Leaked document details energy alternatives to Snake River dams
Nov 30, 2023, 9:57 AM | Updated: 10:42 am
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
A document leaked from the Biden Administration details plans that the federal government is prepared to build clean energy projects in the Northwest to possibly replace power generated by dams on the Snake River.
The document is a draft agreement to uphold 168-year-old treaties with four tribes in the Pacific Northwest that preserved their right to harvest fish in the river, among other things.
In 2021, environmental conservation groups and indigenous tribes sued the federal government to try and increase spillover on the dams, hoping that less restricted access to the river would help salmon populations migrate more easily.
Amanda Goodin, a lawyer for the environmental group involved in the lawsuit, Earthjustice, said that their lawsuit is important in preventing the extinction of salmon species critical to the ecosystem.
“We hope to be able to say on Dec. 15 we’ve achieved that goal, but if we can’t reach that goal or discussions fall apart, we will be prepared to resume litigation on Dec. 15,” she said in a statement.
Of the 16 stocks of salmon and steelhead that are native to the Columbia River Basin, four are extinct, and seven are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The leaked agreement says the government will help plan and pay for tribes in the Pacific Northwest to develop enough clean energy resources to replace the dams should they be removed. The U.S. Congress would have to sign off before any of the Lower Snake River dams in Washington state are removed.
That’s a strong sign the U.S. will consider breaching at least four of the controversial dams.
The draft also includes billions of dollars in funding for analyzing the region’s energy needs, improving transportation infrastructure, making the power grid more resilient and restoring salmon, steelhead and other native fish runs in the Columbia River basin. Oregon and Washington would be partners in the effort along with the four tribes and the federal government.
There has been growing recognition across the U.S. that the harms some dams cause to fish outweigh their usefulness. Dams on the Elwha River in Washington state and the Klamath River along the Oregon-California border have been or are being removed.
Alyssa Roberts, spokesperson for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told the Associated Press the negotiations are ongoing.
“As part of the court-approved confidential mediation with Tribes, States, and other parties to develop a long-term, durable path forward, the U.S. Government is developing a package of actions and commitments that we are discussing with all parties involved in the mediation,” she said in a statement.
In October, Biden directed federal agencies to use all available resources to restore abundant salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin, but Biden’s memo stopped short of calling for the removal of the dams.
Contributing: Associated Press