the film
Commentaries and editorials

Do We Value
Lower Electricity Rates and Salmon?

by John Twa
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 13, 2017

Ice Harbor Dam John McKern responded to my letter to the editor in the Union-Bulletin in July ("Yes, consider all the facts on dam breaching"), using outdated, decades-old propaganda that improvements to the Lower Snake River dams have given us the highest returns of salmon in decades.

As you probably know, recent news reports and emergency fishery closures by the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho show that we have had record low salmon returns for nearly all runs. Steelhead returns are the lowest we've seen in decades, and salmon returns are half the 10-year average (and still a pittance compared to pre-dam returns).

Hatcheries are even concerned they won't have enough returning fish to produce future generations. The outlook for next year is no better.

This is because in 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chose a path to salmon recovery that it knew had little chance of success. The decision not to breach the Lower Snake River dams locked us into rapidly escalating power rates to compensate for destroying wild salmon runs, a river that provides benefits for the few, endless litigation, and ultimately the extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' proposed legislation would ensure that this cycle of wasting our money and natural resources would continue indefinitely.

Bonneville Power Administration, which provides much of the power in the Pacific Northwest, has raised rates 28 percent in the past eight years. Over 30 percent of electric rates now goes toward the federal failed, futile salmon recovery efforts.

Nonetheless, McKern suggests that the federal government spend more of our money, $15 million to $20 million per surface spillway weir per dam, to provide minimal benefits to salmon. Why? This makes no sense. Surface spillway weirs actually have been harmful to salmon survival recently as they only allow hot surface water to be spilled. This further inhibits salmon migration.

With no evidence of salmon recovery taking place, we must consider whether the sacrifices we've made are worth it. Do we value our hard earned dollars, lower electricity rates and salmon?

Or do we value keeping the Snake River dams that favor special interests over the public good, kill salmon and raise our electricity rates perhaps as much as 30 percent each month, year in and year out?

Related Pages:
Yes, Let's Look at 'Facts' on Dams by Gene Spangrude, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 8/13/17
View from Idaho on Dam Protection by John Twa, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 8/1/17
Yes, Consider All Facts on Dam Breaching by John McKern, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 6/30/17
Congressional Effort to Blunt Dam Breaching Effort is Sound by Jacob Schmidt, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, 7/7/17

John Twa, Boise, Idaho
Do We Value Lower Electricity Rates and Salmon?
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 13, 2017

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