AW Seeks Stronger Protections for PNW Rivers
On Friday, July 25 American Whitewater submitted comments to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on its Draft Amended Fish and Wildlife Program. The Council's Fish and Wildlife Program is the largest fish and wildlife recovery program in the U.S., designed to protect and enhance fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin, and mitigate the impacts of the Columbia River hydropower system. The Program covers a wide range of topics that apply to the Columbia River Basin and other areas in the Pacific Northwest.
American Whitewater focused our comments on strengthening the Protected Areas program, which protects over 44,000 miles of rivers and streams throughout the region from new hydropower projects. Protected Areas are vitally important today as hydropower developers and the Department of Energy seek to increase hydropower production throughout the country–especially in the Pacific Northwest.
Several comments were submitted last fall from hydropower interests encouraging the Council to
either eliminate Protected Areas completely, or weaken the program by reinstating a process that
would allow hydropower developers to seek an exception for their projects in Protected Areas.
There are currently three active proposals for hydropower projects in Protected Areas, including
Black Canyon Hydro's project in Ernie's Gorge on the North Fork Snoqualmie in Washington,
Snohomish PUD's proposed project at Sunset Falls on the South Fork Skykomish in Washington,
and Twin Lakes Canal Company's proposed project at the Oneida Narrows on the Bear River in
Protected Areas were established in the 1980's by the Council to protect sensitive rivers and streams where the major negative impacts of hydropower development can not be reversed. This spring, the Council made it clear that Protected Areas were still an important part of restoring fish and wildlife that have been impacted by the Columbia River Hydropower System. However, despite receiving overwhelming feedback last fall from federal agencies, tribes and numerous conservation organizations, including American Whitewater, and members of the public, the Council placed an exception process back into the Draft Program. Read American Whitewater and other's comments and recommendations from last fall.
In this round, American Whitewater urged the Council to reconsider their decision and keep Protected Areas free from hydropower, recommended ways to strengthen the Protected Areas program, and encouraged the Council to examine ways to integrate its restoration efforts with dam removals in the region. You can view comments and tesitmony from public hearings from this summer, including those from American Whitewater, here.
The Council will consider comments on the Draft Amended Fish and Wildlife Program this summer and release its final draft in September.