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President Biden Releases Memorandum on Restoring Fish Populations in Columbia River Basin

President Biden on Sept. 27 released a memorandum on restoring fish populations in the Columbia River Basin.

The memorandum says that it is a priority of the Biden administration to honor treaty responsibilities to tribal nations and to carry out the requirement of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act to operate, manage, and regulate the Columbia River System “to adequately protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the Federal dams in the Basin.”

The memo says that it is the policy of the Biden Administration to work with Congress and with Tribal Nations, states, local governments, and stakeholders to:

  • Pursue “effective, creative, and durable solutions, informed by Indigenous Knowledge, to restore healthy and abundant salmon, steelhead, and other native fish populations in the Basin;”
  • Secure “a clean and resilient energy future for the region; to support local agriculture and its role in food security domestically and globally;” and
  • Invest in the communities that depend on the services provided by the Basin’s federal dams “to enhance resilience to changes to the operation of the CRS, including those necessary to address changing hydrological conditions due to climate change.”

APPA said that it is unclear as to how the priorities and policies laid out in this memo are any different than existing efforts and programs designed to protect native fish populations.

APPA has voiced strong support for the continued operation of dams in the Columbia River Basin -- most notably the Lower Snake River Dams -- in multiple forums over the years, most recently in a filing in response to a White House Council on Environmental Quality request for information, “Columbia River Salmon and Other Native Fish Populations.”

APPA members also in March 2022 approved a resolution, “In Support of Hydropower, the Federal Columbia River Power System, and Opposing Breach of the Lower Snake River Dams.”

Public Power Council Weighs In

Responding to the memo, the Public Power Council said that the Lower Snake River Dams “are a critical part of the clean and renewable power system of the Pacific Northwest and we are pleased to see that the Administration has recognized this in the Presidential Memorandum.”

“We are glad the Administration has realized the complexity of the Columbia-Snake River System and didn’t succumb to the false promises of easy solutions advanced by some single interest advocates,” said Scott Simms, CEO & Executive Director of PPC. “At the same time, we hope that future coordinated efforts include full and equal participation by all stakeholders and focus on true collaborative solutions. PPC has been focused on seeking long term, tangible solutions, and meaningful areas of compromise where the health of salmon and a productive hydro system are not positioned as mutually exclusive.”

PPC noted that non-profit Northwest public power utilities have a demonstrated history of funding one of the country’s largest fish and wildlife mitigation programs through the rates paid to the Bonneville Power Administration.

“In fact, these investments have totaled more than $6.8 billion (an average of $685 million per year) for fish and wildlife mitigation measures in the past 10 years and include a span of programmatic investments from habitat and hatchery investments to operational changes and other system costs to accommodate fish and wildlife goals,” PPC said.

“We look forward to this Administration shining the light on the kinds of support public power ratepayers are providing right now – not only to fish and wildlife – but also to the health and safety of this region through reliable and carbon-free generating resources,” Simms said.

“These resources are helping the region confront extensive headwinds, such as extreme climate events, new policy goals, rapid electrification, and increasingly stressed grid conditions. High quality electric service is a basic human need that must be available to all people, including those in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas of our region,” Simms added.

PPC said it continues to stand ready to work with various agencies to evaluate the programmatic recommendations and opportunities that supplement the efforts already being undertaken by Northwest public power through their funding of BPA programs.

As far as the interagency collaboration in this challenging federal process, “we remain as ever, committed to fish recovery,” Simms said.

PPC is an association that represents over 100 consumer-owned electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest.  PPC’s mission is to preserve and protect the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System for consumer-owned utilities, and is a forum to identify, discuss and build consensus around energy and utility issues.


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