Take Action: Comment on Northwest Power and Conservation Council Protected Areas

Posted: 08/19/2013
By: Thomas O'Keefe

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is currently amending its Fish and Wildlife Program. This program includes an important "Protected Areas" designation, which keeps about 20% of Northwestern Rivers flowing freely by protecting them from future hydropower development. Protected Areas in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana mitigate the impacts on fish and wildlife of the Columbia River hydropower system and provide refuge as our climate changes and in the face of toxic loads.

Threat: Northwest hydropower developers and utilities currently have more than a dozen projects where they are seeking to build new dams on rivers and streams. Compare this to the rest of the country where there are zero new dams on the drawing board.  At least three, the Sunset Falls and Black Canyon projects in Washington, and the Bear River Narrows project in Idaho would be located on rivers designated within the Protected Areas Program. Dam builders are actively involved in the amendment process and are not only seeking exemptions for these projects but would like to weaken the program overall.

Need for Action: File comments with the NWPCC before the September 17th comment deadline.
Highlight your personal connection to rivers and the importance of the Protected Areas program in maintaining free-flowing rivers. Consider the following points in crafting your comments:
1) Under no circumstances should the Council consider exemptions for new dams in Protected Areas. These critically important and sensitive areas are no place for dams with high environmental impacts, minimal energy generation and negligible public benefit.
2) Protected Areas are more important today than ever before
3) You support continued protection for Northwest rivers and streams.
4) The amendment process is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the Protected Areas program by addressing climate change and new Endangered Species Act listings (bull trout).
5) You support technical upgrades to the program, which will make Protected Areas information more accessible by the public. 
In addition to sending your comments to the Council, go to the website of your state Governor and send an email of your comments.
Background: The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (“NWPCC” or “Council”) is charged with developing a fish and wildlife program for the Columbia River Basin to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the development and operation of hydroelectric facilities, while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply. The current program was adopted in 2009 and is currently being amended (additional information). In 1988, the NWPCC established approximately 44,000 miles of rivers and streams as Protected Areas, where the most sensitive fish and wildlife habitat throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington is protected from new hydropower development. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), charged with issuing hydropower permits and licenses to utilities and private developers, has followed the recommendation of the Council and has declined to issue a single hydropower license for a project located within a Protected Area.

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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