I understand Congressman Newhouse is inviting comments today from stakeholders regarding increased spill and other issues related to federal dams in his district. While I am not a constituent, that is a resident of his district, I am a stakeholder since I am a rate and tax payer. In addition, my background as a civil engineer retired from the US Army Corps of Engineers, which included three years as the Deputy District Engineer for Programs in Walla Walla, gives me more than average understanding about the cost and policies of operating large projects. I should also point out that since briefing the Congressman in January of 2015 about the costs and benefits of the lower Snake River Dams I have invested well over 6,000 hours of my time digging into the thousands of pagers of documents and data to unravel the truth about these dams.
Knowing what I do it pains me to see our elected officials, the public and even agency heads fall for the misleading arguments about the pros and cons of these four dams. These argumentative statements developed primarily by special interest groups, lobbyist and trial attorneys on both sides of the argument are now so convoluted as to make no sense whatsoever. For instance, will more spill recover salmon? No. Will it cost BPA a lot of money? No, given the loss of money the four lower Snake River Dams incur nearly every day and the overall financial hemorrhaging of BPA, BPA would more likely save money with more spill. Will transporting more fish lead to salmon recovery? No. Will the billion dollar investment made since 2000 on passage improvements on the 4LSRD’s lead to salmon recovery? No. Have these investments and other expenditures for the 4LSRD’s diverted funds from other more important dams in the Federal Hydro System? Yes. If the 4LSRD’s are breached, will it have devastating economic effects in eastern Washington? No. Indeed it will lead to several thousand new jobs and over $500 million per year in direct and indirect economic benefit to the six counties adjacent to the lower Snake River. Will irrigation farmers along Ice Harbor pool be left high and dry with worthless land? No. Is the Corps restricted from taking immediate action now by on going Biological Opinion litigation? No. I could go on.
Instead I offer a letter I have written to my neighbors in eastern Washington that asks and expounds on these and other important issues concerning the benefits, or not, of the 4LSRD’s. It is attached, along with two short summaries concerning the economics and salmon status on 4LSRD’s and a paper that describes how existing policies within the Corps and BPA provide the means now to benefit virtually all stakeholders when a free flowing river is returned to the lower Snake valley.
I respectfully request that these documents be entered into the discussions. I am available for questions and will also be asking for a meeting the next time I am in the area.