H.R. 3144 is a bill based on a huge lie perpetrated on the people of the United States of America. The notion that the fish and wildlife mitigation efforts for the hydrosystem on the Columbia/Snake rivers is working has no basis in fact or reality. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers hailed historic salmon runs as the reason for this terrible bill.
Today, salmon and steelhead runs on the Columbia/Snake rivers are about 10 percent of historical levels before development. The Northwest Council settled on 10-16 million salmon and steelhead annually on the river pre-development. They did this in the 1980s. It is the established baseline for the wild salmon run on the Columbia/Snake.
Today's runs of around 2 million fish are made up of 80 percent hatchery fish and 20 percent wild fish. When Bonneville Dam opened in 1938 we counted about 2 million fish over that dam then, but we caught about 2 million fish before they ever had a chance to get to Bonneville Dam meaning that the baseline as the first dam went in was about 4 million fish and those were a mix of wild or hatchery, but wild fish made up far more of that run than they do today.
For these fish to be delisted from the Endangered Species List we need our wild fish runs to recover. Since we started putting dams on the Columbia/Snake the wild salmonid runs have declined 90 percent.
It is demonstrable fact that claiming our salmon runs at anytime after the construction of Bonneville Dam are historic is a bold-faced lie that lacks any factual basis for which to stand upon.
Dams are not the only obstacle in the way of wild salmonid recovery, but they are the biggest. Chinook runs have been low this year and even more acute this year has been the dismally low steelhead run.
There are many problems that diminish these fish runs, but the dams are the biggest and most constant threat. This year's steelhead run lost 50 percent of the run on their way to sea because of the hydrosystem, 30 percent were lost between the upstream concrete of Lower Granite Dam and the downstream concrete of Bonneville Dam, another 20 percent of those juvenile steelhead died in the slackwater behind those dams.
Idaho's wild and hatchery salmon and steelhead smolts die each and every year by the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions as the water slacks near Lewiston, Idaho.
We lost half on the way to sea in the hydrosystem corridor. Those fish went to sea in 2014, 2015 and some in 2016 that returned for this year's dismal steelhead run.
When they got through the hydrosystem they waited in the estuary near Astoria, Oregon; Chinook and Ilwaco, Washington more of them were eaten by fish-eating birds who are there because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began augmenting East Sand Island in the 1980s with dredge materials and accidentally created some really great roosting habitat for Caspian terns, cormorants and a whole myriad of fish eating birds.
Then those fish swam into the northeast Pacific Ocean into a new phenomenon dubbed The Blob, an area of warm water and there they relied on copepods for sustenance, except copepods in warm water are far less nutritious than copepods in the usual cold waters of the northeast Pacific and many of those steelhead starved to death.
Then the remaining steelhead came back to Columbia River and because of the dams, specifically, because they must swim up a fish ladder at Bonneville Dam they were met with a large number of sea lions who have found the area around the fish ladder as a advantageous location for a meal and they ate more steelhead. Another mortality of our salmon and steelhead that can be attributed to our dams.
A fairly recent poll, within the past six years, of fisheries biologists in the western states found that 86 percent said that breaching the four lower Snake River dams provides the best opportunity for recovery of these fish.
The dams on the lower Snake River are there for a few reasons, primarily for river transport to the "seaport" at Lewiston, Idaho, electric production, recreation and some irrigation.
Transport on the lower Snake River has been described by the US Army Corps of Engineers as "negligible." Shipping is down at least 50 percent over the past 20 years, container shipping is nonexistent. I grew up near the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, so I know what river transport, real river transport looks like and the Corps described what happens on the Lower Snake River accurately when they said the transport was "negligible."
Breaching the dams does not destroy the ports in Lewiston and Clarkston and elsewhere along the lower Snake River. Ports are multi-modal for a reason and everything that ships by barge today, can be shipped by rail tomorrow on the railroad tracks that run alongside the lower Snake River. You heavily subsidize river transport already, you can shift some of those costs to rail and save a whole lot of money over the long run when you aren't shelling out $1 billion in fish and wildlife mitigation and dam maintenance, which by the way, the turbine refurbishments that are in process are quite expensive, there are 26 turbines, the first contract let on the first two of those turbines was $91 million if memory serves.
You and I know the costs on the future contracts are only going to go up. The ESA requires the mitigation, it requires no jeopardy, which thus far eludes the federal government.
The Corps recently spent 48 percent more than they proposed to spend to dredge the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, about $10 million. They want to do this through 2074. They have to do this because those dams don't provide flood control. They are run of the river dams, if you doubt me, ask the Bonneville Power Administration. They mention it in documents.
The reason the Corps is dredging at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers is because those dams cause a greater flood risk to downtown Lewiston.
The dams produce electricity, but these dams never produce their nameplate capacity and these dams make less than 4 percent of the energy used in the Pacific Northwest and this region enjoys a 13 percent surplus of energy production.
Breach these dams and we still have an energy surplus here. It's not like electricity can only be made one way. Wind power in the Pacific Northwest produces three times the energy those dams produce today. Perhaps you can help me turn the current administration's thinking around on solar and wind power because they seem to be against it, rather than being smart and having a wide ranging energy portfolio, which if you're interested in national security and I think you are, is a pretty important piece of the puzzle.
Irrigation, 13 farmers draw water from behind Ice Harbor Dam, that is all of the irrigation that occurs from the reservoirs behind the four lower Snake River dams. Those farmers are members of a small group of 120 farmers who want a God Squad convened to allow salmon and steelhead to go extinct in the Snake River Basin. Their brazen audacity and selfish request aside, if those four dams are breached they don't lose their water, an extension of some pipe to a free flowing river and they don't miss a beat. You are Congress, so yes, you can do that too.
Recreation, there is a study that says we are losing billions of dollars in lost recreation money since that section of the Snake River is not free flowing. You can look into this for yourself, but it is not hard to see when you realize that far more people recreate on the free flowing portion of the Snake River upstream of Lewiston into Hells Canyon than do on these reservoirs downstream of Lewiston.
I want my country to solve problems. There was a time in this country where we actually solved problems. I don't see that very often anymore. Currently, the President likes to exacerbate problems and most politicians like for problems to persist so they can use them as wedges to stay in office.
This is a solvable problem. Breach four dams on the lower Snake River and the wild salmon and steelhead will recover. Throw this terrible bill (H.R. 3144) in the trash and pass a bill breaching the four lower Snake River dams. You all want to save money and grow the economy, right? I just told you how to do it. Make it happen. Thank you for not sponsoring H.R. 3144.