By MATTHEW WEAVER
December 4, 2019
Stakeholders need to begin talking about the possible impacts to Northwest communities if four dams on the Snake River are removed, says the leader of a group that advocates their removal.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t make a transition to a free-flowing lower Snake River and do so in a way that leaves agricultural communities either whole or with additional opportunities,” Joseph Bogaard, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, based in Seattle, told the Capital Press.
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.
Bogaard said the conservation and fishing communities are committed to finding ways to help ensure greater certainty for all involved, including fishing and farming communities.
“I don’t think it’s something we do overnight, I don’t think it takes 10 years,” he said. “I think we can, with a plan and political leadership and support and buy-in of key stakeholders, this is something that can be done in three to five years.”
Bogaard pointed to “a lot of evidence, analyses and studies that have looked at the science and economics” around the dams, arguing that they are “high-cost and low-value dams with services that, while they’re important and there’s communities that rely on them, they are replaceable.”
“There’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests that some of the services, maybe all of the services currently provided by the dams, can be feasibly and affordably replaced, if we work together (and) put together the kinds of plans that involve timelines, dollars and programming to ensure the communities that currently rely on those dams or reservoirs can transition to alternative means of delivery, say irrigation water or moving transportation on land rather than on the river, or electricity,” he said.
Advocates for maintaining the dams argue that taking them out would not benefit salmon or orcas to the degree that environmentalists say, and would negatively affect trade. Barges use the Snake and Columbia rivers and pass through the locks at the dams to take grain to market downstream and supplies to farms upstream.
Pacific Northwest Waterways Association executive director Kristin Meira recently called environmentalists’ arguments simplistic, saying they are touting the idea that one action in one area would lead to species recovery.