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Commentaries and editorials

Ag to Inslee: 'Assert
True Leadership' on Dams

by Matthew Weaver
Capital Press, December 16, 2023

"This is antithetical to the stated goals of the mediation for
'...meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region.'"

Commodity Tonnage traveling through the Columbia/Snake River 1990 - 2010 Washington ag groups have sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee requesting that he "Assert True Leadership" and intervene in the federal government's proposed settlement with plaintiffs in a lawsuit over Snake River dam operations.

The settlement was filed Dec. 14 in federal district court in Oregon.

Twelve ag organizations sent the letter Dec. 15 to Inslee, state Department of Agriculture director Derek Sandison, Washington's congressional delegation and state legislators.

In the letter, the groups ask Inslee to delay proceedings and provide for "meaningful input" from their organizations. They argue that farmers, ports, the river transportation sector, irrigators, riverside communities, and river-dependent businesses in Washington state were "knowingly" left out of negotiations.

"As organizations representing millions of your constituents, we are extremely concerned that your administration has been actively negotiating with plaintiffs to the litigation on the Columbia River System Operations (CRSO) to develop the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative (CBRI) and then privately engaging the U.S. government on its response," the letter states. "We are deeply disappointed that the State of Washington's agriculture industry was effectively excluded from this process, even though our members would be directly impacted by significant changes to the river system."

The organizations express frustration that "nobody representing the State of Washington in these private negotiations has provided any meaningful or direct briefings on the substance and the impacts to the agriculture community."

"Our absence is reflected in the fact that navigation isn't mentioned, and irrigation is mentioned only once," the letter states. "This is antithetical to the stated goals of the mediation for '...meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region.'"

From the letter, other concerns cited in the proposed package of actions and commitments include:

"Provided we have had 'de minimis' (too trivial or minor to consider) time to review, unlike those who have been secretly negotiating a lot longer regarding the future of the river system, these are our initial reactions," the letter states.

"We know that you understand the benefits of the river system and the delicate nature of what is being discussed," they write. "We need assurances from the state that our farms and families will not be left behind and that our crops will continue to get to market in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

"We believe the State of Washington should be inclusive of our concerns, not exclusive of them," the letter states.

(bluefish notes: Ag groups signing on were: Columbia Basin Development League, Far West Agribusiness Association, Food Northwest, Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Washington Caflemen's Association, Washington Cattle Feeders Association, Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, Washington Potato and Onion Association, Washington Winegrowers Association, Washington State Dairy Federation, Washington State Water Resources Association)

Matthew Weaver, Field Reporter, Spokane
Ag to Inslee: 'Assert True Leadership' on Dams
Capital Press, December 16, 2023

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