WASHINGTON, D.C. — After an in-depth review ordered by President Donald J. Trump nearly two years ago, the federal agencies responsible for overseeing the Columbia River have agreed on a management plan that will balance power generation and the needs of wildlife.
In a 94-page Record of Decision issued Monday, senior officials with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration agreed to manage the Columbia River’s dams and water in a way that will both optimize electricity generation and provide enough spillage for salmon and lampreys while also ensuring that Pacific Ocean orcas have enough to eat.
“Federal water infrastructure makes our way of life possible throughout the West,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., in a press release. “Central Washington boasts one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country, and our farmers and ranchers would not be able to produce food and fiber for the world without a reliable supply of our most precious resource: water.”
The Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision is the final step in the Columbia River System Operations National Environmental Policy Act process, according to the press release.
The announcement of the plan signed Monday was met with favorable comments also from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Rep. Russ Fulcher R-Idaho, and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
In October 2018, Trump ordered a review of all western water projects to “address water infrastructure challenges in the western United States” and specifically demand that the Interior Department — which oversees the Bureau of Reclamation — and Commerce Department — which oversees the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — “work together to minimize unnecessary regulatory burdens and foster more efficient decision-making so that water projects are better able to meet the demands of their authorized purposes.”
NOAA and the Department of the Interior jointly developed an action plan to improve the forecast of water availability in October 2019, to “improve information and modeling capabilities related to water infrastructure projects.”
“I applaud President Trump and his administration for working collaboratively to support our federal water infrastructure, ensure reliable water supply and delivery, and develop a plan for the future,” Newhouse said in the press release.
In addition, as part of the process, the agencies also developed a national water reuse plan in February 2020.