By Megan Magensky
January 13, 2020
PASCO, Wash. — The final panel discussing the potential removal of the snake river dams happened Monday night at the Pasco Red Lion.
Last month, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee released a draft of a report including several perspectives on the potential removal of the Snake River Dams.
“If there were easy solutions to this problem we would have done them already,” said Inland Northwest director for Save Our Wild Salmon Sam Mace.
Both sides of the dam argument agree the Snake River Dams impact our economy and agriculture, but several groups are pushing to have the dams removed
“It's not the only thing that we need to do, but it has to be a corner stone of an effective plan if we're going to bring back healthy, harvestable numbers of salmon,” said Sam Mace.
All species of salmon that use the Snake River are either threatened or endangered according to the Endangered Species Act. Supporters of the dam removal say the dams are responsible for a decline in salmon.
“The whole world depends on us for our fish, and I want to take our rightful place again,” said Carrie Shewster Matriarch of the Palouse Tribe.
The dams also create energy used by Bonneville Power Administration. According to Governor Inslee’s draft report, most of the energy goes to a reserve that helps in blackouts.
“Without these dams we would not have the ability to produce the renewable, reliable and affordable hydroelectric power we rely on,” said Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “We would lose well-paying jobs and investment in our local economies.”
The dams also impact agriculture. Dryland farmers use the rivers for transporting their crops on barges. According to Inslee’s report if the dams were to be breached the water levels would be too low for barge travel. Farmers would have to use railroads or trucks.
The report also says irrigated farmland with crops like apples, onions, potatoes or corn would have to move locations or change the crops, which could put them out of business.
“Without these dams our region and the state of Washington would simply not be what it is today,” Rep. Newhouse said.
But the supporters of dam removal say there has to be a solution that benefits both groups.
“Can we find a way to have wheat and wild salmon on our plate going forward?” said Mace.
In Governor Inslee’s report, he stresses a need for more respectful conversations from all parties involved.