Are We Damned to Lose Our Dams?

Cindy Alia, April 13, 2019

One significant and impressive way to turn back the tide on the flood of the green deal is citizen activism.  Well educated and informed citizens banding together reversed the Avista/Hydro One deal with information, science, and a passion to protect our clean hydropower, national security and independence. 

That same dedication is urgently needed by citizen activists now.  The craze of the most devoted and simplistically delusional green worriers is to continuously beat the drum of climate change to claim it requires our state’s dams must come down. 

The destruction of the four important dams on the Snake River has been a uniform and unceasing demand building successively over time, gathering players along the way.  Each organization with their custom-tailored and then oft parroted message ply members with pleas for funding to accomplish lofty yet non-specific goals such as “restoring the health of the river”, saving salmon, and saving orca whales.

The four endangered dams include Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite Dams. These dams were built for navigation of barge and various river traffic, for low-carbon hydroelectric power, for irrigation, and for flood control.

The environmental cartel is adept at pushing their rhetorical message, and while doing so gloss over the very real damage that would result from dam removal to the environment, the economy, electrical generation, and national security.  To be secure, we must rely on the steady, reliable benefits of our dams which provide transport, jobs, electricity and electrical security, plentiful agricultural bounty, and a general prosperity for all in the state with clean affordable electrical generation.  Some make an attempt to compare the razing of Snake River dams to the removal of the Elwah River dam.  While the Elwah removal was questionable in terms of environmental benefit, and of benefit to salmon production, even if accepted as a universal success it pales to the point of being meaningless in comparison to the enormity of removing Snake River dams.

Productive and successful agriculture depends on the clean, renewable and affordable hydropower that provides efficient irrigation and nearly 60% of the Northwest's electric energy and 90% of its renewable energy.  Washington wine growers depend on these resources, are flourishing and may overtake California in terms of wine production next year.  Our combined and interactive hydro generation of energy is dependent on all of the dams in Washington working concertedly for reliable production in a wide variety of working conditions.

The Columbia Snake River System is a 465-mile river highway that provides farmers and other producers including from other states even as far as the Midwest access to international markets.  Figures from 2014 show 4,361,000 tons of cargo were barged on the Snake River, to replace this capacity with rail would take 43,610 rail cars or by freight truck, over 167,000 semi-trucks. A typical four-barge tow moves the same amount of cargo as 140 rail cars or 538 trucks.  The best way to transport goods in Washington state is to use the in-place disciplines of barging, rail, and trucking in combination and in competition.

The resolute nonsense of the day is of the social need to save salmon, orca whales, and so the entire planet by removal of the Snake River Dams.  Reportedly, a single farmer has decided he could use rail rather than barging to ship his grain is backed by a Seattle based PR firm.  He is attempting to portray this idea is viable in that the opinion has common ground, while he is in fact standing alone in his views.  This was considered a dishonest attempt to sway the debate in testimony about the study of Snake River dam removal in Olympia as no other farmers could be shown to share this opinion.

The same people who push such an alternative as somehow more green fight rail transportation as polluting and dangerous.  Their silliness ignores the fact there is not adequate rail infrastructure in place to take on the additional commerce.  60% of grain is transported by barge today, to use rail and freight truck transport would be wasteful of product and time as well as increase fuel usage immensely.  The impact of damage to roadways and on traffic is unimaginable increasing the pressure that would come to bear on our already overcrowded interstate freeways, this while in the same breath pushing for lower carbon, less efficient fuels.  The contradictions in the green world are never ending, theoretical and simplistic ideas for saving salmon are not well thought out and are damaging.

When an idea does not make sense, one must wonder what the actual end goal would be.  When there is no common sense, what is the reason for the nonsense?  People who think the displacement of these four very productive dams is a good idea must prove how they would replace the multiple functions of these dams in a more productive, better planned and organized, and more environmentally friendly way.  This is a task that has not been accomplished, perhaps it is because there is no better way to do what these dams do for the people, environment, and commerce of Washington state.  Unfounded notions of replacing the productivity of these dams with solar and wind power will not begin to supplant the considerable variety of benefits to the people of Washington.

Agricultural businesses; people who love their affordable, clean energy; intra-state trade; and those who have jobs dependent on these dams need to form partnerships with one another and the people of this state who appreciate the work they do.  We must speak loudly with a combined voice to save our dams and push back against green new deals that would harm our businesses, low cost electricity, abundant supply of locally grown food, and way of life with unproductive and unaffordable nonsense.

Sources used to form an opinion in this article can be accessed at the websites listed below.

April 13, 2019