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NW Fishletter #379 March 5, 2018

[3] Riverpartners Seeks Bipartisan Support For House Bill To Protect NW Hydropower

Northwest RiverPartners is urging federal lawmakers to support proposed legislation intended to help protect hydropower in the Pacific Northwest at a time BPA faces financial uncertainty.

The alliance of farmers, utilities and businesses sent a letter Feb. 22 to all U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana praising the region's congressional delegation for joining together to oppose "ill-advised components of the President's FY19 budget proposal related to the Bonneville Power Administration's transmission assets and rates."

The letter encourages support for HR 3144, a bill introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) that would allow the Federal Columbia River Power System to operate under NOAA Fisheries' 2014 BiOp until 2022.

"BPA is facing a crisis: Its power rates are far above market rates, largely driven by uncertainty related to escalating fish and wildlife costs and related litigation, and projected to remain so indefinitely," the letter states. "As you well recognize, as long as BPA is competitive and is able to make its annual payments to the U.S. Treasury on time and in full, the agency is well insulated from political attacks from skeptics outside the region."

The letter notes that the bill would allow the National Environmental Policy Act process to continue, as U.S. District Judge Michael Simon has ordered, while postponing continued court challenges over the BiOp while NOAA Fisheries completes an EIS, and a new, long-term BiOp.

"Without a competitive product to transmit over the wires, BPA will remain in a very precarious position and will be challenged to meet all of its important statutory obligations--for providing power, and for protecting fish and wildlife," the letter continues, concluding, "It is far preferable to take modest, sensible action now to help BPA avoid the financial cliff it faces, then to wait and attempt later to bail out the agency--at enormous costs to regional ratepayers and taxpayers."

Terry Flores, executive director of RiverPartners, said the bill is gaining support. In December, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) became a cosponsor of HR 3144, and in late February, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) added his name to the list of sponsors. -K.C. M.

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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