(The Center Square) – The Biden administration released two reports Tuesday bearing on the debate over breaching four dams on the lower Snake River for environmental reasons.
While not explicitly endorsing the idea, the reports bolster the argument that the move may be both necessary for environmental reasons and economically viable. Critics charge the administration with “cherry picking” data to support the plan.
Regarding the health of the salmon run, a draft of the “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead Report” by the National Office of Marine and Aviation Operations states, “The short-term outlook for most interior Columbia stocks is grim.”
While acknowledging that “the long-term outlook does provide a bit of hope as most stocks continue to demonstrate inherent resilience,” the report warns that the future outlook must be tempered by the ongoing environmental impact of climate change and human activity.
Overall, the report indicates that improving the salmon run could be aided by breaching one or more of the dams.
Another report, “BPA Lower Snake River Dams Power Replacement Study,” by private consultant Energy & Environmental Economics, Inc., indicates that power generated by the dams could be replaced for $11 billion to $19 billion, assuming “that emerging energy technologies become commercially available.”
“Business as usual will not restore the health and abundance of Pacific Northwest salmon. We need a durable, inclusive, and regionally-crafted long-term strategy for the management of the Columbia River Basin,” Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said in a statement.
“The information that is being developed confirms much of what we have been saying for a long time,” Joseph Bogaard of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition said according to a Seattle times report. “The dams are replaceable. We need a political solution. Salmon are in deep trouble and we need to move quickly.”
Critics claim administration officials are selectively using scientific data to justify breaching the dams.
“Today’s release of two reports from the Biden administration’s Council on Environmental Quality confirms what we have suspected for some time—they are cherry picking points to justify breaching the Lower Snake River Dams, which will permanently and negatively impact our way of life in the Pacific Northwest,” several lawmakers said in a joint statement.
Washington U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and representatives from Idaho, Oregon, and Montana added, “The Biden administration is talking a big game on carbon goals while simultaneously engaging in actions to undermine valuable clean, affordable, and renewable power resources on the Columbia River System, thus compromising energy stability across the region.”
Washington Democrats have made removal of the dams a plank in their platform.
McMorris Rodgers helped get legislation approved by the U.S House of Representatives that includes language prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from breaching the four Lower Snake River dams.