Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) Executive Director Neil Maunu testified today before an oversight hearing held by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries. The Committee held this hearing entitled “Left in the Dark: Examining the Biden Administration’s Efforts to Eliminate the Pacific Northwest’s Clean Energy Production” to discuss our concerns with the ongoing mediation process and recent leak of a draft proposal by the U.S. Government and the plaintiffs, developed for eight months in secrecy. A subset of PNWA membership, the Inland Ports and Navigation Group, or IPNG, has been a defendant-intervenor in the decades-long litigation surrounding salmon and 14 federal dams in four Northwest states. That litigation has been under a stay since October 2021, during which time the litigants have engaged in a mediation process led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
In his testimony, Maunu highlighted PNWA’s frustrations with the mediation process. Our attempts to engage in good faith within this process and provide input and expertise fell on deaf ears. Our members and their communities rely on the Federal hydropower projects on the Columbia & Snake for their livelihoods. The Columbia Snake River system and the systems of locks and dams serve as a crucial transportation corridor for Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, supporting the trade and economy of these states. Spanning 360 miles, the inland waterway connects Portland/Vancouver to Lewiston, Idaho, facilitating the annual transportation of around 8.6 million tons of goods as well as 25,000 cruise passengers. The system’s eight navigation locks and 14-foot inland channel are essential to the nation’s navigation infrastructure. Our members are deeply concerned with any attempts to breach the dams or functionally modify any of their original authorizations by the White House. Congress, and Congress alone, holds the authority to modify or breach these projects, and although the Administration has admitted this, major concerns still remain around the potential modification of these projects.
“We are frustrated. We have made it clear to CEQ, FMCS, and to anyone who will listen that we are tired of not being represented in this mediation process; we are tired of not being able to take part in meaningful negotiations. We could actually get behind a lot of what is in this document, but the rest – the parts that were negotiated in secrecy without proper stakeholder input–by those of us who live and work in this region– are show-stoppers. This is a failed process.” said Neil Maunu, PNWA Executive Director. “A critical reassessment of this process is essential. The USG Commitments lack specificity, rely on flawed science, and completely overlook the vital transportation, supply chain, and resiliency concerns of our membership. We demand a seat at the table. The CRSO BiOp and Record of Decision exemplified a sound approach to navigating complex issues and diverse stakeholder perspectives, and we advocate using that as the benchmark for ensuring a fair and transparent process. Beyond the immediate risks to river transportation, navigation, and safety, the very livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands reliant on this river system hang in the balance.”
PNWA is a non-profit trade association that advocates for federal policies and funding supporting regional economic and environmental sustainability. PNWA represents over 150 public ports, navigation, transportation, trade, tourism, agriculture, forest products, energy and local government interests in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.