State of Oregon’s Decision to Litigate Undermines Hopes for Regional Collaboration on Salmon
Earlier today, the State of Oregon filed a lawsuit in district court over the federal
government’s latest hydropower operations plan for the Columbia River Basin
and the Biological Opinion in support of the plan under the Endangered Species
Ironically, just last week, a spokesperson for Governor Brown helped unveil the
Columbia Basin Collaborative (CBC). Organized by the governors of Oregon,
Washington, Idaho, and Montana, the CBC hopes to put an end to litigation and
bring the region’s sovereign tribes, states, and stakeholder groups together to
facilitate recovery of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead.
We maintain that the decision to simultaneously pursue litigation while co-leading
this process is wholly inappropriate. For the CBC to be successful, diverse
stakeholder groups must partner in good faith and with open minds as we look
for a holistic approach to salmon recovery. Unfortunately, Governor Brown’s
decision to reestablish Oregon as a plaintiff places all aspects of this
collaborative process in question.
In the CBC kick-off meeting, state representatives spoke of their hope to put
differences aside for the good of salmon recovery, but Oregon’s choice to litigate
means the CBC process won’t be given a fair chance to succeed.
As one of the CBC organizers, Oregon will have a distinct say in who gets a seat
at the table, the ground rules for participants, and ultimately which policies
receive the CBC’s stamp of approval. Now, as a plaintiff, the State’s decisions
must be examined through the lens of its desire to make the strongest legal case
The timing of this litigation also comes as the region considers the proposal put
forth by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to set aside $35-40 billion in federal
infrastructure spending to breach the lower Snake River dams. Oregon’s actions
could potentially have negative implications for those discussions started by the
Simpson proposal as well, by encouraging parties to retrench into traditional
Inspired by an updated mission in 2019, Northwest RiverPartners has
consistently demonstrated its intention to follow a collaborative path regarding
the future of salmon and dams in the Northwest. While we believe that carbonfree, affordable hydropower is essential for the region’s clean energy future, we
also embrace open-minded discussion and collaborative solutions.
We strongly encourage Governor Brown to put a halt to Oregon’s litigation efforts
and, instead, make the collaborative process of the CBC, that she helped initiate,
a top priority. It is proven that the cycle of endless litigation only achieves
division, and salmon can only be recovered if we work together.
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