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Washington Lawmaker’s Bill On Snake River Dams Advances To Senate

Nicholas K. Geranios
AP Images
Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Wash., one of four dams connected to a longstanding debate over salmon recovery.

A decades-long debate over four Snake River dams and salmon resurfaced on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday. A billfrom Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) would prohibit removal or other structural changes of dams on the Federal Columbia River Power System.

“Dams and fish can coexist," says McMorris Rodgers. "And after more than two decades in the courtroom, let’s let the scientists – not one judge – manage our river system. And get to work to further improve fish recovery efforts.”

The bill would effectively reverse a federal judge’s ruling from last year, requiring more water be released for salmon and steelhead survival. The iconic Northwest fish are protected by the Endangered Species Act.  

But to Marie Kellner at the Idaho Conservation League, McMorris Rodgers’ bill doesn’t let science drive the decision making.

“If you’re taking away the ability of the dam managers – the agencies that manage them – to manage them in a different way than they are now, then we’re concerned that we’re not going to move toward recovery and instead just further down the road toward extinction," Kellner says. "Because that’s unfortunately where we are right now.”

Kellner says Rodgers and others in favor of the bill are framing the debate in terms of fish versus energy and industry, but she says it doesn’t need to be that way.

Rodgers’ bill passed the House floor, and now goes to the Senate.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

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