Raising the alarm to save our dams


U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse

One of the most urgent issues we face right now in Central Washington is the ongoing threat to dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Just this week, a 9th Circuit Court panel rejected arguments for an injunction to pause a forced spill order by an Oregon federal judge. The Oregon judge’s order requires an increase in spill for the eight lower Columbia and Snake River dams and now goes into effect as of April 3. Increasing spill comes with a $40 million price tag for ratepayers this year alone. That price is too high, and it is only a fraction of the cost that removing our dams would have on our economy. Breaching the dams should not even be an option.
We already know how Seattle interests feel about dams on the east side of the mountains: They want them breached, despite billions spent on improving fish survival rates to 92%-96% at the four lower Snake River dams. A federal judge from Oregon wants studies of breaching the lower Snake River dams to continue. My constituents disagree. Residents of Washington’s Fourth Congressional District know how important these dams are to our livelihoods, and we see things differently because we will have to live with the consequences.
I surveyed thousands of constituents across Central Washington, and the responses I have received have been overwhelmingly supportive – 85 percent – of protecting our Snake River dams. In the Tri-Cities this week, I stood with community leaders, county commissioners, PUDs, and representatives from agriculture, labor, and transportation to support safeguarding our dams.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and I joined with lawmakers across the Pacific Northwest to introduce bipartisan legislation to prevent increasing spill or breaching our dams. There is progress to report: On Monday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and I received a commitment from leadership of the U.S. House to mark up and then bring our bipartisan legislation to the floor for a vote. We now expect that legislation to move in the near future to ensure continued operations of federal dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers and keep electricity rates stable.
This week’s forced spill order shows that the stakes are high for our region if the dams are prevented from operating as efficiently as they can. I firmly believe fish and dams can and do coexist. I am steadfast in my resolve to save our dams, and I am committed to this effort on behalf of our rural communities here in Central Washington. I am working to save our dams and keep electricity rates low because the price for our area is simply too high.

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