House lawmakers push NOAA for Snake River dam report records admin September 1, 2023

House lawmakers push NOAA for Snake River dam report records

Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee sent an Aug. 22 letter to the Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding their investigation into the agencies’ handling of a report on the lower Snake River dams (LSRD).  

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a report in September 2022 declaring that breaching the dams was necessary to achieve “abundant” stocks of salmon, steelhead, and other fish species. The committee requested several documents and records on May 1 of this year as it looked into the apparent reversal of NMFS’s support of LSRD operations. 

“As of this writing, the committee has yet to receive any documents and communications responsive to our requests,” the lawmakers said. “Your unresponsiveness to the committee’s document requests suggests that NOAA and NMFS are deliberately engaging in obstruction to frustrate the oversight power of Congress. This is unacceptable.”

Further, the lawmakers said during a July 23 briefing, NOAA staff “displayed an abnormal commitment to evasiveness and refused to answer certain questions” related to the 2022 report. 

The lawmakers, which include Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and Reps. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said the committee “will not hesitate to utilize the tools at its disposal” to complete its investigation.

NOTE: Breaching the lower Snake River dams has been proposed by some entities as a solution to salmon population decline. NGFA and other stakeholders have emphasized the dams’ important role in the U.S. supply chain and the economic and environmental damage of breaching them. The Columbia-Snake River System is the third-largest grain export corridor in the world, transporting nearly 30 percent of U.S. grain and oilseed exports. Negotiations managed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) began after a district court judge stayed a federal lawsuit over the dams in 2021. The deadline for the confidential mediation process was Aug. 31. NGFA will monitor and respond accordingly to the results of the mediation.