Northwest RiverPartners Disappointed, Concerned Over Gov Brown’s Divisive Move Towards Litigation
Nov 24, 2020—Yesterday the State of Oregon sent a 60-day notice of its intent to
sue the federal government over its 2020 NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion on
Columbia River System Operations. The NOAA document examined the
potential impact on fish and wildlife from proposed hydroelectric operations and
found that the recommended operations were consistent with the requirements of
the Endangered Species Act.
Northwest RiverPartners is highly disappointed and concerned by Governor Kate
Brown’s decision, which threatens a retrenchment in litigation and signals a move
away from genuinely collaborative discussions that could benefit salmon, the
environment, and Northwest communities.
As a co-convenor of the Four-State Process, and presumably, as one of four
parties with the final say in discussion outcomes, it is wholly inappropriate for
Oregon to consider simultaneously pursuing litigation on the very same issues.
We fear the Governor’s decision will bring our region’s ability to have productive
conversations to a grinding halt. It is imperative that a collaborative dialogue is
upheld and that the region, as a whole, works to restore healthy salmon
populations without jeopardizing fair and equitable access to affordable electricity
for rural and other vulnerable communities.
It is well known that communities of color and other traditionally disadvantaged
groups already carry a higher utility burden than the rest of society. The
Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement made clear
that the removal of the four lower Snake River dams would greatly increase utility
costs, adding further hardship to those who are already struggling to make ends
meet during a time of economic crisis.
Further, this threatened litigation ignores a slew of recent scientific studies which
convincingly tie salmon declines to poor ocean conditions, due largely to climate
change and acidification. These issues cannot be meaningfully addressed by
Governor Brown’s preferred method of breaching the four lower Snake River
dams, and the removal of renewable resources only furthers our climate crisis.
As a result of Oregon’s decision, many regional stakeholders are now
questioning whether those who hold differing opinions will be welcomed to the
table when the Four-State Process begins. If key stakeholders are not included,
the legitimacy of the process may be called into question. At a time when
collaboration is crucial to making real progress, actions that have the potential to
create further division are deeply troubling.
We urge Governor Brown to reconsider Oregon’s intent to seek litigation—which
is almost certain to set back years’ long efforts to bring the region together—if
she wants to truly lead a meaningful and collaborative salmon recovery effort.
About Northwest RiverPartners
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. We also proudly represent
farmers, ports, and businesses across the region that support clean energy and
NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and