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Commentaries and editorials

Newhouse Has a Dam Blind Spot

by Stephen Ralph & DeeAnn Kirkpatrick
The Star, March 14, 2018

Why is this photo op at McNary Dam on the Columbia River?
It produces as much electricty as the four Lower Snake River dams combined.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, left, toured McNary Dam with Rep. Greg Walden R-Ore. and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., right, in August. He said he supports using the Snake and Columbia river dams to generate electricity. File Tri-City Herald Congressman Dan Newhouse is one of the sponsors of H.R. 3144, which would maintain the operational status quo at the four lower Snake River dams in the Columbia River Basin. These dams are bad-actors for their negative effects on 13 runs of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Newhouse says opposing the legislation is putting politics over science when it comes to improving fish recovery efforts. He seems concerned, legitimately, about possible impacts to ratepayers, but it shows he does not understand the historical record of Columbia River dam operations and the current science behind fish recovery.

This is the fifth time in over two decades that a federal judge has called for an overhaul of the Columbia River hydropower system. This recent court ruling requires that all options be on the table, including spill and dam breaching of the four Lower Snake River dams. We've seen this movie before. Fifteen years have gone by since new spill and other operational "fixes" ordered by the federal courts, have been tried at the four lower Snake River dams. During this time several generations of salmon and steelhead have gone through the hydropower system yet none have shown any meaningful improvement in survival to return as adults. This despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested in recovery efforts.

Newhouse chides our Democratic governor and west-side representatives for their opposition to his legislation. Could it be that they are willing to face up to the reality that without considering all alternatives, we stand not a snowball's chance in hell of saving our Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead from eventual extinction? It's truly sad that Newhouse rushes to judgement and fails to inform those who pay his salary of the true costs of maintaining the "do nothing more" that this bill would promote.

Newhouse seems to have a blind spot when it comes to supporting dams that are a bad idea. In the case of the Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River, Newhouse is not even supporting the ratepayers. In the Okanogan PUD's dogged pursuit of renewing the long defunct Enloe Hydropower project, Newhouse is ignoring the dubious economics of this poorly conceived hydropower project, that could end up saddling PUD ratepayers with decades of debt on the cost and operation of the dam.

Stephen Ralph & DeeAnn Kirkpatrick, Winthrop
Newhouse Has a Dam Blind Spot
The Star, March 14, 2018

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