Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorial was written by Port of Longview Commissioner Jeff Wilson. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
During the last week of February, the United States Army Corps of Engineers released the long-awaited draft Environmental Impact Statement addressing the many concerns — and alternatives — for the operation of the dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, which does not support removal of the lower Snake River dams.
The Columbia-Snake River system provides many benefits to communities far beyond its borders, including those affecting our nation’s domestic and international interests. This vital network is a complex transportation hub providing products needed for everyday life, as well as offering flood control, irrigation and clean, renewable energy to the millions of people who depend on its responsible management.
In fact, this river system produces 90 percent of renewable clean energy that we all depend upon and a complex transportation system that keeps additional traffic from our road and rail networks.
Dam breaching advocates insist that removing the Lower Snake River dams will solve our environmental problems. This is simply not true. An independent evaluation commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association revealed breaching of the Lower Snake River dams would lead to a significant increase in carbon emissions, contributing to climate change and jeopardizing the health of our already fragile local and regional economy.
Balancing environmental and economic needs along the 465-mile waterway is a partnership we all want to take place, and we can make happen. The challenges and benefits of our hydroelectric system are not a federal or state issue alone, this is an “everyone” issue where problem solving can occur without misinformation and false narratives.
Increasing fish production along the tributaries and estuaries and working with all state and federal agencies is key to this balancing act. The Corps of Engineers is not alone in addressing this important matter. In 2017, the National Oceanic Atmosphere Agency created the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force. This task force includes representation by interested parties on the topic of fish recovery and other challenges of the river system. The task force consists of both dam breaching supporters and opponents, local recovery groups, the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and (my favorite) Washington, along with federally recognized tribes.
This collaborative group reflects a consensus around a shared vision of addressing goals, impacts and shareholder interests and yet its importance seems to fly under the radar of major media outlets. Juvenile fish survival rates past each of the eight dams have 95% chance of success and have world-class fish passage facilities. Salmon populations face other, more impactful challenges including the toll predators take on fish runs as well as warming oceans.
Eliminating these clean energy sources and efficient methods of transportation are counterproductive to claims of balancing both the environmental and economic concerns that dam breaching proponents seek. In their current form, the dams provide a clean, reliable source of energy that can meet the needs of eight cities the size of Seattle. With no other responsible replacement options on the table to satisfy our current and future energy needs, common sense supports improving fish runs without the removal of the Snake River dams and using facts, not fear, to sell a hard-line approach. Keep the dams, please.