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If the four Lower Snake River (LSR) dams are breached...

  • Q. What role can Washington Governor Jay Inslee have in this authority?

  • A. Few people have greater influence than Governor Inslee of Washington State. By law, the Corps must recognize state rights.
    Graphic: Annual average survival estimates for PIT-tagged yearling Chinook salmon hatchery and wild fish combined. Vertical bars represent 95% confidence intervals. Public Law 78-534 (December 22, 1944)
    "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to recognize the interests and rights of the States in determining the development of the watersheds within their borders and likewise their interests and rights in water utilization and control..."

    Leaving this up to the federal government, and the CRSO NEPA process, leaves less assurance to Ice Harbor irrigators. The previous NEPA process, 2002 FR/EIS, left an open question on this important concern.

    Water Supply (from Section 5.11 (February 2002)

    An acceptable modified irrigation system would need to meet the following requirements: 1) the system would be operational prior to breaching of Ice Harbor Dam; 2) the system would function through a full range of river stages without interruption; and 3) the modified system would be able to handle a potentially large quantity of suspended sediment. Under current conditions, pump stations withdraw water from the Ice Harbor reservoir and pump the water uphill several hundred feet to the individual farm distribution systems. Without the pool of water created by Ice Harbor Dam, the pumping station intakes would be completely out of water.

    The first option involved modifying each existing pump station by extending pipes and installing additional or bigger pumps based on increases in lift requirements. During review of this concept, the engineering study team identified a number of technical concerns that indicated that this would not be a feasible option (see Appendix D, Natural River Drawdown Engineering).

    The second option involved the replacement of river stations with groundwater sources. Based on discussions with Dr. Robert Evans, an irrigation specialist in the County Extension office in Prosser, Washington, this does not appear to be a feasible option. Wells present numerous problems. There would likely be difficulties in receiving approval from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). These wells would need to be drilled deep and would, as result, have high initial and operating costs. The well water would also require treatment to counter high pH levels, and high sodium content in the well water could lead to soil sealing problems. There is also some concern that this system could not be installed without some interruption in irrigation water deliveries. Interruption of irrigation water deliveries would severely impact permanent crops, such as orchards and vineyards.

    After consideration of options 1 and 2, the study team focused its efforts on a third option that they determined would technically work and satisfy the criteria outlined above. This option involves a pressure supply system that includes one large pumping station and distribution system with a sediment basin. The system would provide water via a single river pump station and the water would be delivered to each farm through a main pipeline distribution system. Each farm-level pump would also require modifications in order to connect to the main pipeline distribution system. Because it is anticipated that sediment effects resulting from dam breaching would be significant, a sediment basin/reservoir is included as a component of the one large pump station system. The pump station would be located at a narrow point in the river to reduce problems with river fluctuation and meandering. For additional details on this option, refer to Appendix D, Natural River Drawdown Engineering.
    . . .
    The modified agricultural pump system would likely result in increased energy and other operation and maintenance expenses as well. Additional lift of the irrigation water with new pumps or the conversion of existing pumps would result in higher operating costs. Specifically, the greater horsepower would increase the cost of power to the water user. Added equipment could also require greater maintenance expenditures and could increase future replacement costs.

    Increased maintenance necessary to treat sediment-related problems, even with a sediment control reservoir in place, is not easily predictable. Replacement of worn parts of pumps, valves, sprinklers, and filters could initially be significant.

    Although the extent of increased operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses associated with the modified irrigation system is not fully understood, additional O&M expenses associated with modifying the existing pump stations are estimated to be $3,573,000 per year (1998 dollars). The estimated modification and O&M costs provide an upper bound measurement of the economic effects to irrigators.
    . . .

    The economic analyses conducted by the DREW Water Supply Workgroup indicate that the cost of modifying the Ice Harbor agricultural pumping stations to provide current water supplies following dam breaching ($291,481,000) would be more than twice the value of the 37,000 acres of farmland that are irrigated ($137,940,000). Given the extensive investment that would be required to maintain existing levels of water supply following drawdown, relative to land values, production would be unlikely to continue on lands that are currently irrigated with water from the Ice Harbor reservoir. A much reduced irrigation system that is designed to continue delivering irrigation water to the estimated 7,750 acres of orchard and vineyard cropland would be more appropriate. Design and cost data for a reduced system are not available. Therefore, the water supply economic analysis used the farmland value method to assess the economic effects of dam breaching (see Appendix I, Economics). In the absence of Congressional funding to modify existing pumps, it seems likely that Ice Harbor irrigators going out of business would be an unavoidable adverse impact.

    It is well worth noting that DamSense has improved upon the 2002 FR/EIS irrigation system modification to design a system that costs only $19 million with electricity pumping costs estimated at an increase of $23 per acre.

    Breaching is reversible, extinction and ecosystem collapse is not.

    The concept of sustainability has been increasingly brought into focus as we have become convinced that all systems on earth are interrelated and that many of today's problems were the solutions of yesterday. Sustainability is, however, a very old concept. Most American Indian cultures understood the importance of sustainability and sustainable development, living in harmony with all things.

    Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendents seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.

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