Fighting to Protect Our Dams

The Lower Snake River Dams are the beating heart of Eastern Washington. They provide clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable energy that powers our homes and businesses. Not to mention the irreplaceable irrigation and navigation benefits they provide to help our farmers feed the world. 

These dams are so important to our way of life. That’s why I teamed up with the House Natural Resources Committee and the Western Caucus to host a field hearing right here in Eastern Washington to bring the Lower Snake River dams front and center.

Before the hearing, I brought my colleagues to the Ice Harbor dam, one of the four Lower Snake River dams that helped transform Eastern and Central Washington from a dry, barren sagebrush to one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Together, these dams generate over 1,000 megawatts on average, which is enough to power over 800,000 homes.

During our tour, we saw the many investments in innovative technology that has made this dam nearly transparent to fish, including two fish ladders, a removable spillway, and a bypass facility that helps salmon to migrate the river.

After our exciting tour of the dam, my colleagues and I held a press conference to share what we learned on the tour and to speak more about the technology that is being utilized to support salmon recovery while continuing to power our region. We also made it clear to dam breaching advocates like Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, and President Biden that their efforts to tear out the dams are not only misguided, but dishonest. 

The reality is that the dams are not the problem, and breaching them is not the solution. It’s well-past time we take the target off the dams and focus on results. Let’s continue making progress to combat predation, improve ocean conditions, and restore habitats. While we’re at it, perhaps Governor Inslee could stop dumping toxic waste into the Puget Sound. Maybe we can even get some fish passage at Hells Canyon in Idaho!

We then made our way to Richland High School for the field hearing where we were joined by many expert witnesses whose livelihoods depend on the Lower Snake River dams. The testimony we heard from community leaders on the agriculture, transportation, power, economic, and natural security benefits of the dams made it clear: These assets cannot be replaced. What’s more is that we heard the facts about salmon returns. Spring Chinook returns were up 31% last year, and the returns on the Lower Snake River are similar to rivers with no dams at all.   

All in all, it was an extremely successful day showing the world that dams and salmon can – and do – co-exist. That’s why I will continue fighting by your side to protect them every single day.

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