Reports Detail Draft Lower Snake River, Columbia Basin Deal

There’s a fair amount of reporting out this morning about apparently not-so-secret leaked draft agreements on the future of the lower Snake River dams, hydropower operations and salmon and steelhead restoration in the Columbia Basin.


The Tri-City Herald newspaper and Clearing Up, an energy-sector-oriented publication, are indicating that they’ve gotten ahold of proposed federal commitments around those topics ahead of a mid-December court stay deadline that provided time for parties in a long-running legal case over dam operations “to present a proposed package of actions and commitments to other regional sovereigns and parties to the litigation and then work toward final review and approval of those actions and commitments.”

Clearing Up‘s Steve Ernst and K.C. Mehaffey write that the 34-page confidential document, which they say has been confirmed as authentic by “multiple sources,” reforms the Bonneville Power Administration-funded Northwest Power and Conservation Council Fish and Wildlife Program, advocates for a $2 billion/10-year Mid-Columbia restoration program to be managed by the feds and regional tribes, directs NMFS and USFWS to “work with the states and tribes to ‘”‘seek collaboration with the [Council] to consider management reforms’ to its mitigation programs,” and creates a new “Pacific Northwest Tribal Energy Program,” among other actions.

The Herald‘s Annette Cary reports the draft deal her paper got ahold of “stops short of a federal decision to remove the dams, although it said the U.S. government continues to be ‘committed to exploring restoration of the lower Snake River, including dam breach.'”

Cary also reports that the agreement would look into how to replace the services provided by Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Ice Harbor Dams, i.e., “barging, transportation and recreation.”

That was a key element in Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s $33 billion proposal that really moved the conversation forward a couple years ago.

Later in the day, the Capital Press reported that that confidential memorandum had been released by a Congressional quartet and that it “outlines steps the federal government will take to mitigate the breaching of the lower Snake River dams, but appears to make those steps contingent on Congress authorizing removal of the dams.”

Meanwhile, Central Washington dam advocate Rep. Dan Newhouse (R) tweeted that he and several fellow regional lawmakers have sent a letter to the Biden Administration “requesting additional information on the package of actions and commitments to determine the future of the Lower Snake River Dams.”

He says that apparent agreements reached by the federal government raise a laundry list of questions that need further clarification.