Don’t breach dams, Senate says

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate Tuesday took a stand against proposals that would breach lower Snake River dams, calling them vital for power, irrigation, navigation and the state’s clean-energy future.

In a memorial to Congress, the president, and the agencies responsible for managing the 14 federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, the Senate declared that “breaching any dam in the system would significantly alter system operations and severely diminish hydroelectric power generation, irrigation, navigation, flood risk management, recreation and fish and wildlife benefits the system currently provides to the people of Washington.”

Senate Joint Memorial 8004 cleared the Senate by a vote of 26-23.

The Senate’s concern is prompted by an environmental review being conducted by the agencies responsible for managing the Columbia and Snake River dams. One option under consideration is breaching one or more of the four lower Snake dams to improve river flow for fish.

“The dams of the Columbia River system are a unique asset for Washington state,” said Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, the measure’s sponsor. “They provide cheap, reliable electricity for business and consumers, enable river navigation as far as Lewiston, and bring tremendous benefits to recreation, fish and wildlife. There are more fish returning to spawn today than when the dams were built.

“How can anyone argue that dismantling a resource like this one is a good idea? Proposals to breach the dams are environmental overkill of the worst sort. By passing this memorial today, the Washington Senate has gone on record against foolishness.”