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McMorris Rodgers slates congressional hearing on protecting Lower Snake dams

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(The Center Square) – U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., intends to question federal officials on the future fate of four Lower Snake River hydroelectric dams in Washington state during a congressional hearing later this month.

“The Columbia River System and the Lower Snake River dams are the beating heart of the Pacific Northwest, yet that hasn’t stopped the Biden administration from apparently colluding with special interest groups to lay the groundwork to remove them,” said McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a press release Friday.

“We are deeply disturbed by the blatant disregard for the enormous hydropower, irrigation, and navigation benefits these dams provide, as well as a willingness to ignore the voices of those who depend on the dams the most. It’s past time for full transparency from the Biden administration,” said McMorris Rodgers, who is from Spokane and represents eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District.

The four dams are located in her district and that of fellow Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of central Washington’s 4th Congressional District. Both have been highly critical of closed hearings by federal officials and selected groups who participated in a proposed lawsuit settlement filed in U.S. District Court last month. The pact, which seeks to end decades-old litigation, does not rule out the possibility of breaching the dams to restore salmon and steelhead fish populations in the Snake and Columbia River systems.

The upcoming hearing, titled, “Exposing President Biden’s Plan to Dismantle the Snake River Dams and the Negative Impacts to the United States,” is scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 10 a.m. EST by the House Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security. It will be live-streamed at https://energycommerce.house.gov/.

McMorris Rodgers said witnesses confirmed to appear will include representatives from the federal Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Bonneville Power Administration. There will also be a second panel with stakeholders, and a representative from the Army has also been invited to testify.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the four dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite – located between the Tri-Cities and Lewiston, Idaho.

In May 2001, the National Wildlife Federation and State of Oregon sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, alleging federal officials had failed to take measures to protect endangered salmon migrating along the Columbia and Snake rivers between the Pacific Ocean and spawning habitat in Idaho.

Last month, the Biden Administration announced an agreement involving the states of Washington and Oregon and four tribal nations that was filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon. The pact proposes a 10-year stay in legal proceedings while a plan is implemented to boost fish numbers and survivability, including the possibility of breaching the dams. Judge Michael H. Simon is expected to rule on the proposal, which is opposed by the state of Idaho.

The White House also announced the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative, which Newhouse said would “make our region’s dams effectively defunct … catering to the wishes of extreme environmental activists that do not understand both the importance of the dams to our region, and the consequences of their proposed action.”

Last March, Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers introduced the Northwest Energy Security Act to protect the dams. U.S. Senators Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Steve Daines, R-Montana, produced a companion bill in the senate.

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