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Commentaries and editorials

Columbia County Commissioners Join Opposition
to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson's Plan for Salmon Recovery

by Staff
Waitsburg Times, March 11, 2021

A 2020 Columbia River Systems Operations Environmental Impact Statement showed that
removing the dams would more than double the number of fish immediately returning to Idaho.

Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River, near Kahlotus, Washington. DAYTON -- In February, U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, representing Idaho, District 2, unveiled a $33.5 billion proposal for breaching the four lower hydroelectric dams on the Snake River to address the problem of how to save salmon populations in Idaho, without disrupting the system that provides millions of people with electrical power. His proposal "The Northwest in Transition" calls for removing Lower Granite Dam, Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam, located in Washington State Congressional Districts 4 and 5.

According to the Idaho Conservation League, studies by fisheries scientists and others have shown that removing the four lower Snake River dams could significantly improve salmon and steelhead populations. A 2020 Columbia River Systems Operations Environmental Impact Statement showed that removing the dams would more than double the number of fish immediately returning to Idaho. Simpson's plan calls for an aggressive spill program at the lower Columbia River dams, which will improve those results even more.

There is $14 billion in the concept plan to determine the optimal package of clean, reliable energy sources to replace electricity from the dams and lost generation from spilling larger amounts of water at the lower Columbia River dams.

Rep. Simpson's proposal is supported by conservation groups, including the Idaho Conservation League and various Indian Tribes. There is strong opposition from various Washington and Idaho state community leaders, including Idaho Governor Brad Little. None of Simpson's fellow members of the Pacific Northwest Congressional Delegation enthusiastically embraced Simpson's idea. And some members, including U.S. Congressional Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler and Idaho U.S. Congressional Repesentative Russ Fulcher dismissed it outright.

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association and the Washington Public Ports Association are also opposed. The four dams in question provide needed barge traffic that gives a low-carbon, cost-effective alternative to transportation. Transitioning barge traffic to roads and rail would have a detrimental effect on the region, particularly on farmers who would see prices for their product affected.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have long been outspoken opponents of dam removal. They note that significant changes to existing infrastructure could lead to increased costs for public utility customers

Simpson states on his webpage that he and his staff have held over 300 meetings with stakeholders, tribe, elected representatives, and other interests to understand the issues. In a press release dated February 16, 2021, the Columbia County Commissioners said they had never been contacted by the Congressman or his office regarding this matter, nor had they heard of any other elected body in our region being contacted.

In the release, the Commissioners stated, "This plan will only impoverish and harm our country while doing nothing certain to address the issue of Salmon recovery."

Commissioner Marty Hall said the proposal would harm the local region by negatively impacting wheat prices and the availability and cost of power.

The commissioners call on Simpson to abandon the plan and work instead to help "strengthen and rebuild those things that make the United States great."

Rep. Simpson's proposal is online at

Detailed discussion from stakeholders for and against Simpson's proposal can be found at

Columbia REA Votes to Support Dams
Waitsburg Times, March 11, 2021

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