Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is asking House appropriation leaders to protect Snake River dams in any spending legislation considered in the final days of the 114th Congress.
The nation is operating under a continuing resolution, because a spending bill has yet to be passed for the fiscal year that started in October.
Newhouse took the lead on a letter signed by 13 House members sent Thursday to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee. The letter asked that language remain in any spending legislation prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to remove any federal dam.
Similar language was included in the fiscal 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act in an amendment offered by Newhouse and then was part of the base text of the next year’s legislation.
“We believe that it is imperative that language ensuring the continued operation of federal hydroelectric dams remains a top priority as the House of Representatives considers legislation funding the federal government for the remainder of FY2017,” the letter said.
Hydropower dams are not adversely impacting endangered fish populations.
Letter signed by Rep. Dan Newhouse
A federal judge recently ordered the government to study breaching the four Snake River dams to restore diminished runs of wild salmon. The dams are between the Tri-Cities area and Pullman, and produce about 5 percent of the electricity in the Northwest.
“While we share the goal of protecting salmon populations, which are vital to the economies of many communities that rely on fishing and outdoor recreation, the fact remains that hydropower dams are not adversely impacting endangered fish populations, as billions of dollars in investments by utilities has led to fish-passage success rates near 99 percent,” the letter said.
But other groups disagree, including the Nez Perce tribe, which posted an online petition on Thursday as part of a “call to action” on Snake River Dam removal.
“We feel that the salmon recovery is not producing the results that we would like to see,” said Elliott Moffett, president of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, in a video. “The fish aren’t coming back in numbers that would allow us to have salmon as part of our daily meals if we wanted to.”
The letter signed by Newhouse argued that efforts to remove federal dams defy common sense at a time of major water challenges across the West and an increasing need for reliable hydropower.
Federal dams in the West also are essential components of flood control, strategic water storage and irrigation for millions of acres of crops, the letter said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.