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Commentaries and editorials

Breaching Snake Dams
Terrible Idea

by Tris McCall
Tri-City Herald, July 12, 2022

Lower Monumental Dam on the Lower Snake River backs up reservoir miles 29 miles to the foot of Little Goose Dam.  The reservoir it forms is named 'Lake' Herbert G West to honor a champion for inland navigation.  The great promoter of Columbia and Snake river navigation, West was repeatedly thwarted by the ACOE's economic feasibility studies, but he pressed on undeterred. Breaching the Lower Snake River dams (LSRDs) is a terrible proposal. I have read the arguments for and against breaching the dams. I conclude the proposal for breaching the dams to be unconvincing.

However, I believe a persuasive case for preserving the dams can be made on the following few simple facts: There is no guarantee and not even a good case that breaching the dams will restore fish runs to historical numbers.

But, it is guaranteed that breaching the dams will result in: A loss of reliable clean energy that does not contribute to climate destruction. A loss of efficient transportation of produce on the river (e.g. by barges versus trucks).

A loss of water flow control (e.g., water storage for drought conditions). It is a science-based fact that the planetary climate is deteriorating at a rapid pace. And little is being done to avert a climate catastrophe. We are approaching a critical decision point regarding our global climate.

It is possible-and perhaps likely that the deteriorating climate will not allow a long-term recovery of fish populations. This is a truly sad prospect that I hate to consider. But it is a real possibility that must be honestly faced. It would be a maximum of irony if we removed the dams, gave up our Northwest clean electricity and other benefits of the dams and the fish populations never significantly increase anyway. I repeat, breaching the Lower Snake River dams (LSRDs) is a terrible proposal.

Tris McCall, Ph.D., Kennewick
Breaching Snake Dams Terrible Idea
Tri-City Herald, July 12, 2022

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