Opinions / Op-eds

Congressman Fulcher’s Statement on the Biden Administration’s Attempt to Undermine Congress Over the Snake River Dams

WASHINGTON D.C. – On Thursday, December 14, the Biden Administration announced a potential 10-year stay in the Lower Snake River Dams mediation with over $1 billion in additional funding for fish restoration and studies to offset the hydropower, transportation, and recreation benefits that these dams provide. 

“The Biden Administration seems to be forgetting that Congress has the sole authority over the Snake River Dams,” Congressman Russ Fulcher said. “Not the executive branch. These agencies are supposed to be implementing policy, not making them. This is a legal proceeding with the administration evading Congress by setting up a new policy, and that is illegal.”

The Congressman explained the wealth generated from these dams means Idahoans can keep families intact, communities whole, and economic opportunities in place. Congressman Fulcher said that generations of Americans have relied upon these energy and transport systems to make a future for their families and their communities. Yet, these key stakeholders have been left out of the conversation.

“Without the lower Snake River dams,” Congressman Fulcher said. “Families will go without power in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The economic ruin that is certain to follow will not provide justice to communities across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon already surrounded by federal lands rife with bureaucratic red tape. The Columbia River System Operations is an essential maritime highway that navigates the export of grain and other crops to feed the world, and the stakeholders that work with these dams firsthand have been ignored through this process.”

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The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association has been front and center during these conversations demanding to have their rightful seat at the table. As a collaboration of ports, businesses, and public agencies, the PNWA works to support the navigation, energy, trade, and economic development throughout the Northwest.

“The exclusion of regional voices from the negotiations is a missed opportunity to address these multifaceted issues, signaling a top-down decision-making process removed from those it affects,” PNWA Executive Director Niel Maunu said. “This is extremely apparent by the lack of attention given to the transportation study aimed at examining the impacts of dam breaching with only a meager $750,000 allocated for an impact study, which starkly contrasts with the in-depth $10 million analysis suggested in the Murray-Inslee Report. A fully informed approach, accounting for all repercussions to our transportation network, is indispensable – the current proposal grossly underestimates this need.” 

Overall, 50-60 million tons of cargo are transported through the Snake River Dams via barges each year. This is the equivalent of 151,000 semi-trucks or 39,000 rail cars. For the Idaho Grain Producers Association, taking out these dams would be detrimental to their daily operation. 

“The dams on the Lower Snake River are critical to Idaho’s grain growers,” Stacey Satterlee, Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director said. ” In addition to producing energy that our state and region have an increasing demand for, approximately half of Idaho’s wheat crop, which was 116 million bushels in 2020, is barged from Lewiston to customers around the world. In fact, 10% of U.S. wheat moves through the dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Barging is the lowest-carbon-emission, most efficient mode of transportation available to move wheat. The benefits the dams provide in terms of barging, power generation, recreation, and irrigation cannot be replaced.”

These dams are the backbone of rural communities across the Northwest in more ways than one. Leslie Druffle, Outreach Director at the McGregor Company explained that the U.S. Government’s agreement with the six sovereigns presents serious concerns beyond river users that will impact the entire region’s ratepayers, farmers, barging, cruise operations, ports, irrigators, and rural communities.

“Our frustration with the agreement and the process by which it was created is only tempered by the USG’s acknowledgment of Congress as having the sole authority to breach any of the Federal hydropower projects on the Columbia & Snake River system,” Druffle said. “The McGregor Company stands together with Idaho agriculture and will continue to support fish recovery efforts that do not include unnecessary dismantling of clean hydropower or actions that cripple our rural communities.”

Lewiston is one of those communities that will feel the heavy impact of any removal of the dams, as it is home to the most inland port in the Northwest and provides economic development, international trade, and so much more to the region, all with the help of the Snake River Dams.

“Removal of the Lower Snake River Dams would destroy river commerce at the Port of Lewiston and for the LC Valley,” Scott Corbitt, Port of Lewiston General Manager said. “The tremendous economic advantages for Idaho farmers and Idaho industries that utilize the rivers would dry up, along with the river. Our future growth into industries such as river cruising would be impossible without the LSRD. The lifestyles of the people of Lewiston are built on the existing rivers, and dam removal would undercut that foundation and adversely change our way of life.” 

Cities such as Lewiston are also seeing a spike in tourism and economic development around their port thanks to companies like American Cruise Lines, which offers a Snake River cruise to thousands of people each year. Travelers stay onboard beautiful American-made vessels, see the beauty of the Northwest, and have the ability to learn firsthand about what dams do and how they provide to the community.

“The growth in cruising on the Columbia Snake River System has brought significant economic development benefits for communities throughout the Northwest,” Kristin Meira, American Cruise Lines Government Affairs Director said. “The locks and dams on the Snake River make it possible for the vessels to reach Lewiston, Idaho, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the area each year. All this would be lost if dam breaching occurs, with ripple effects at hotels, excursion providers, and the Nez Perce – Lewiston Regional Airport.

Congressman Fulcher stated he is constantly inspired by the resilience of the farmers, ranchers, barge and port operators, and the recreational tourism, power, and all the immense benefits provided by the Lower Snake River Dams and plans to do everything in his power to keep them in place. 

“With U.S. adversaries competing on the world stage,” Congressman Fulcher said. “Now is not the time for us to return to a dark and bleak anti-growth future. As we progress towards a cleaner energy future, let’s make the systems we have today work for future generations. I cannot in good faith tell the residents of Idaho to trade energy reliability for energy stagnation and economic uncertainty all to meet the whims and desires of the Biden Administration’s push for environmental justice.”

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2 replies on “Congressman Fulcher’s Statement on the Biden Administration’s Attempt to Undermine Congress Over the Snake River Dams”

Perhaps getting more of Idaho under Idaho control is key. Rather, our politicians allow the federal government to own and manage over 60% of Idaho and fight the federal government on the overreach they’ve allowed for years. Solution: keep the federal government out of Idaho.

Agreed, and keep the rinos in the spotlight. Mr. Fulcher has been our most respondant allie for this state, in a state of remorse. I’m pointing fingers, you know, the good ol boys. We Republicans are watching you, in the lime light. No more secrets. We Idaho Republicans have been here a long time. Govenor Phil Batt is still the best real Governor. Vote wisely, we need a Real Republican Governer again.

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