Tonight: What Tri-Citians Need to Know
by Annette Cary
Washington state’s third and final public workshop on a new draft report that summarizes views on removal of the four lower Snake River hydrodams will be in Pasco on Monday.
The Washington state Legislature, at the request of Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee, approved $750,000 for the study being done by consultants.
State officials say that up to $400,00 is expected to be spent on the study, with the remaining $350,000 kept in reserve in case additional work is needed after release of a federal environmental study.
It is looking at options for helping endangered salmon on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.
Federal Judge Michael Simon in Portland ordered the federal study and required it to consider breaching or removing the four Snake River dams.
Inslee is using the study being discussed Monday to help with the state’s comments on the federal environmental study.
The Pasco workshop is 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, 2525 N. 20th Ave. Supporters of the dams plan a rally before the session.
Public comments will not be taken at the Pasco meeting, but there are other options for submitting comments.
A panel discussion is planned to share different viewpoints about removal of the dams. Audience members can submit written questions to consultants and the panel that will decide if time is available.
Initially, public workshops were planned just in Vancouver, Wash., and Clarkston, Wash.
When U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, both R-Wash., demanded in late October that the Tri-Cities also get a workshop, the request was granted.
KNOW THE DAM FACTS RALLY
The Tri-Cities Legislative Council plans a Know the Dam Facts Rally in support of preserving the four Lower Snake River hydrodams from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the hotel before the workshop.
Policy experts, elected officials and business, agriculture and community leaders will speak.
Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers will send video messages. Both have called the state study a waste of money that could better have been spent on programs to help salmon recovery.
WHAT THE DRAFT REPORT SAYS
The draft report summarizes the potential positive and negatives impact of removing the dams and the opportunities that would be gained or lost, according to a cross section of interested parties.
It makes no recommendation on whether the dams should be removed.
It found that energy, transportation, agriculture, salmon survival and the survival of orca that depend on salmon for food are complex issues with little consensus, including on how much removing the dams would help salmon.
There was consensus that people with different viewpoints wanted more information and respectful conversations, the draft report said.
“Dam supporters feel the ‘Coast’ is telling Eastern Washington communities what to do in a way that lacks respect and understanding of local values and priorities, and minimizes how changes to the dams would significantly affect their communities,” the draft report said.
ORCA, SALMON, ELECTRICITY AND FARMING
Restoring salmon habitat is critical to providing more food for the endangered southern resident orca along Washington’s Pacific coast, say Defenders of Wildlife.
“With only 73 orcas left, it is essential that we take bold action,” said Quinn Read, the group’s Northwest director, when the draft study was released.
“Restoring the lower Snake River will come with a host of challenges and opportunities,” she said. “Through smart investments, the state can ensure a just transition for the region while recovering a salmon run critical to southern resident orcas.”
Those supporting removal of the dams say those who depend on them now can be made financially whole.
But groups from farmers to electric utilities to those who rely on river barging are skeptical.
Newly updated numbers from an evaluation commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association said that removal of barging, which the dams make possible, would cost the nation $4 billion over 30 years — or $1.9 billion at present net value — in environmental and and transportation impacts.
Highway, rail and grain elevator networks would need $1.1 billion in capital investment without barging.
Transportation and storage expenses for grain suppliers and shippers would likely increase 50 to 100 percent.
If farm subsidies are not increased, more than 1,100 farms could be at risk of bankruptcy, the evaluation said.
Thirty utilities across Washington state, including the Benton and Franklin PUDs, have passed resolutions supporting the Snake River hydroelectric dams.
“Locally they mean efficient energy at an affordable cost and greater energy reliability,” said Roger Wright, Franklin PUD Board chairman.
HOW TO COMMENT
Although public comment will not be heard at the workshop meeting, written comments can be submitted until 5 p.m. Jan. 24.
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (with the lsrd short for lower Snake River dams) or mailed to LSRD Stakeholder Engagement Draft Report, c/o Tess Wendel, 1325 Fourth Ave., Suite 1600, Seattle, Wash. 98101.
A survey to gather public opinion also will remain open until 5 p.m. Jan. 24. The survey is at bit.ly/snakeriversurvey.
It's Not Even Close: Economics says the Snake River Dams Should Go by Daniel Malarkey, Sightline Institute, 9/16/19
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