Stakeholders Urged to Attend
by Matthew Weaver
River advocates say it is important for farmers, ranchers and other industry representatives to attend meetings about the Washington governor's study on dams on the Lower Snake River.
Environmental groups have for years called for the removal of the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams, citing their impacts on federally protected salmon and, more recently, orcas.
The study is part of Gov. Jay Inslee's efforts to examine orca recovery.
A draft report of the study is available for public comment until Jan. 24
Three public workshops are scheduled:
"It is not a scientific analysis of salmon recovery, it is not a far-reaching socio-economic impact analysis and it does not comply with federal law, which is what governs how these federal projects are run," she said.
The meetings are a good chance to learn about the evaluations done by Inslee's consultants, ask questions and submit comments, Meira said.
The study, she said, "unfortunately" provides a platform for disputed claims about dam breaching and whether wheat in Washington could be moved in other ways.
"It's incumbent on anyone who is connected to and relies on the river for cargo or recreation or any other purposes to turn out and make sure their voice is heard," she said.
"As it is a Washington study, if you're a farmer or exporter in north central Idaho, you might be scratching your head wondering, 'Why is it important for me to take the time to maybe attend the meeting in Clarkston?'" said David Doeringsfeld, general manager for the Port of Lewiston in Lewiston, Idaho.
While the four lower Snake River dams are in Oregon and Washington, Idaho farmers and foresters also rely on the river system, he said.
He believes it's important for farmers or exporters to make the impact on their operations known.
"As far as moving grain products on the Columbia-Snake river system, taking out dams would significantly increase the transportation costs for north central Idaho farmers, say," he said. "In today's market, farmers are lucky to be breaking even. This would have a negative impact on their operations."
The meetings offer direct contact to Inslee's office, Meira said.
It's a critical year, she said, between Inslee's study and a federal draft environmental impact statement due in the next few months.
"If there was ever a time to speak up and be heard, this is the time, both for our states to hear from growers and shippers, as well as the federal agencies, too," she said.
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