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Survey on Snake River Dams is Online.
Help Protect the Region's Economy and Fill it Out

by Editorial Board
Tri-City Herald, November 29, 2019

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game) We know December’s to-do list is already long, but we’ve got an important task that must be added to your check-off list: Please fill out the state survey on the Snake River dams.

It can be found at

Don’t delay.

We have been critical of this state effort since its proposal nearly a year ago, but now that written comments are being taken we encourage people to fill out the survey and let their voices be heard.

The issue of breaching the four lower Snake River dams in order to boost salmon runs has been researched ad nauseam.

Time and again, federal studies have shown that breaching the dams would help salmon recovery only slightly, if at all, while significantly harming the Pacific Northwest economy.

However, the anti-dam agenda coming from the west side of the state is extremely strong. Those who want to see the Snake River dams removed refuse to accept any research that contradicts their view.

Certain groups even have paid to have their own studies conducted that they say proves their point.

The state has no authority over the dams -- only Congress has that.

But last year Gov. Jay Inslee proposed that a committee study the effects to Eastern Washington if the lower Snake River dams were breached or removed.

Despite consistent and passionate objections by stakeholders in our region, the state Legislature allocated $750,000 to develop a process for a "statewide dialogue."

Eastern Washington residents are at a disadvantage population-wise in this debate. Nevertheless, we must try.

When news of Inslee’s proposal first broke, we encouraged Tri-Citians to rally, and we do so again. The Snake River dams play a critical role in providing irrigation, hydropower and navigation, and are critical to the economy of our region, as well as the entire Northwest.

The Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association already has talked with the governor’s office about mitigation costs if the dams are lost and its 91,000 acres end up as collateral damage.

That figure is between $446 and $622 million. The cost would be paid -- split evenly -- by the state and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Darryll Olsen, of the Irrigators Association, has said this state effort to gather comments on dam breaching inflames the debate, and his group has been pushing for a way to end the continuing conflict.

The CSRIA would like to see federal official invoke an Endangered Species Act Exemption, which would put an end to the escalation of requirements to protect Columbia and Snake river fish runs.

Olsen said that his organization still believes that is the best course of action, and would like to get more support for the effort from other stakeholders.

In addition to irrigation issues, the Snake River dams play a critical role in providing clean hydropower when it is needed most. Northwest RiverPartners, a not-for-profit group that advocates for carbon-free hydropower, is adding another thought to the conversation.

Kurt Miller, Northwest RiverPartners executive director, said in a recent news release that a loss in hydropower would lead to a "two-class system for electricity where only the well-to-do can afford new energy sources such as solar panels, inverters, batteries and backup generation."

He added that "there is a very important social justice component" to this issue that is being overlooked. His group advocates for hydroelectricity because "it is clean, affordable, and accessible to all communities." His concern for what higher higher power costs would mean for low-income people is spot on.

We are distressed about diminishing salmon runs and the fate of our beloved Southern Resident Orcas, but there are several factors involved in their plight and many occur in the ocean and in Puget Sound.

When federal studies over and over again come up with the same answer -- that taking down the Snake River dams would not significantly increase the salmon population -- the discussion to breach the dams seems a waste of time and money.

But the survey is out, and Eastern Washington residents should take part. We must continue to get our message out.

The survey remains available until 5 p.m., Jan. 24.

Editorial Board
Survey on Snake River Dams is Online. Help Protect the Region's Economy and Fill it Out
Tri-City Herald, November 29, 2019

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