While some activist groups are trying to rationalize the back-to-back removal of the Elwha and Condit dams in Washington state into an argument for removing the Snake River dams, there simply is no comparison.
The public really understands the difference between these small, antiquated dams and the Snake River dams, as evidenced by our public opinion polling that shows opposition to removing the Snake dams is overwhelming. Some 74 percent of the public find it an extreme solution. Furthermore, our polling research shows opposition to removing the Snake River dams has actually increased over past years.
The facts show that the outmoded Elwha and Condit dams are simply not in the same league as the Snake River dams:
All the attention focused on these dam removals is an occasion for everyone to reflect upon the extraordinary legacy of hydropower in the Northwest. Hydropower provides upwards of 60 percent of the Northwest's energy, and it is a clean, non-polluting, renewable source of energy that makes us far less dependent than the rest of the country on electricity from coal, natural gas or nuclear plants -- and keeps our carbon footprint about half that of the rest of the nation.
- Their power output is only 0.5 percent that of the Snake dams.
- They lack fish passages. The Snake River dams have sophisticated technological upgrades that are getting salmon safely upstream and downstream.
- They are economically insignificant, whereas the Snake dams provide a waterborne corridor that moves 10 million tons of cargo worth $19 billion a year and provides thousands of jobs.
(bluefish: Flores once again overestimates total tons of cargo moving through the Snake River, see graphic)
- They don't contribute to food production, whereas the Snake dams provide vital irrigation to farmers in Idaho and Eastern Washington and Oregon to grow the crops that feed Northwest residents and are exported to the world.
(bluefish recommends: Irrigation from 4 Lower Snake Reservoirs Fact Sheet by Reed Burkholder)
In addition, since the wind doesn't always blow, but the rivers always flow, our hydropower system is a consistent energy source to fill in the gap when wind turbines are not spinning.
Terry Flores is executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, an alliance of farmers, ports, utilities and businesses that promote the environmental and economic benefits of the Columbia and Snake River systems and salmon protection policies based on sound science.
Snake River Dams Far More Valuable than Elwha, Condit
Capital Press, October 20, 2011
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