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Commentaries and editorials

Spokane Councilors Assail 'Unsustainable'
Dam Removal Plan

by RaeLynn Ricarte
Big Country News, November 7, 2022

"This is unnecessarily bringing the city into a fight over the
Snake River Dams that do not provide any benefits to the City,"

-- Spokane Tribe of Indians Chairwoman Carol Evans

Lower Granite Dam impounds Snake River waters nearly forty miles to the Idaho border. Spokane City Councilor Jonathan Bingle said it is mind-boggling that government leaders are still considering removal of four lower Snake River dams when the country is grappling with an energy crisis and looming recession.

"We need to legitimately ask why we would even consider something as unsustainable as this," he said.

On Monday, Nov. 7, Bingle and fellow Councilor Michael Cathcart are proposing a resolution voicing opposition to dam removal sought by environmentalists and Democratic leaders at the state and federal levels.

Although a resolution is not legally binding and intended only to express the sentiments of the government body, Bingle said having Spokane add its voice to other communities in opposition carries political weight.

"It is important to speak out during a time when so many government leaders are intent on banning natural gas and coal power as well as taking out dams," he said. "There is no way to replace the power that will be lost, and we are already seeing brown outs and rolling blackouts due to our electricity crisis."

Bingle said cost estimates to remove the dams and replace the services they provide range from $11 billion to $77 billion, with a congressional plan that costs $33 billion.

"When you put the costs into perspective, it is staggering," he said.

By comparison, Bingle said the estimated cost to level and rebuild Spokane, the second largest city in the state with nearly 230,000 people, would be about $26 billion.

"As another example of the costs involved here, you could build 1,000 more Space Needles for the $33 billion they want to spend removing these dams," said Bingle. "That's a crazy amount of money when you put it into perspective."

He said energy production will be adversely affected by dam removal because alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, are not dependable. In addition, the, river serves as the largest wheat export corridor in the nation, as well as a navigable channel for other agricultural products.

The Washington Democratic Party has made Snake River dam removal one of its platform priorities. Proponents say that breaching the dams is an essential component of restoring endangered salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest.

Bingle and Cathcart claim in their proposed resolution that dam removal would have "irreversible effects on the life, health, and prosperity" of residents in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

A study by Northwest River Partners shows the four dams producing more than 1,000 average megawatts of reliable carbon-free energy, which is enough to power 800,000 homes.

Removing Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Granite and lower Monumental dams on the Snake River could increase electricity costs for Washington residents $330 per year, on average, through 2050, according to a recent report co-published by the Washington Policy Center and American Experiment think tank.

In the replace-with-renewables scenario, the report models Washingtonians' electrical pricing going from 7th lowest to 18th highest by state through at least 2028.

Bingle said the resolution sends a statement that Spokane "recognizes that dams and fish coexist and encourages the continued effort to protect salmon and other fish species by investments in fish ladders, safer turbines, and other reasonable measures."

Resolution No. 2022-0097 affirms these important functions of dams:

"With all the issues we are having right now with energy and economics, dam removal should not even be on the table," said Bingle.

RaeLynn Ricarte
Spokane Councilors Assail 'Unsustainable' Dam Removal Plan
Big Country News, November 7, 2022

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