Reducing the supply of wheat will increase wheat prices for the farmers anyway. Learn more about the Snake River dams’ role in our region’s clean energy portfolio. Rain is non-existent in the state its in now in the LC Valley. The Snake River region hosts an extremely high density of cattle and pig confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), in which animals are restricted to feeding pens in dirt lots. After the first irrigation dams on the river began operation in the first decade of the 20th century, most arable land bordering the Snake River was cultivated or turned to pasture, and agricultural return flows began to pollute the Snake. The high end is with no back haul. Breaching the lower Snake River dams and restoring the river would not come cheap. Regarding irrigators in the Columbia-Snake basin, removal of the four lower Snake River dams could actually take pressure off upriver irrigators in Idaho, who under an aggressive non-dam-removal plan would need to let more water remain in the river to mitigate for the effects of the dams. You would not guess it from the words of conservative political leaders along the Snake, though. In principle, the dam removal project could pay wheat farmers to compensate them for their increased transportation costs and still have money left over to help fund river restoration. In this May 15, 2019, file photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. Let’s take them in turn. The dams generate electricity, allow cargo to be moved on river barges and provide irrigation water to farmers. The dams provide renewable hydropower and irrigation and facilitate navigation of barge traffic from the mouth of the river upstream to Lewiston, … We are focused on achieving measurable reductions in toxic pollution in the fish, wildlife, and people of the mighty Snake River by advocating for state and federal laws that responsibly limit toxic pollution and holding illegal polluters accountable for threatening water quality and public health. In 2009, EPA backed out of agreements allowing the state to inspect these facilities on EPA’s behalf due to the close relationship between the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and the industry. In this May 15, 2019, file photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. In the case of the LSR dams, the concrete structure remains in place. The study also says that some plans to add additional power could increase CO2 emmissions and raise utility bills by a dollar or two for consumers. Although they did consider the hydraulic breaching of DamSense, designed and modeled by John Twa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyGbgyPLDmc) this option was not selected, and for some unknown reason. Many return flows do not issue directly back into the Snake River, but rather feed the aquifer beneath. Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Engagement Final Report — March 2020 1 Executive Summary Salmon, orca, agriculture and energy are fundamental to Washington’s past and future. Lower Granite Dam by Moosealope used under CC BY 2.0. SPOKANE, Wash. — The U.S. government announced Friday that four huge dams on the Snake River in Washington state will not be removed to help endangered salmon migrate to the ocean. Most of the Snake River watershed lies between the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Columbia Plateau on the northwest. The Snake River dams in Washington would remain in place under a final study released Friday, July 31, by federal agencies. Salmon, and the Snake River Dams Europeans were farming wheat along the Lower Snake as early as the late 1800’s. But making whole the irrigators and grain barging companies that are the principal beneficiaries of the dams would be surprisingly affordable. The largest tributary of the Columbia River, the Snake River watershed makes up about 4… ECONorthwest used the Corps estimated costs as the midpoint of the range of future removal costs. The average annual market value of Washington’s wheat and barley crops for the last ten years is $862 million. Its watershed is the 10th largest among North American rivers, and covers almost 108,000 square miles (280,000 km ) in portions of six U.S. states: Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington, with the largest portion in Idaho. The Snake River is the thirteenth longest river in the United States. Sightline Institute's work is made possible by the generosity of people like you! We then use the Clean Water Act’s citizen suit provision to enforce NPDES permits and demand compliance by facilities that otherwise pollute our waterways in violation of the law. The federal Clean Water Act is the bedrock of our work to protect Snake River Basin rivers, streams, and tributaries. Our legal approach is complemented by strong educational efforts and grassroots mobilization. The Snake River dams in Washington would stay in place under the federal government’s preferred plan for the Columbia River System. Too much wheat is as bad as not enough. Runoff from feedlots was dumped into the river until laws made the practice illegal. What about all the grain shipped from the Camas Prairie where the rail is gone? That means that the loss of dams would require no additional power infrastructure. From the study: “The Lower Snake River Dams supply a small share of the energy needs for the Pacific Northwest region, and account for less power than BPA currently exports to other regions.”