Guest Opinion: Lower Snake River Dams Need to Go
I'm an aquatic ecologist and I'd like to speak to you about dams and fish. I was Research Coordinator at Olympic National Park during the time we removed the two hydropower dams on the Elwha River. Those dams produced little power and it would have cost millions to bring them to current license standards. Nonetheless, because of human inertia, it took 25 years of studies, planning and debates before the dams were removed. The salmon were back above the dams a week after the final barrier was removed.
The four Lower Snake River Dams are in Washington just before the Snake joins the Columbia River. When the dams were built 65 years ago everyone knew that they would seriously harm salmon runs. Since then, billions (with a "B") of dollars have been spent trying to "fix" that harm. Those efforts have failed. Yearly reports woefully document the salmon death spiral. Agency biologists agree: "Without breaching, Snake River wild salmon and steelhead will continue rapidly to extinction."
As if suddenly wakening to this realization, Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson recently proposed a "Concept" to breach the dams (https://simpson.house.gov/salmon/). In response to this proposal but mindful of its problems, the Biden Administration, governors and senators of Washington and Oregon announced a joint federal-state process to find a way forward. They promise to reveal a plan in July (https://tinyurl.com/2s39tk2w).
Our Oregon senators have expressed support but also reticence. At a recent Town Hall I asked Sen. Merkley for his position on the dams. He said, "It's really hard to remove a dam," and that he was, "trying to learn all he could" about the situation. From my Elwha experience I can vouch for how hard it is to remove dams! But what is there to "learn" beyond the definition of "extinction?"
Bend is now in CD 5 where Rep. Kurt Schrader has consistently supported industry at the expense of our rivers, fish, and wildlife. However, this spring Jamie McLeod-Skinner has a strong chance of winning Schrader's seat. Jamie has already spoken strongly in favor of salmon and river restoration.
Here's the situation. These dams have run at a loss for decades. Our tax dollars and Bonneville Power customers are subsidizing this losing proposition. While those expenses keep mounting, costs of solar and wind energy are dropping. It is true that rivers always run and aren't subject to cloudy or wind-less days. But credible studies have shown that removing the Snake River dams will not lead to power shortages (https://nwenergy.org). We already have sufficient reserve energy and the cost of it is decreasing. In fact, removing these dams will actually reduce consumer power bills. Government-sourced supporting documents are here (http:www.damsense.org).
Now it's up to you. We've got to overcome inertia; the tendency to leave things as they are. Convey the urgency to the governor and your members of Congress. Complicated arrangements concerning transportation and commerce can be addressed in time. But the fish have no more time. Their time is up.
— Dr. Jerry Freilich is an aquatic ecologist recently retired from a 25-year career as a scientist in six national parks.
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Save Worrell Park
Remember that Joni Mitchell song about taking down paradise and putting up a parking lot? "You don't know what you've got till its gone." Well, it could happen here in Bend. The county would like to blow up Worrell park and truck it away, which would take 3,470 ten ton dump truck loads to accomplish. What would we get in return, 64 parking spaces.
Fortunately a growing number of Bend residents aren't buying that.
Here's what you can do. If you haven't been there for a while, go walk the trails, check out the critters that call it home; birds, even a nesting humming bird, deer, marmots, lizards and those oh so important pollinating insects.
Write to the County commissioners about why we shouldn't destroy this last little piece of natural landscape in our lovely walkable downtown Bend. Then tell your friends and get them to write letters about why they don't want to lose this delightfully quirky piece of old Bend.
Then, mark your calendar and come to our next event at the park: 1:30 to 4 pm, March 20, equinox day, which marks the beginning of spring. See you there!
Letter of the Week:
Alice: Lovely to hear from you, and thanks for bringing this to the attention of our readers. Come on by for your gift card to Palate!