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Hydropower Flows Here
BPA and partners release final Columbia River System Operations EIS
7/31/2020 12:00 AM
McNary Dam on the lower Columbia River is one of 14 dams included in the analysis of the Columbia River System Operation Environmental Impact Statement. Together the 14 CRSO facilities produce a majority of the hydropower BPA markets across the west.
The co-lead agencies, BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, published the final Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement, Friday, July 31, after nearly four years of intense study. The final EIS includes an excellent
we encourage you to read. The executive summary serves as an excellent condensation of the information included in the much larger final EIS document.
The final EIS includes the co-lead agencies’ analysis of effects of operation, maintenance, and configuration of the Columbia River System and responds to substantive comments on the draft EIS, which was released in February 2020. In all, the co-agencies received almost 59,000 comment letters on the draft EIS.
“Throughout the development of the EIS, we have listened carefully to the diverse interests across the Pacific Northwest and worked to strengthen regional cooperation, partnerships and understanding of our shared interests,” said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “We are committed to working with our many regional partners and customers to achieve the important goals of long-term salmon recovery and economic vitality for communities throughout the Columbia River Basin.”
The final EIS carries forward the Preferred Alternative identified in the draft EIS with an additional measure added as a result of Endangered Species Act consultations. Public, agency and tribal comments helped identify areas that needed clarity or correction and new discussions in the document reflect public comments and the results of independent external peer review. The co-lead agencies plan to release a record of decision in September 2020 documenting which alternative evaluated in the final EIS will be selected for implementation.
“The overwhelming response of Northwest Tribes, the general public and other stakeholders helped us successfully complete the EIS,” said Brig. Gen. D. Peter Helmlinger, Northwestern Division commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The analysis in the final EIS will support the Record of Decision we will release in September.”
The measures in the Preferred Alternative are anticipated to result in benefits to juvenile and adult ESA–listed anadromous and resident fish, and Pacific lamprey, while providing reliable flood risk management and flexibility for variability in climate conditions, water supply for irrigation and municipal and industry water supply, and flexibility in hydropower generation, while minimizing adverse effects to the human and natural environment. The Preferred Alternative does not include breaching the lower Snake River dams; rather, new, continued or refined actions are recommended, most notably the implementation of innovative operations that balance fish benefits and energy goals by spilling more water in the spring for juvenile fish passage.
The final EIS is the result of several years of regional collaboration among the co-lead agencies and more than 30 Tribes, state, federal and county agencies in the National Environmental Policy Act process.
“Collaboration has been the cornerstone of this process. This document evaluates the necessary balance between responsible environmental stewardship and the multiple uses of the Columbia River System,” said Reclamation Regional Director Lorri Gray.
The final EIS also includes, as appendices, recently completed biological opinions evaluating impacts from the Preferred Alternative on 13 species of salmon and steelhead along with other ESA–listed species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These BiOps document ESA consultation on the continued operation and maintenance of the CRS.
Those BiOps concluded that the Preferred Alternative is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.
The last comprehensive update to the operating strategy for the CRS was issued in 1995. This final EIS responds to the need to review and update management of the System and evaluate impacts to resources in the context of new information and changed conditions in the Columbia River Basin. The document contains detailed analyses of environmental, social and economic benefits and consequences to affected resources of the alternatives considered for improved integrated operations.
The final EIS includes a 50-page executive summary, which serves as an excellent condensation of the information included in the much larger final EIS document. The executive summary will help readers identify portions of the entire document they may want to focus on and read more about.
The final EIS is available for review on EPA’s searchable EIS database:
and the project website:
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