It has resulted in wild salmon numbers trending significantly upward due to changes in operations, and installation of new passage technologies.
  3. Provides time for federal agencies to complete court-ordered NEPA environmental review processes analyzing federal hydro system operations, and focuses the general agencies limited resources on determining correct solutions.
  4. Without the legislation, the agencies would be compelled to author a new 2018 BiOp without the benefit of the new science and public input provided by the comprehensive NEPA review.
  5. Avoids experiments or spill tests at eight Columbia and Snake River dams (dams); studies and modifications at the dams which would restrict electrical generation; and which creates uncertainties in BPA’s power costs and supply, thus affecting Pacific Northwest electric customers’ rates.

            ADOPTED by the Board of Commissioners of the Public Utility District No. 3 of Mason County at an open meeting this 25th day of July, 2017.