Council Hosts Annual Tour of Power, Fish, and Water Facilities for Congressional Staff

  • August 27, 2018
Gary James, fisheries program manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, describes the Tribes' fish-handling facility on the South Fork Walla Walla River. Photo: John Harrison

In August the Council hosted 17 staff members of the Northwest congressional delegation on a tour fish, wildlife, and energy projects. The purpose was to educate House and Senate staff members on energy, fish, and wildlife issues in the region, especially as they pertain to implementation of the Northwest Power Act of 1980.

Ben Feider, Chief of Maintenance at Little Goose Dam, leads the tour group through the powerhouse. Photo: Tony Grover

Each year the two-day tour focuses on a certain part of the Northwest. This year the tour focused on water and power facilities and related issues in southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon.

On the first day, the tour visited the Lyons Ferry National Fish Hatchery on the Snake River, which was built to provide partial mitigation for the impacts to fish from the construction and operation the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. The hatchery implements the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan, which is federally funded. Then tour visited one of those four dams, Little Goose, where personnel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam, showed the visitors the powerhouse, fish ladder, and spillways and explained dam operations. The tour then moved on to PacifiCorp’s Marengo Wind Power Project, which includes 78 turbines with a generating capacity of 140.4 megawatts.

On the second day the tour visited the headwaters area of Mill Creek, a tributary of the Walla Walla River and the chief water supply for the city of Walla Walla, where partners including the city, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and the Washington Water Trust have developed a “source switch” of well water for river water to leave water in the creek for the benefit of fish, particularly salmon and steelhead, during the dry summer months. The tour then visited the Water and Environmental Center at Walla Walla Community College, which is a place for environmental groups, businesses, state agencies, agriculture interests, the tribes, and others to work on collaborative solutions to water issues, such as the MIll Creek source switch. The tour then moved on to the South Fork Walla Walla River where the Umatilla Tribes are working to improve spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead and where the tribes also operate a facility for capturing and processing adult spring Chinook salmon. The tribes plan to construct a hatchery at the site in the near future. Finally, the tour visited a winery to learn about the Salmon Safe designation, which is awarded to farms, orchards, and wineries that implement farming practices and developments to protect water quality, maintain watershed health, and restore habitat.

2018 is the 11th consecutive year the Council has hosted a congressional staff tour. In additional to the congressional staff, the tour included three Council members, Richard Devlin of Oregon, Guy Norman of Washington, and Bill Booth of Idaho, Tim Petty, the assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Sonya Baskerville, an executive of the Bonneville Power Administration, and two policy analysts for the Oregon Department of Energy.