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President Needs to Visit Dams
Before Siding with Breaching Advocates

by U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse & Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, April 30, 2023

Graphic: Grain tonnage through locks operated by Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District (1990-2016). Last month, President Biden signaled his support for tearing out four federal hydroelectric dams that are integral to energy reliability, navigation, and irrigation in the Pacific Northwest. Here's our message to the president: Come visit our communities and see the river system with your own eyes before siding with dam-breaching advocates.

Mr. President, the four Lower Snake River dams support your administration's climate goals. They provide clean, reliable, affordable, and renewable carbon-free energy that powers homes and businesses across the region. Each year, these dams have the capability to generate more than 3,000 megawatts of power, making them invaluable to preventing blackouts in Washington during severe weather. Not to mention they were responsible for the 16,000 megawatt hours we sent to California last fall to keep their lights on.

The four Lower Snake River dams also support your administration's transportation goals. Thanks to these dams, the Columbia-Snake River System is able to act as a low-emission superhighway, providing sustainable and efficient transport of our region's crops for export around the world. Barging on these rivers keeps 700,000 semi-trucks off the roads and their emissions out of the air each year. In fact, more than 50% of the nation's exported wheat is barged along the Columbia River alone. Breaching the dams would have a drastic impact on national and global food supply chains.

Simply put, we cannot afford to lose our dams. Multiple studies by the federal government confirm this fact. Breaching them would threaten the viability of the Washington agriculture industry, stifle our economy, and cripple the food supply chain.

This issue is far too important to let radical environmental groups who are driven by a singular, ideological goal hold our region hostage with their misguided focus. Their claims that salmon will go extinct unless we remove the dams are not based in reality. If these dams were the problem, then why do returns for salmon species that travel on undammed rivers continue to decline? Something else is going on, which is why we've long supported efforts to mitigate predation from sea lions, improve ocean conditions, restore nearshore habitat and prevent toxic sewage from being dumped into Puget Sound.

We still have a long way to go, but mitigation strategies are working, and we have seen encouraging salmon returns over the past few years. In fact, last year's salmon returns were the highest since 2016, and the number of Wild Chinook more than doubled compared to 2021.

The reality is that salmon and dams can -- and do -- coexist. Our region can safely and effectively harness the power of our rivers for clean, carbon-free hydroelectric power while balancing the needs of salmon.

Mr. President, come see the work we are doing in Central and Eastern Washington to advance a clean energy future, strengthen our nation's supply chain, feed the world, and recover endangered salmon. Let's have a conversation about the investments that will get results for salmon -- predator management, habitat restoration, culvert replacement, and studies on the impacts ocean conditions have on salmon returns, to name a few.

Let's work together. A visit to the dams would be a good place to start.

U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse is a Sunnyside Republican representing the 4th Congressional District.
U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a Spokane Republican representing the 5th Congressional District.
President Needs to Visit Dams Before Siding with Breaching Advocates
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, April 30, 2023

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