The Time for Bold Action
by Mitch Cutter
The facts have been distorted in response to Rep. Mike Simpson's "Northwest in Transition" proposal, which would invest $33.5 billion into the Northwest's energy, transportation, agricultural, and recreational infrastructure. The proposal includes funds to breach the earthen embankments of the four lower Snake River dams to restore a free-flowing river and Idaho's endangered salmon and steelhead.
Some members of Congress and industry reps are simply misinformed about these four dams in eastern Washington.
Many worry that the dams' ability to control floods and prevent damage will be lost. Fact: The lower Snake River dams are "run-of-river" structures, meaning they do not store significant amounts of water so provide negligible flood control. If breached, there would be minimal impact for flood control of downstream communities.
Some claim that irrigation for vast tracts of agricultural land will be rendered useless by restoring the river. Fact: Irrigators who use lower Snake River water are concentrated along the Ice Harbor Dam reservoir, near the Snake's confluence with the Columbia River. Within this small area, the government has already concluded that existing irrigation can be modified to function in a restored river. Rep. Simpson's proposal would invest nearly $1 billion for this purpose, far more than is likely required.
Significant attention has been given to the $33.5 billion price tag for this proposal. Fact: That's no different than our current situation. Since 1978, the region's electricity users have spent nearly $18 billion on fish and wildlife programs, steadily increasing the price of power. At the current pace, Northwest residents will spend more than $30 billion over the next 20 years, without improving conditions for salmon and steelhead. Now is the time for immediate, bold action to change direction and chart a new path for the Northwest.
Simpson's announcement may be viewed here
Other documents associated his concept are available at simpson.house.gov
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