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Commentaries and editorials

State Wastes $750,000 on
Unnecessary Dam Breaching Study

by Editorial Board
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, May 23, 2019

The study seems to be an effort to placate those who favor breaking four Snake River dams.

Juvenile Salmonid Survival from Lower Granite dam tailrace to Bonneville dam tailrace (1998-2017).  Chinook on the left and Steelhead on the right of graphic. Those who fervently push breaching four dams on the Snake River as a way to save salmon have a short-sighted view.

They look at the potential of slighting increasing the return of salmon, albeit with no guarantee, while ignoring the damage it would cause to the Pacific Northwest's economy, power supply and environment.

Gov. Jay Inslee, as expected, yielded to the dam-breaching crowd this week as he gave the green light to a $750,000 study that calls for a "neutral third party" to develop a process for local, state, tribal, federal and other stakeholders to weigh in on the issues in a discussion or forum related to breaching the four federal dams.

It's a waste of our tax dollars. Dam breaching on the Snake and Columbia rivers been studied and studied.

Previous studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found breaching the dams would increase the chances of salmon restoration only slightly, if at all, while significantly hurting the economy. Taking down the dams would change the flow of the river, putting some areas under water. It would force a significant change to irrigation systems, likely putting an end to many agricultural operations.

But those who are convinced dam breaching is a panacea for salmon survival want to ignore that reality. Instead, they have pushed for a study with a different approach -- how to best help impacted communities in the wake of dam breaching.

No Band-Aid will help these communities. They would be devastated.

That is exactly the point U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, made when they urged Inslee to veto the study earlier this week.

"This study is a waste of state taxpayer dollars. We stand with the people of Central and Eastern Washington who rely on the Snake River dams in calling for Gov. Inslee to veto the $750,000 line item in the capital budget. Instead of studying the removal of our federal dams, these state dollars could have been used to fund salmon recovery programs that directly aid endangered salmon species," McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse wrote in a joint letter.

A salmon with five-pound weight tied to its back would have a better chance of making it to the Pacific Ocean than McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse had convincing Inslee to veto the $750,000 study. It wasn't ever going to happen.

Again, that's unfortunate for taxpayers.

The survival of Northwest salmon is vitally important.

Instead of wasting $750,000 placating those who favor dam breaching, the cash should be spent -- as the two members of Congress suggested -- on viable efforts that will improve salmon survival.

Related Pages:
What the Dams Provide Can Be Replaced. Idaho's Wild Fish Would Be Gone Forever. by David Cannamela, Idaho Statesman, 5/24/19
Irrigators Muddy Snake River Issue by David P. Sisk, Tri-City Herald, 5/23/19

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game)

Editorial Board The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart
State Wastes $750,000 on Unnecessary Dam Breaching Study.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, May 23, 2019

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