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Commentaries and editorials

Newhouse Leads Field Hearing
on Snake River Dams

by Gabriel Davis
Columbia Basin Herald, June 26, 2023

Both Meyers and Welch concluded that
the science was not yet settled.

Representative Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, discusses the subject of the four Lower Snake River dams with fellow House members and representatives of regional agencies and organizations. RICHLAND -- Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, hosted members of the House Committee on Natural Resources at Richland High School for a field hearing on Monday regarding the importance of the Lower Snake River Dams.

"We should be spending our time on how we can continue to allow dams and salmon to coexist instead of eliminating one of the most important sources of energy that we've ever seen," said Newhouse while questioning individuals testifying at the hearing.

The main topic of discussion during the event was the issue of the potential consequences of removing four Lower Snake River dams in order to lessen the impact of those dams on native salmon population numbers. Most of the hearing's time was given to speakers from agencies and groups active throughout the region in which the dams operate. The hearing also featured testimony from nine representatives of various agencies and local organizations.

Those who testified included representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, the Benton Public Utility District and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, as well as the Environmental Director of the Washington Policy Center and a researcher from British Columbian agency Kintama Research Services.

According to a media advisory, Newhouse also led the planned participants in the hearing on a tour of the Ice Harbor dam before convening at the high school for the event itself. The advisory listed the hearing's title as "The Northwest at Risk: The Environmentalist's Effort to Destroy Navigation, Transportation, and Access to Reliable Power."

John Hairston, of the Bonneville Power Administration, and Rick Dunn, general manager of the Benton PUD, both testified to the necessity of the Snake River dams' hydroelectric power generation for the regional energy grid.

"We need every drop of affordable and carbon-free hydropower as we can get," said Dunn.

Todd Meyers, the environmental director of the Washington Policy Center, and Dr. Welch of Kintama Research Services presented their professional opinions regarding the scientific validity of the claim that the destruction of the dams would significantly benefit the native salmon. Both Meyers and Welch concluded that the science was not yet settled and that more targeted research should be done regarding how to grow the salmon population.

"The slow pace of recovery has created frustration for salmon advocates, including me. The frustration is becoming counter-productive, however, leading some to grasp at silver-bullet solutions, rather than focus on a region-wide, science-based approach that is the most likely path to increasing salmon populations," said Meyers. "Dam removal simply isn't a silver bullet."

Michelle Hennings of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Alex McGregor of the McGregor Company, and Scott Corbitt, general manager of the Port of Lewiston, all spoke of the negative economic side effects for food export and tourism along the Snake River that would result from the removal of the dams.

"To us, they are truly irreplaceable," said Corbitt about the dams.

Gabriel Davis
Newhouse Leads Field Hearing on Snake River Dams
Columbia Basin Herald, June 26, 2023

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