FILE: Rep. McMorris Rodgers

Eastern Oregon Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, listens as former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, and others testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in 2019 during a public impeachment hearing of former President Donald Trump.

(The Center Square) - Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, invites area residents to a town hall next week for a dialogue about current events and issues of importance to them. 

“A Conversation with Cathy” takes place from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, in the Centennial Ballroom of the Spokane Convention Center, 202 W. Spokane Fall Boulevard. Space is limited so attendance is “first come, first served.”

The event will be McMorris Rodgers’ 13th town hall in 2022 within the Fifth Congressional District, which is centered around Spokane, the state’s second largest city. She was first elected to office in 2004 and now serves as Republican Leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In that capacity, she and Sen. James Risch, a Republican from Idaho, took the lead in calling out the Biden administration this week for its “lack of transparency and political intervention in processes that could lead to breaching the Lower Snake River dams.”

Other GOP legislators from the Pacific Northwest signed the letters that were sent Aug. 4 to four federal agencies demanding answers about an “apparent disregard for scientific integrity" in preparing a report that recommending that at least one of four dams be breached help endangered salmon.

Letters were sent to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bonneville Power Administration and Department of Energy.

The documents pointed out that the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision took four years to complete, included multiple comment periods and cost over $50 million to prepare.

That study determined that the dams were critical infrastructure that Northwest communities depended upon for low carbon hydropower and efficient river navigation. It said breaching the dams would require a massive investment to replace the barging system with rail and trucking. In addition, breaching would more than double the region’s risk of power shortages and led to higher emissions of greenhouse cases despite an increase in the use of other renewables.

Conversely, McMorris Rodgers and other GOP lawmakers noted in the letter that NOAA's recent draft report “appears to have been released without process, prior Congressional notification, or any triggering action.”

The letter demands answers about how data was transferred between agencies and the process used to move the report through the review and approval process before its public release.

“The recent actions by this administration have sown complete distrust in this administration’s ability to lead with facts, science, and transparency regarding the Columbia River System,” reads the letter. “These actions will undoubtedly have long-term and damaging effects on this administration’s ability to bring diverse stakeholders together to chart a path forward on species recovery and preservation of the vital benefits of the Columbia River System.”

The Biden administration released two reports in July to bolster the argument that breaching the dams might be both necessary for environmental reasons and economically viable.

Those reports followed another study commissioned by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and Gov. Jay Inslee. That report found that breaching dams from Ice Harbor near the Tri-Cities upriver to Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston, Idaho, could increase the salmon population but cost up to $27 billion.

Washington Democrats have made dam removal a platform plank in 2022 and beyond.

Conversely, Republicans have been fighting back against dam removal. McMorris Rodgers helped get legislation approved by the U.S House of Representatives that includes language prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from breaching the four dams.

Staff Reporter

RaeLynn Ricarte is the author of two books and an award-winning editor and reporter with more than 25 years in the newsroom. She now covers government in Eastern Washington for The Center Square.