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US House of representatives opposes dam breaching

The US House of Representatives Resources Committee has passed a resolution urging the US Army Corps of Engineers to dismiss removal of the Snake river dams as a measure to save endangered northwest salmon. The non-binding resolution was slammed by the environmental lobby group American Rivers as an attempt by Congress to influence the Corps’ decision.

Currently, every species of salmon in the Snake river basin is listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. This fall the US Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release the results of a five-year, US$20M study considering various salmon recovery options, including the removal of Ice Harbor, Lower Monument, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake river in Washington State. The House resolution does not prevent the US Army Corps of Engineers from completing a study on the possible breaching of the four dams.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee has approved a US$20.2B bill for energy and water programmes that includes US$65M for salmon-saving efforts by the Corps in the Columbia river system. The US$21.6B Senate version of the energy-water bill, which has already cleared that body’s appropriations committee, includes US$70M for salmon restoration in the Pacific Northwest. The House and Senate energy-water bills include language that would put on hold any future efforts by the Corps to study the possibility of drawing down the reservoirs behind the John Day and McNary dams in order to help salmon. Industrial groups worry that a drawdown could hamper other uses of the dams, such as shipping and hydro power.