Dam-focused rally, workshop draws hundreds of people to Pasco

Gov. Inslee releases draft report after Snake River dams stakeholder study
Ice Harbor Dam (Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

A rally and workshop in Pasco brought people on both sides of the Lower Snake River dam issue – and both sides of the state – under the same roof Monday night.

The snowy roads didn’t deter local leaders and community members from attending the event at the Red Lion Hotel, some driving hours to attend.

 

The public workshop was one of three held across the state of Washington to reveal findings of Governor Inslee’s dam stakeholder draft report and offer opportunity for discussion. Ahead of the workshop, the Tri-Cities Legislative Council held a pro-dam rally.

Representatives from various industries spoke at the rally. Congressman Dan Newhouse and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers couldn’t attend but addressed the crowd in a video message.

“Hydropower built the Pacific Northwest,” said McMorris Rodgers in her video message.

The rally drew industry leaders as well as members of the community that feel they would be impacted by any decision regarding the dams.

“It affects me because I use some of the barge traffic to traffic my grains,” said Glenn Leland, a farmer and Port of Mattawa commissioner.

After the rally, Jim Kramer with Kramer Consulting started the public workshop by giving a brief summary of the draft report that his firm put together, after conducting interviews with close to 100 federal, state, and local leaders along with representatives from local tribes and a variety of industries.

No firm stance or action was detailed in the governor’s draft report – the goal was to get a feel for the different opinions.

“Our approach was just to gather the comments, information and perspectives,” said Kramer.

A panel discussion featured ten of the interviewees, handpicked by Kramer because of their unique perspectives and their desire to understand the perspectives of others. Members featured spokespersons for the Nez Perce Tribe, McGregor Company, Washington Trollers Association Bonneville Power Administration, the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and Wild Orca, Trout Unlimited, Shaver Transportation, Northwest Energy Coalition, Irrigation Farmer AgReserves and Idaho River Adventures.

“There have been too many characterizations of each other,” said Kieran Connolly from Bonneville Power Administration.

During the panel, Connolly discussed the changing demands and current challenges the electricity business is already facing, while a representative from Shaver Transportation emphasized barging as a clean form of transportation.

One farming industry representative suggested focusing on cleaning up Puget Sound to help salmon numbers, but a University of Washington orca expert said that kind of work is already being done, and Southern Resident Orcas are only spending part of their time in the Puget Sound.

After the panel members shared their thoughts and addressed a few pre-prepared questions, written questions from the crowd were collected and answered.

Those topics included the decline of salmon and what is the true cause, and how Washington state would be able to reach renewable energy goals without the Lower Snake River dams.

“I think what really came out is how complex an issue this is,” said Tom Kammerzell after the workshop. Kammerzell is a Port of Whitman County commissioner who also attended the Clarkston public workshop, which drew a crowd of 300. “There are no simple answers to exceptionally complex issues, and this is an exceptionally complex issue.”

Over 50 questions were received during the Pasco workshop, and Kramer said they would try and address unanswered questions in their final report.

Written comments will also be accepted through January 24 online. The report will be finalized and delivered to Governor Inslee and the legislature in March.

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