Federal Agencies Listen to Concerns and
by Sarah Jacobsen
I spoke with the chairman of the Snake River Multi-Use Advocates, who says
these dams are vital to our economic livelihood and providing clean power to the Valley.
LEWISTON, ID -- Right now, federal agencies are in town, listening to concerns and suggestions regarding the Lower Snake River Dams. There are three federal agencies here in Lewiston, holding court-mandated public hearings, and dozens turned out, all stating their cases.
This is the scene earlier Wednesday night at the Red Lion Inn. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Bureau of Reclamation, and The Bonneville Power Administration are listening to members of various groups, both for breaching the dams, and keeping the systems in place.
These are the first round of public hearings to collect public comment for an environmental impact statement for the Columbia River system which spans 14 federal dams in the interior of the Columbia Basin.
"We have strong interest here in Lewiston we expected strong interest, we had a fair number of people in Spokane and Missoula and as you can see tonight there are a lot of interested people and excited people about this particular project and getting involved,” said Sonja Kokas, Environmental Compliance Officer for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Advocates for a free-flowing river argue, the dams are reducing our salmon and steelhead populations. Conservationist groups included, Friends of The Clearwater, Idaho Rivers United, and Save Our Wild Salmon. Not only are they calling for the dams to be breached, they’d also like to see what they say is a true fish population count in the Environmental Impact Statement.
"I want them to know that there is a whole broad range of the public that want steelhead and salmon restored,” said Sam Mace, Inland NW Director, Save Our Wild Salmon. “We want to ask them to do an honest economic analysis of what these dams are providing and what they are costing us as an economy as a taxpayer, as society, and we want them to look at all options including dam removal."
There are just as many folks who want the dams to stay in place. They say that dams are vital to our region due to agriculture and flood prevention, now that is just a couple of the long list of reasons they support the maintenance and sustainability of our dams.
I spoke with the chairman of the Snake River Multi-Use Advocates, who says these dams are vital to our economic livelihood and providing clean power to the Valley.
"I just think we need to figure out how to make this work with the dams in place,” said Jeff Sayre, Chairman, Snake River Multi-Use Advocates. “You know a lot of taxpayer money has been spent to make improvements all the way down the river and it is working for everyone. and to do a drastic measure like that would be catastrophic for all of the communities that are built up around these rivers, all the way from Portland up to Lewiston.”
Earlier this year, a federal judge criticized the government for failing to consider whether breaching the dams would save the fish.
Today’s (Wednesday) hearings is one of several hearings in the region along the Snake and Columbia Rivers. The agencies are compiling an environmental impact statement of the Columbia River System.
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