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Commentaries and editorials

Gov. Inslee's Snake River Dam Study Wasted
Money Telling Us What We Already Know

by Editorial Board
Tri-City Herald, December 20, 2019

Breaching the Snake River dams is a divisive proposal -- we've known that for decades.

So why did the state need to spend $750,000 to tell us what we already know?

That's the three-quarter-million-dollar question.

We don't want to criticize the authors of the Lower Snake River Dam Stakeholder Study. They did what they were tasked to do.

Our concern is that state officials felt it necessary to hire them in the first place.

It was about a year ago Gov. Jay Inslee proposed spending $1.1 billion to increase salmon and help save declining orcas in Puget Sound, which included money to address problems like pollution and vessel traffic.

But also tucked into that plan was a proposed $750,000 for a task force to study the effects to Eastern Washington if the lower Snake River dams are breached.

We said at the time a state group would not be able to compete with the national team that has been studying the issue since September 2016.

The federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is set to release its initial findings next year, and trying to duplicate the effort makes no sense.

Considering the state has no authority over whether the dams are breached -- only Congress has that -- spending money on a state study was a waste.

But a majority of state legislators insisted we need to have a state dialogue on the issue, so the plan went forward.

The draft report released Friday did not offer a recommendation, but summarized various views on both sides.

We didn't see anything new in the report, and are still unclear how this latest effort will help the debate.

The Snake River dams help provide relatively inexpensive cheap hydropower and play an important role in irrigation and navigation. Repeated studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that breaching the Snake River dams would boost salmon runs only slightly, if at all.

Inslee's efforts to start an official conversation on breaching the Snake River dams may appease those who want the dams gone. To those on the other side, however, it appears to be a way to lay the ground work for dam removal.

Talk about how we can get along without the Snake River dams, and then eventually you have your justification for breaching them.

That being said, the issue is being discussed with or without our region's input, so Tri-Citians should let their voices be heard.

A public workshop on the issue is planned in Pasco from 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 13 at the Red Lion Hotel & Conference Center.

While public testimony won't be taken at the event, the Tri-City region needs to be well represented. Audience members will be allowed to submit written questions that can be asked of the panel if time is available.

In the meantime, public comment is still being taken on the state survey, and if you have not filled it out, you should. Go to for the questionnaire.

We care about salmon and we care about the orcas.

Our concern is that focusing on breaching the Snake River dams takes away from other problems that harm the fish and whales, like pollution, predators and boats.

Many stakeholders want the dams gone, and not just for the sake of the salmon. Some want a free-flowing river, some want to replace hydropower with wind and solar options, and others simply don't like the idea of a damned river.

The stakeholder report characterizes the issue well, but it didn't tell us anything new. It's a shame that a report designed to end the cycle of conflict appears to be adding to it.

Related Pages:
It's Not Even Close: Economics says the Snake River Dams Should Go by Daniel Malarkey, Sightline Institute, 9/16/19

Editorial Board
Gov. Inslee's Snake River Dam Study Wasted Money Telling Us What We Already Know
Tri-City Herald, December 20, 2019

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