Sending Office: Committee on Natural Resources – Minority Staff
Please join me in opposing H.R. 3144, a bill that will mandate the use of an unlawful operation plan for a series of federal dams in the Pacific Northwest known as the Federal Columbia River Power System. The operation plan mandated by H.R. 3144 threatens
the existence of the Pacific Northwest’s iconic salmon runs, violates our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, jeopardizes thousands of jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industry, overturns the judicial process, and harms tribal fishing interests
throughout the Pacific Northwest. For these reasons, I ask that you join me, the Governors of Washington and Oregon, and numerous conservation, tribal, and business groups in opposing H.R. 3144.
Despite claims to the contrary, H.R. 3144 fundamentally violates our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act. Federal agencies and courts have concluded that the Federal Columbia River Power System – which generates hydropower
from the movement of the Columbia River – causes significant harm to the Columbia River’s native fisheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce has found that the estimated “current annual salmon and steelhead production
in the Columbia River Basin is more than 10 million fish below historical levels, with 8 million of this annual loss attributable to hydropower development and operation.” As a result, there are thirteen species
or populations of Columbia or Snake River salmon and steelhead that are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Instead of allowing responsive, science-based fisheries management that will recover these listed species, H.R.
3144 locks in a failing status quo operation plan that unquestionably harms some of our nation’s most iconic fisheries.
The status quo operation plan for the Federal Columbia River Power System – which H.R. 3144 mandates the use of until at least 2022 – also does not work for hydropower consumers. The status quo operation plan is enormously expensive and has cost taxpayers
and regional energy consumers billions over the past two decades. For two decades, federal agencies have focused on essentially the same approach to saving listed species— modest hydro-mitigation efforts with a predominant focus on habitat restoration. These
efforts have cost billions of dollars, yet they are failing.
If enacted, H.R. 3144 will also cause untold harm to Pacific Northwest tribes and tribal trust resources. Native peoples of the Pacific Northwest ceded most of their ancestral homeland to the United States in exchange for the right to catch salmon and steelhead
at their accustomed places. The federal government has a long history of failing to protect these fishing rights. If enacted, H.R. 3144 would extend this failure and further harm tribal fisheries, which are a critically important source of food and are of
great cultural and religious significance.
Furthermore, H.R. 3144 will harm numerous ecosystem-based businesses by blocking court-ordered water releases from federal dams, which have been shown by several scientific studies to significantly increase salmon survival. The Natural Resources Committee
has received numerous letters from businesses and trade groups opposed to H.R. 3144 due to the harm it will cause to businesses dependent on Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead, including the commercial and recreational fishing industry, guiding and outdoor
retail businesses, and restaurants and food industries based in the Pacific Northwest.
H.R. 3144 also represents a troubling attack on the legal process. If enacted, the bill would overturn legally sound court decisions – by both the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Oregon U.S. District Court – simply because the bill’s sponsors don’t like
H.R. 3144 is opposed by numerous conservation, business, and tribal interests, including the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, American Whitewater,
NW Energy Coalition, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Oceana, the Coastal Trollers Association, the National Wildlife Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Nez Perce Tribe.
Please join me in voting no on H.R. 3144 – a bill that will cause untold harm to the tribes, environment, legal process, and Pacific Northwest businesses that support thousands of jobs.
Raúl M. Grijalva
Natural Resource Committee
 U.S. Congressional Research Service. Endangered Species Act Litigation Regarding Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead (R40169; August 8, 2016), by Stephen P. Mulligan and Harold F. Upton.
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