Dam Breaching and Shifting from Barge
by Pacific Northwest Waterways Association
to Rail are Not the Answers for Fish
Response Letter, February 2004
A response to American Rivers' January 16, 2004 press release and study release
To further justify its call to breach the four Snake River dams, on January 16, American Rivers released a transportation study they commissioned. They state that the costs are "very oddest" to shift cargo from barge to rail. The study they cite, in fact, says such costs "are estimated to exceed $1 billion".
American Rivers also says the cost for shipping grain would increase by 2.9 to 7.1 cents per bushel. That doesn't mesh with reality. Today, there is price competition between the two modes. According to Arvid Lyons, Manager of the Lewis-Clark Terminal Association, a major grain shipper based in Lewiston, Idaho, "We can ship grain by rail from Nampa, Idaho or by barge from Lewiston. Both are the same distance from Portland. To ship by rail from Nampa costs twice as much as shipping by barge from Lewiston." Without competition, rail rates are likely to increase even more.
More importantly, the study does not change the basic facts about dam breaching:
Breaching dams is extreme and it is risky.
Breaching dams is expensive.
- Taking ot the dams may do nothing for the fish. It may even harm them. The Lower Snake River Feasibility Study EIS chose a non-breach alternative. NOAA Fisheries (formerly NMFS), in their 2000 biological opinion, chose a non-breach approach.
- Dam breaching is not a silver bullet. The ocean, not the dams, may be the controlling factor. Fish have been returning in record numbers over the last four years. Juvenile survival has increased dramatically to nearly double what it was in the 1970s. New measures, such as the removable spillway weir and fish-friendly turbines, continue to improve juvenile survival.
- With 26 Northwest fish runs listed under the ESA, only four are on the Snake River. The decline in fish runs is far broader than the Snake River dams. Taking out the dams does nothing for the other 22 runs.
Breaching dams is bad for the environment.
- Barging is just one of many economic benefits of the river system. The American Rivers study shows that the cost to shift from barge to rail is more than $1 billion. Plus, millions in increase transportation costs year after year.
- The dismantling cost of breaching the dams is more than $1 billion.
- The cost of breaching dams also includes the loss of more than $400 million in hydropower production every year, forever, plus the cost of constructing new power plants.
- Dam breaching takes out irrigated agriculture around the Ice Harbor pool.
- Hydropwer does not pollute the air. It has no emissions and does not contribute to global warming.
- Navigation is the least polluting mode of transportation. Per ton-mile, barges consume less fuel (only 40% of rail and 11% of truck fuel consumption) and produce significantly fewer emissions than rail or truck (1/4 the emissions of rail, 1/10 the emissions of trucks). Shifting from barging would put hundreds of thousands of trucks on the highway.
Let's not let the misguided arguments of dam breaching proponents divert us from the important work that is under way to rebuild fish runs and protect our environment while maintaining a vibrant Northwest economy.
Pacific Northwest Waterways Association
Dam Breaching and Shifting from Barge to Rail are Not the Answers for Fish
Response Letter, February 2004
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