WASHINGTON (July 12, 2022) – Federal agencies announced today the availability of two new reports resulting from a continued interagency initiative to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin, while meeting state and Federal clean energy goals. The reports include: 1) a draft assessment of the state of the science and large scale actions to make progress toward healthy and harvestable abundances of key fish stocks in the Basin; and 2) an assessment of power production portfolios that could offset the potential loss of electric generation from four Federal dams on the Lower Snake River, if Congress were to pursue a new long-term strategy for the management of the Columbia River hydropower system.
“Business as usual will not restore the health and abundance of Pacific Northwest salmon. We need a durable, inclusive, and regionally-crafted long-term strategy for the management of the Columbia River Basin,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory, who is coordinating a Federal interagency effort, launched in October 2021, to develop information and analyses in support of Federal and regional decision-making in the Columbia River System. “These two reports add to the picture – that we are working alongside regional leaders to develop – of what it will take over the decades ahead to restore salmon populations, honor our commitments to Tribal Nations, deliver clean power, and meet the many needs of stakeholders across the region.”
The draft report, “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead,” was prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with input from and support of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). The draft report also includes input from scientists and fish managers from the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon. The draft report will be transmitted to all State and Tribal fish managers in the region for their review over the next 30 days. The draft report identifies actions with the highest potential to achieve the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force’s midrange abundance goals. The actions identified include significant reductions in direct and indirect mortality from mainstem dams, including breaching one or more Lower Snake River dams; management of native and non-native predators; systematic and strategic tributary and estuarine habitat restoration and protection; fish passage and reintroduction into priority blocked areas; and focused hatchery and harvest reform.
While the Administration has not endorsed the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force’s goals at this time or the particular actions identified in today’s draft science report, it is carefully considering this information and ongoing regional efforts as it assesses long-term pathways for the Columbia River basin.
The study on potential power portfolios, which was commissioned by the Department of Energy’s Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and conducted by the private consulting firm E3, presents a range of power production scenarios and costs associated with replacing the electrical power from four Federal dams on the Lower Snake River in the event Congress were to authorize such an action. The study, titled “BPA Lower Snake River Dams Power Replacement Study,” is intended to inform ongoing regional conversations about long-term strategies for providing affordable and carbon free electricity in the region. In two scenarios that assume that emerging energy technologies become commercially available, the study finds that replacing the energy and grid services provided by the dams is possible, and predicts costs from $11 billion to $19 billion, within the ranges of other similar studies that have been commissioned.
“We are at a crucial moment for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin when we’re seeing the impacts of climate change on top of other stressors, and this draft report delivers our scientific assessment of what we must do to make progress towards rebuilding the “healthy and harvestable” fish populations the Columbia Basin Partnership urgently called for,” said Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The Partnership set ambitious goals that would serve the tribes, states, and communities of the Columbia Basin, and urged us to pursue those necessarily ambitious steps to restore these vital species while we still can. Now we need feedback from our fishery co-managers in the region on what that will take.”
“The intensifying impacts of climate change have hastened the need for ongoing work across the Columbia River Basin, including efforts to restore salmon populations, manage native and non-native predators, and uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to Indigenous communities,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looks forward to a broad review and engagement with Tribes, local communities, and stakeholders throughout the Columbia River Basin as we work to restore salmon populations and improve ecosystems across the region.”
“The E3 study provides all stakeholders an independent analysis of the resources needed to maintain deployment of clean, reliable, and affordable power to communities in the Pacific Northwest under various scenarios,” said U.S. Department of Energy Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Infrastructure Kathleen Hogan. “As the region continues to embrace the health and cost-savings of a decarbonized power sector and to further enhance its supply of clean energy, the E3 study can help inform long-term planning decisions, including to limit the impact to ratepayers.”
“Outside of the history of litigation there is now an opportunity and growing need to address restoration of salmon and other threatened fisheries in the Columbia River Basin,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor. “These reports inform the entire region on a range of actions that can benefit salmon restoration while sustaining other specific benefits of the Columbia River system. Restoring salmon and improving the ecosystem while addressing other system benefits is critically important to the Region and Tribal Nations on both sides of the border. In the end, through the interagency initiative, the region can continue to reshape its future through strategic investments, ongoing science, and related actions that help ensure a sustainable and resilient basin that better serves all communities in the basin.”