June 11th, 2019
By Amy Grondin
A recent Union-Bulletin editorial opposing a stakeholder forum to assess restoring the lower Snake River and removing four dams to aid in salmon recovery is correct on just two counts.
First, the devastating impact these dams have on the salmon — and by extension the orca that need them to thrive — has been studied extensively. The scientific results are clear: We’ve spent a lot of money to address the collapse of salmon stocks but we still haven’t moved any of them off the endangered list.
On a second count the editorial is also correct: The stakeholder forum is a different approach. The intent is to bring experts together with community members, business owners, tribes, farmers and fishermen to explore smarter solutions for clean energy, strong and dynamic economies and abundant salmon runs, all of which are vital to all Washingtonians. Just as wheat farmers need affordable ways to move their produce to market, families on the coast and communities up and down the river depend on jobs that salmon bring to their towns. It’s not farmers or fisherman but how to meet the needs of both.
On other points the editorial is wrong. Take transportation: How much freight travels through the lower Snake River? Just 5 percent of the total shipped on the Columbia-Snake waterway. Meanwhile, we provide a $20 million annual taxpayer subsidy to ship this small amount of freight. As for the hydropower, the lower Snake River dams produce most of their power during Spring when demand is low and power less valuable. These dams produce only 4 percent of regional power anyway while we have a surplus of 15 percent or more.
Change is inevitable, and we need to do better. Farmers and fishermen would surely agree: Neither wants to see the other fail. Let’s build from there. With or without dams we’re in this one together. Let’s talk.