Energy Week Focus
by Representative Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
In April, I spent a week traveling throughout Central Washington to focus on energy. Among my many stops were visits to Ice Harbor Dam, Grand Coulee Dam and the Wells Hydroelectric Project.
Hydropower is our nation's largest source of renewable energy. Dams have provided the low-cost power upon which Central Washington's economy was built - and they come with other benefits including irrigation, navigation, flood control, and recreation.
Some argue you can't have salmon and dams. Facts prove otherwise. Since the initial listing of salmon in the nineties, the federal government has invested over $6 billion in salmon recovery. About a third of your power bill goes to pay for salmon-related improvements to the hydrosystem. In total, this is the largest endangered species program anywhere. Due in part to our regional commitment to salmon recovery, we have witnessed record or near-record salmon returns in most areas of the Columbia and Snake basins.
At Ice Harbor Dam, I got a first-hand look at a Removable Spillway Weir - the latest technology being used to ensure efficient power generation and improved fish runs. This device allows salmon to pass through the dam at the water's surface, rather than being forced through 50 feet below. This results in a more fish-friendly passage through the dam, and uses less water than regular spill.
Despite the many successful recovery investments, a radical minority seek to sacrifice the benefits of our dams in the name of fish recovery. Some are direct about their intent to remove our dams, while others slowly chip away at these benefits hoping that we will eventually give up.
The future of our dams is at stake. Extreme environmental groups have found a sympathetic ear in a federal courtroom in Oregon. While radical interest groups may have Judge Redden on their side, they lack the science to prove that obscenely costly measures like spill maximization and flow augmentation actually increase the numbers of adult salmon returns.
Depending on what happens in the court, the fate of our hydrosystem may be determined at a political level. I'll do everything in my power to protect our dams, and I hope that Northwest lawmakers will stand united in opposition to dam removal.
A responsible approach to salmon recovery requires a comprehensive view that goes far beyond the dams. It must include reduced harvest, smarter hatchery policies, an understanding of ocean conditions on salmon, and reduced predation by sea lions.
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