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Commentaries and editorials

A Waste of
Washington State's Money

by Editorial Board
Capital Press, May 16, 2019

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game) When he's not running for president, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee seems to be working overtime to do as much damage as he can to his state's economy.

Most recently, he approved $750,000 to study taking out four federally owned dams on the lower Snake River. Those dams are the linchpin of the region's economy. They allow barge traffic to carry a large portion of the U.S. wheat crop to downriver ports. Without the dams and locks that allow the barge traffic, that grain would have no way to get to port. The region's railroads and highways would be unable to handle the added traffic.

How, exactly, Inslee plans to take out dams without wrecking the economy and the transportation system it depends on is unclear.

What is clear is he is bowing to a noisy minority of environmental zealots that blame every environmental ailment, real or imagined, on dams. They flood every meeting or public process with their canned comments.

For example, the state's Southern Resident Orca Task Force last year received 8,687 comments on the Snake River dams. The task force was studying the orca population that spends its time along the coast of California, Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska. The orcas are protected under federal law and managed by the federal government.

The task force is looking for ways to bolster the orca population, which is now 74 -- higher than the 1973 population of 66 but lower than 1995's peak population of 98. The task force found that one problem is the orcas are not getting enough salmon to eat.

The environmentalists' comments all specifically referring to taking out the Snake River dams.

In its report, the task force found that "of the 800 randomly reviewed comments, 99% were comprised of one of two comments repeated verbatim."

One of the nearly identical comments was provided to its members by Save Our Wild Salmon, according to the task force, which also said, "One commenter also thanked the Sierra Club for instructing the public on how to comment and what to say."

In short, these groups are trying to inflict their baseless viewpoints on the rest of Washington state. Worse yet, many of the state's politicians, including Inslee, appear to be going along with them.

Their goal is tearing out the four dams on the lower Snake River at any cost. This would have zero impact on the orcas but cause massive damage to Eastern Washington's economy.

And Inslee might as well forget about green energy. Those dams produce much of Washington state's electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions. Without the dams, the state would be on the hook for building massive new power plants.

Those four dams are also owned by the federal government, which built them to prevent flooding and provide electricity and transportation to the region. They are part of the success story of the Columbia-Snake system.

Tearing them out in the name of orcas that spend time in the waters of Southeast Alaska, Canada, in the Salish Sea between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island and off the Oregon and California coasts would represent the worst possible outcome for the region, its people and the economy.

It wouldn't help the orcas, either.

Editorial Board
A Waste of Washington State's Money
Capital Press, May 16, 2019

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