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Commentaries and editorials

Spokane City Councilman Bingle's Dam Resolution
Runs into a Wall of Resistance - For Now at Least

by Colin Tiernan
Spokesman-Review, November 8, 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

In retrospect, the number of returning adult salmon was relatively level from 1938 through 1990.  The precipitous loss of returning chinook entering the Snake River (Figure 20) accounts for a major share of the decline that has occurred in total return to the Columbia -- Artificial Production Review, NW Power & Conservation Council City Councilman Jonathan Bingle wants Spokane to publicly declare its opposition to dam removal, but he appears to be swimming upstream.

Bingle has written a resolution that, if adopted, would demonstrate Spokane's support for Eastern Washington dams, particularly those along the Snake, Columbia and Spokane rivers.

The resolution calls dams "a sustainable and reliable source of essential functions on which the citizenry has come to depend." It highlights the importance of dams for irrigation, electricity and more.

While the resolution wouldn't have any legal impact, it would have symbolic significance and place the city cleanly on one side of the contentious dam removal debate.

"It's incredibly reasonable," Bingle said during the City Council's briefing session Monday.

On Monday morning, Bingle's resolution was on the council's legislative agenda and poised to receive a vote.

It didn't make it to 6 p.m., though.

During the afternoon briefing session that precedes the City Council's evening meetings, City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear made a motion to pull the resolution off the night's agenda and defer it indefinitely.

Bingle and City Councilman Michael Cathcart strongly resisted the motion to defer.

"If you want to stand up for the tribes, vote against the resolution," Cathcart said. "If you want to stand up for others who have concerns about losing our dams, vote yes for the resolution."

Following Bingle and Cathcart's comments, Kinnear agreed to amend her motion and merely defer the resolution until Dec. 5.

Kinnear said she had two concerns with Bingle's proposal.

First, she said the resolution included several inaccurate statements. Second, she said she wanted to ensure local tribes had the opportunity to review the document before the council casts a vote.

City Councilwoman Karen Stratton agreed.

"If we really want to do the right thing and we want to bring this forward, I think it has to be done with some respect to the tribes," Stratton said.

Bingle said he reached out to dozens of stakeholders three weeks ago but didn't hear back from tribes.

City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said multiple tribal leaders got back to her quickly when she asked for their input on the resolution.

"They immediately responded in total opposition, so I don't know how much total dialogue had happened," she said.

In an email to Wilkerson, Spokane Tribe of Indians Chairwoman Carol Evans said her tribe strongly opposed Bingle's resolution.

She offered numerous critiques of the document and called several of its assertions inaccurate.

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

She did offer the resolution one compliment. Its final sentence, which recognizes that dams and fish coexist and calls for continued efforts to help salmon, "is the only positive statement in the entire resolution," Evans wrote.

Despite that sentence of praise, Evans' ultimate appraisal of the resolution was harsh.

"This resolution is offensive to the Tribe given the destructive powers these dams have had on our culture, economy and resources for the past 100 plus years," she wrote. "There is simply no need for this resolution to honor these dams -- quite frankly none of the dams that benefit the City of Spokane are under consideration for removal at all."

Colin Tiernan
Spokane City Councilman Bingle's Dam Resolution Runs into a Wall of Resistance - For Now at Least
Spokesman-Review, November 8, 2022

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