COLUMN: 40 Million Reasons to Save Our Dams
What would life in the Mid-Columbia be like if dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers were removed? What would then be used to control flooding that devastated communities before the dams were put in place? How would we provide clean, reliable hydropower for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses? How would our region’s farmers and agriculture industry replace lost access to water that is currently stored behind the dams? This worst-case scenario is not as far-fetched as we would hope, unfortunately.
For some interests—many from outside Central Washington—breaching our dams is worth any cost in the name of environmentalism. For many of us who actually live in the region, we believe that there is already a proven way to balance the needs of our communities and the needs of fish recovery.
We think a lot about dams and their benefits in the Mid-Columbia, especially following Judge Michael Simon’s court order that requires consideration of breaching the dams on the lower Snake River. I have heard from family farmers who worry about the next generation’s livelihood and from local PUDs concerned about rising rates if spill is increased or if the dams are breached. I joined my Pacific Northwest colleagues in Congress to introduce bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3144, to preserve the 2014 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (BiOp), which was negotiated under the Obama administration, until 2022. Preserving the current BiOp would prevent the breaching of our dams.
Unfortunately, some Washington Democrats—first our state’s governor, and now one of our U.S. senators, joined by two congressional representatives from the Seattle area—have announced their opposition to this bipartisan legislation.
Washington state’s congressional delegation often works in a bipartisan way on many important issues for Central Washington, such as ensuring the federal government fulfills its responsibility for Hanford cleanup and supporting the work conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Earlier this month, members of Congress from across the Pacific Northwest and across the political aisle joined together to oppose any divestment of transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration because it would have a significant impact on electricity rates for ratepayers in rural areas.
Where is the concern that increasing spill over our dams would increase electricity costs for ratepayers at an estimated $40 million this year alone?
Life and livelihoods in the Mid-Columbia without our dams would be unrecognizable. My colleagues from the West Side need to know that rejecting the BiOp would hurt Central Washington and increase the possibility of breaching our dams. I am committed to standing up for our rural communities. In my view, the estimated rate increases are forty million more reasons to save our dams, and I will continue to work to do just that.