Republicans introduce bill to protect hydroelectric dams from Biden

 January 25, 2024

House Republicans have filed legislation that would protect hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest from being destroyed by President Biden.

In December, Biden reached a tentative agreement with tribes and environmentalists to study breaching four dams in the Lower Snake River that are key to the economy of the Northwest region.

Opponents of Biden's plan say it would hurt commerce and energy, while supporters say it is a long overdue measure to restore decimated salmon populations.

Biden blocked...

Biden's blueprint calls for new clean energy installations, operated by local tribes, to offset the hydroelectric power that would be lost in the event the dams are destroyed.

The Lower Snake River dams provide an estimated 8% of Washington's electricity and are key for transporting crops in the region.

Biden's preliminary framework fell short of calling for the dams' removal, which requires approval from Congress, but critics and advocates alike say the plan is a significant trial balloon.

The Defending Against Manipulative Negotiators (DAMN) act would block Biden from using any federal funds to breach the dams. Republican Dan Newhouse (Wa.), the lead sponsor of the DAMN Act, said Biden went behind the backs of major stakeholders in the region.

"The Biden Administration has crossed the line with its blatant, hypocritical assault on the Lower Snake River Dams," he said.

"Historic" upheaval...

Industry groups threatened by Biden's plans are supporting Newhouse's bill, including Inland Power, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, Northwest River Partners, National Association of Wheat Growers, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, and Washington State Potato Commission.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said Biden's "deeply misguided" plan would "devastate communities" in the region and "forever change the way our river system operates."

White House adviser John Podesta did not downplay the impacts of Biden's plan, calling it a "historic agreement" that heralds "a new direction for the Pacific Northwest."

“Today, the Biden-Harris Administration and state and Tribal governments are agreeing to work together to protect salmon and other native fish, honor our obligations to Tribal nations, and recognize the important services the Columbia River System provides to the economy of the Pacific Northwest,” Podesta said.

But some Democrats are pumping the brakes. Washington state's Democrat governor, Jay Inslee, has said the dams cannot be destroyed until the hydroelectric power they provide has been replaced with new clean energy.

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