Sunday, November 20, 2016

Another Dam Meeting

Lower Monumental Dam bridges the Snake River between Franklin and Walla Walla counties near Kahlotus. Courtesy Army Corps

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The Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration scheduled an additional meeting on a proposal to remove dams on the lower Snake River to save salmon. The meeting will be from 4 to 7 p.m., this coming Monday, Nov. 21, at the Holiday Inn Express, 4525 Convention Place, Pasco. The meeting will be open house-style, with more than a dozen information stations.

According to the Tri-City Herald, officials will solicit input on flood risk management, power generation, navigation, fish and wildlife, recreation, socioeconomic and other issues related to the 14 federal hydropower projects in the Columbia Basin, which include four dams on the Snake River.

Environmentalists, fisheries, and Native American tribes, and others have renewed a push to remove four giant dams from the Snake River to save wild salmon runs, after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon criticized the government for failing to consider whether breaching the dams would save the fish.

In May 2016, the judge rejected the government's fifth and latest plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. Agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the southeast Washington dams, including breaching, Simon said.

"Scientists tell us that removing the four Lower Snake dams is the single most important action we could take to restore salmon in the entire Columbia-Snake river basin," said Sam Mace of Save Our Wild Salmon.

Opponents of breaching the dams say they provide irrigation, hydropower and shipping benefits, and allow grain barges to operate all the way to Lewiston, Idaho, more than 400 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River.

"We think those dams need to stay in place because of the multiple benefits they provide," said Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest River Partners, which represents public utilities, port districts and farm groups. "They provide clean, carbon-free energy." The four dams produce about 5 percent of the Northwest's hydroelectric power. "We think they're an important part of the Northwest economy and the environment," Flores said.

Chuck Lopresti, an 8th LD Precinct Committee Officer, and Chairman of the Platform Committee for the Benton County Democrats, has been following the dam debate. The final platform opposed Snake River dam removal, which the platform stated were, "integral parts of Washington State’s 'green' electricity production, agricultural and flood control systems, and recreational opportunities."

Despite this, Lopresti plans to attend the meeting, and urges others interested in the issue to do so as well. The better informed we are, the more cogent our comments to the involved agencies can be.

Please let Chuck know if you plan to attend, and if you'd like to meet to discuss the issue after the meeting. He can be contacted at:, 509-946-0926.
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