. The average annual market value of Washington’s. The decision thwarts the desires of environmental groups that fought for two decades to breach the structures. In some cases, paying them for their losses would cost less than continuing to operate the dams as at present. Incomplete economic studies are not worth the paper they are printed on just like the Vulcan study. Report water quality violations and illegal river pollution here or call (208) 806-1303. Many of these permits are outdated or contain standards that don’t protect the safety of the river or its users. One truck company told me to haul 60,000 pounds of grain from Lewiston to Portland would cost between $900 to $1100 a load one way. When in late July, the consulting firm ECONorthwest (ECONW) released its study on the economic tradeoffs of removing the dams on the lower Snake River, US Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, both Republicans from Eastern Washington, immediately branded the report “a slap in the face of our state’s agricultural economy” adding that “billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements that would be needed for irrigation and transportation hardly come across as a ‘public benefit.’”. Lower Granite Dam is located approximately 40-miles downstream of Lewiston, Idaho. If the federal subsidy for barging shifts to trucks and trains, growers’ transportation costs need not increase at all. The shift from barge to truck or train would increase costs for some grain growers. How about a healthy balance of wheat and salmon instead of just wheat. They symbolize who we are as residents of the Pacific Northwest and define our communities and our economy. The new plan says that’s the best option for fish – but too expensive in terms of irrigation, transportation and power generation. Aug. 4, 2020 To Save Orcas, Removing Snake River Dams … Clearwater and Salmon, two Snake River tributaries. That would certainly raise costs for wheat farmers but those increased costs are less than the costs of operating the locks at the four dams. Some of us want to have healthy salmon populations along with all the jobs, food sources and benefits more salmon and a healthier marine ecosystem brings. © 2021 Sightline Institute. The Snake River, and the communities who depend on it, face serious threats from toxic pollution. Snake River Waterkeeper uses all available legal and administrative mechanisms available to protect waterways and people who depend on clean water for drinking, fishing, sustenance, health, and recreation. Removing the earthen embankment is far less expensive. These factory farms typically cram thousands of animals into warehouse style buildings, creating one of the greatest sources of water pollution in the country, endangering public health, and putting family farmers out of business. Agricultural runoff from farms and ranches in the Snake River Plain and many other areas has crippled the ecology of the river. Proper application of the Clean Water Act could bring these regions back to balance with only minimal adjustments in land use. Since this time the Lower Snake River has been used as a means for getting products to Is Cap & Trade 1530 taken into consideration? Dairy CAFOs in Idaho are not adequately regulated as required by the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Idaho Legislature has enacted a series of proposals since 2000 to weaken state regulation and private rights of action related to CAFOs. We work to promote smart policy ideas and monitor the region's progress towards sustainability. Print. Next time: Breaching the Snake River dams and restoring the river would add jobs, not subtract them. Its time to remove the dams, removal benefits more life forms and bring balance back to the region. The plan guides dam management on the Columbia River System, which includes the four controversial Lower Snake River dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little … You can power us forward on sustainable solutions. www.factoryfarmmap.org. To find more articles on Sustainable Living. We use EPA’s water quality standards, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting system, and §303 to evaluate pollution levels in waterbodies. The main stream is regulated by several dams and reservoirs, the most expansive being American Fall Dam and Reservoir. (https://www.boisestatepublicradio.org/post/judge-redden-talks-salmon-case#stream/0). A $6.2 million increase in transportation for those who barge their grain represents an average cost increase that is less than one percent of the region’s grain revenues. Support more research like this with a year-end gift! Too much wheat is as bad as not enough. Part IV: What Would Removing the Dams do to Jobs? Answer: virtually nonexistent. An August 2014 High Country News article sheds light on the completeness of EPA’s regulatory failure: “We know we have large CAFO (feedlot) facilities, but they have made the business decision to not participate,” said Jim Werntz, EPA’s director in Idaho. Lower Granite Dam is actually regarded to increase flood risk to Lewiston, Idaho. The most likely scenario is that wheat that is currently trucked to Lewiston Idaho for barging would instead be trucked to Pasco and loaded on to barges there. Orca champions have joined forces with dam busters, bringing new energy to an old fight to take down the Lower Snake River dams. It allows for more springtime spill over dams to help juvenile salmon migrating out to the Pacific Ocean. What is they are lost forever? In the last 10 years, the revenue per acre of wheat has an average year to year variation of more than 20 percent as crop yields and prices swing in response to weather and market forces. The land has been transformed into an industrial landscape, from which natural features, wetlands, forest patches, and wildlife have been largely obliterated. SPOKANE, Wash. — The U.S. government announced Friday that four huge dams on the Snake River in Washington state will