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Commentaries and editorials

Dams Play Vital Role

by Don Brunell
The Columbian, December 11, 2007

The Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area already experiences traffic congestion. In some instances, heavy traffic stopped growth in east Vancouver until additional interchanges could be added to State Route 14, which traverses the north side of the Columbia between Vancouver and Pasco.

That congestion will get much worse if some activists get their way. They want the four lower Snake River dams removed, which would severely restrict barge traffic on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Port of Clarkston officials estimate that, if the dams located between Pasco and Clarkston were torn down and barge navigation halted, it would take an additional 120,000 rail cars, or more than 700,000 semi-trucks annually to carry the cargo now being moved by barge on the Columbia-Snake river system.

(bluefish: 4 million tons of grain shipped annually on the Snake River could be contained in 154,000 26-ton semi-trucks or 4,000 100-ton rail cars. Don Brunell has repeatedly been advised of this correction but he choses to continue stating much greater numbers that represent barging on the combined Columbia & Snake River system. One might wonder why he continues to knowingly provide misleading facts.)

Breaching also adds to our problem with "greenhouse gases." For example, port analysts say that barges can move one ton of cargo 514 miles on a gallon of fuel, compared with 202 miles by rail and 79 miles on trucks.

(bluefish: Not included in the above caluculations is the fact that barges drain locks of water that would otherwise produce hydropower. Every year, barging on the Lower Snake alone accounts for a million dollars worth of hydroelectricity; 35,900 MWh/year Oregon Natural Resources Council 1994 estimate.)

Furthermore, the highway and rail network along those rivers can't take that increase in traffic as configured today. But the biggest bottleneck will be our bridges. Between Longview and Stevenson, a 100-mile stretch running through the heart of Portland-Vancouver, there are only four bridge crossings on the Columbia, and two of them have only two lanes.

There is no doubt that the I-5 bridges must be a top priority for both Washington and Oregon.

Our state's transportation infrastructure is getting old and replacing it will be expensive. But we should not make our traffic problems even worse by removing the dams that connect our vital water transportation corridor along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state's chamber of commerce.
Dams Play Vital Role
The Columbian, December 11, 2007

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