not be removed to help endangered salmon migrate to the The Snake River dams in Washington would remain in place under a final study released Friday, July 31, by federal agencies. In total, just 125 water sources out of 230,000 statewide permits managed by Ecology would be affected. Given the alternatives for moving grain from the Palouse, wheat and barley would still find their way to market without barges on the lower Snake River. I doubt it cause you whont have Trucks or Trains hailing these lost shipments duh. There are no canals delivering flood irrigation water from diversions on the Lower Snake. For example, the Legislature has limited which citizens can comment on CAFO siting, prohibited a state agency from considering odors and health impacts in water permitting, criminalized certain videotaping and photographing of agricultural operations, provided CAFO’s with protection from nuisance lawsuits, and prohibited oversight of CAFO waste management plans by declaring them “proprietary.” Reviews of waste management plans prior to the secrecy laws demonstrated widespread violations of state and federal land application standards. Due to the lack of water storage, the dams also don't offer much in the way of irrigation. That’s more than $.30 to $.35 cents. Any cost increase matters to farmers and the increased shipping costs would fall more heavily on some than others, but policymakers should understand that shifts in transportation costs on the order of one percent are just one star in a broad constellation of forces that determine planting choices and profitability. Rail is non-existent in the capacity to handle 40 million bushels a year there just from the LC Valley. In some cases, paying them for their losses would cost less than continuing to operate the dams as at present. The lower Snake River dams’ powerhouses save over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere each year. All Rights Reserved. Water is pumped from the top of the full reservoir to cropland 20-560 feet above the surface of the reservoir. Snake River Waterkeeper advocates for more stringent pollution discharge controls, monitors water rights and pollution permits throughout the Basin, opposes permits and transfers that threaten fisheries habitat or clean water, reports violations, and litigates when necessary to compel compliance. Support more research like this with a year-end gift! Grossly inaccurate on costs for shipping. Instead of addressing the violations, Idaho passed legislation to guarantee dairies they would not lose their permits for violating the CWA. Pesticides and heavy metals also enter the river from agricultural runoff and air deposition. Snake River Waterkeeper volunteers monitor water quality to measure progress towards the goal of “restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters” as expressed in the Clean Water Act. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks. Pie in the sky with lots of key slices missing. Runoff from feedlots was dumped into the river until laws made the practice illegal. The ECONW study took a bean counter’s approach to weighing the pros and cons of dam removal. The ECONW study greatly exaggerated the cost of breaching the Lower Snake River (LSR) dams. Better to pay the grain growers the 30 cents directly and let federal taxpayers keep the remainder. If the dams were breached or removed, it would take several coal- or gas-fired power plants to replace them. We can find replacement power to make up for the relatively small amount provided to the region by the four lower Snake River hydropower dams. Please keep it civil and constructive. I am hopeful that your future stories will consider this important discernment, and perhaps explain why ECONW rejected Twa’s modeling of earthen embankment removal. ECONorthwest evaluated a broad range of costs for breaching the dams including costs that were one-third of those developed by the Corp of Engineers in 2002. Find this article interesting? The cost could exceed a billion dollars. By slowing the flow and increasing the surface area exposed to the sun, the dams cause the Snake River to increase as much as 5.7 degrees, according to the report. The lower Snake River dams have touched on each of these topics since they were … Part I: An Overview of the Pros and Cons of Removing Snake River Dams, Part II: Dams’ Hydropower Is No Longer Particularly Cheap. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon in 2016 ordered dam managers to consider removing or altering the four Lower Snake River dams. (The value of wild salmon make that expense worthwhile, I argued in the. With a little leadership and creativity, we can extend irrigation infrastructure to withdraw water from a free-flowing river. But an irrigation specialist estimated that it would cost $148 million to plan, permit and replace the 41 diversions at the new water level after the dams were breached and $12 million extra to deepen or replace the 84 wells. Some of us want to have healthy salmon populations along with all the jobs, food sources and benefits more salmon and a healthier marine ecosystem brings. Reasonable people may think those costs are too high but the track record of most projects close to $1 billion is that they go over budget rather than under. Using water permit data from the Department of Ecology, ECONW identified 41 surface water diversions and 84 groundwater wells that could be affected by the drop in water levels if the dams were removed. We believe everyone has the right to a clean river that is safe to fish and swim in. An Overview of the Pros and Cons of Removing Snake River Dams, Dams’ Hydropower Is No Longer Particularly Cheap. 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