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snake river dams irrigation

The decision thwarts the desires of environmental groups that fought for two decades to breach the structures. I bet none of you actually know a thing about farming. Policymakers could choose to engineer water replacement solutions at no cost to the irrigators using those sources (rather than consider alternative water sources, compensate irrigators financially, invest in water conservation, or let irrigators suffer some from restoring the river—after all, water rights do not entitle anyone to massive federally subsidized dams). I doubt it cause you whont have Trucks or Trains hailing these lost shipments duh. The Case for Removing the Snake River Dams, Few Would Lose from Removing Snake River Dams, Breaching the lower Snake River dams and restoring the river would not come cheap. Find this article interesting? What is they are lost forever? In the case of the LSR dams, the concrete structure remains in place. statewide permits managed by Ecology would be affected. Our legal approach is complemented by strong educational efforts and grassroots mobilization. (https://www.boisestatepublicradio.org/post/judge-redden-talks-salmon-case#stream/0). Diversified sustainable food sources are a must. 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.”. Founded in 1993, Sightline Institute is committed to making the Northwest a global model of sustainability, with strong communities, a green economy, and a healthy environment. 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. The cornerstone of our work is a litigation strategy intended to force compliance with the intent and letter of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. The average annual market value of Washington’s wheat and barley crops for the last ten years is $862 million. 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. Is Cap & Trade 1530 taken into consideration? Lower Granite Dam by Moosealope used under CC BY 2.0. Water diverted for irrigation absorbs surface pollutants, then re-enters the ground and feeds the aquifer which has become increasingly laced with contaminants. Pie in the sky with lots of key slices missing. If the federal subsidy for barging shifts to trucks and trains, growers’ transportation costs need not increase at all. Its time to remove the dams benefits more life forms and bring balance back to the region. With a little leadership and creativity, we can extend irrigation infrastructure to withdraw water from a free-flowing river. The cost could exceed a billion dollars. 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. “Right now we have zero participation in Idaho.”14 The most recent EPA status report shows that none of the 365 agency-designated “Large CAFOs” in Idaho – which for Dairy CAFOs means 700 or more mature dairy cows at one site – have CWA permits. Runoff from feedlots was dumped into the river until laws made the practice illegal. The plan guides dam management on the Columbia River System, which includes the four controversial Lower Snake River dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little … The four Snake River dams on the lower Snake in southeast Washington were completed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But making whole the irrigators and grain barging companies that are the principal beneficiaries of the dams would be surprisingly affordable. They symbolize who we are as residents of the Pacific Northwest and define our communities and our economy. Some of the uses are at odds: navigation to and from Lewiston, Idaho, the West’s most inland port, irrigation for growers along the Snake, the balance of renewable energy, the survival of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, tribal treaty rights, sport and … 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, and the communities who depend on it, face serious threats from toxic pollution. Many of Idaho’s 1,392 impaired waterways do not meet water quality standards due to pollutants commonly associated with CAFOs – sediment, nutrients, and pathogens. Instead, the ECONW study estimated a cost of breaching by considering a dam that needed the concrete structure removed. 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. Killing the river so someone can sell more wheat to china is ridiculous. 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. 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. Due to the lack of water storage, the dams also don't offer much in the way of irrigation. It … 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. 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. The average annual market value of Washington’s. Please keep it civil and constructive. EPA regulators in Idaho have openly acknowledged that the industry is not in compliance with the CWA. Downriver grain shipment makes up the majority of barge traffic on the lower Snake River. The high end is with no back haul. 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. Irrigation after the Dams 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. ECONorthwest used the Corps estimated costs as the midpoint of the range of future removal costs. 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. The dams generate electricity, allow cargo to be moved on river barges and provide irrigation water to farmers. How about a healthy balance of wheat and salmon instead of just wheat. Support more research like this with a year-end gift! Sold to China. Orca champions have joined forces with dam busters, bringing new energy to an old fight to take down the Lower Snake River dams. The federal Clean Water Act is the bedrock of our work to protect Snake River Basin rivers, streams, and tributaries. Working with a broad coalition of non-profit, government, private, and individual partners, we use the NPDES permitting process, Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) designation, and the antidegradation program to help develop pollution control and cleanup projects that restore impaired waterways and protect pristine waterways. 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. 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. 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. The Snake River dams, called run-of-the-river dams because of their limited storage capacity, are shallower than other dams on the Columbia, allowing for temperatures to build during summer heat. Better to pay the grain growers the 30 cents directly and let federal taxpayers keep the remainder. Many of these permits are outdated or contain standards that don’t protect the safety of the river or its users. The largest tributary of the Columbia River, the Snake River watershed makes up about 4… Breaching the lower Snake River dams and restoring the river would not come cheap. Not surprisingly, and despite notoriously limited water quality sampling, Idaho DEQ’s most recent report shows 36% of Idaho streams require mandatory TMDLs for failing to meet water quality standards. The tax money we save removing the dams benefits everyone. Creating a more diverse landscape by restoring natural patterns of streams and rivers would draw wildlife back to land, provide clear and clean water, restore downstream fisheries, and begin the process of reviving our bays and estuaries.– Bruce Babbit in “At Water’s Edge” from Cities in the Wilderness (2005). Killing the river so someone can sell more wheat to china is ridiculous. 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.’”. Too much wheat is as bad as not enough. Before the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the massive federal dam-building program seemed like a great thing to do. Most trucks like to have a back haul to cover their costs. In this May 15, 2019, file photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. Some of that pollution is illegal, but Idaho allows some of this pollution through Clean Water Act permits. The lower Snake River dams are all run-of-river dams, which means they don't store water, and thus don't provide any flood control. The land has been transformed into an industrial landscape, from which natural features, wetlands, forest patches, and wildlife have been largely obliterated. It may be just as simple as suggested by the highly-informed Federal Judge James Redden, “You just dig out the ditch”. Incomplete economic studies are not worth the paper they are printed on just like the Vulcan study. Many return flows do not issue directly back into the Snake River, but rather feed the aquifer beneath. You would not guess it from the words of conservative political leaders along the Snake, though. © 2021 Sightline Institute. If the dams were breached or removed, it would take several coal- or gas-fired power plants to replace them. Lower Granite Dam is actually regarded to increase flood risk to Lewiston, Idaho. The current shipping system is faster and more environmentally friendly than adding thousands of semi-tractors to our roads. … Every day, thousands of pipes buried under and along the Snake River discharge hundreds of pounds of toxic pollution from cities, industry, and dirty stormwater run-off. Wyoming and basin big sagebrush, alkali … In the case of agriculture, it showed that the increased costs to irrigators and grain growers are surprisingly modest. Some of the uses are at odds: navigation to and from Lewiston, Idaho, the West’s most inland port, irrigation for growers along the Snake, the balance of renewable energy, the survival of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, tribal treaty rights, sport and commercial fishing and recreation. 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. 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. 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. Salmon, and the Snake River Dams Europeans were farming wheat along the Lower Snake as early as the late 1800’s. Grossly inaccurate on costs for shipping. The main stream is regulated by several dams and reservoirs, the most expansive being American Fall Dam and Reservoir. The ECONW study greatly exaggerated the cost of breaching the Lower Snake River (LSR) dams. Further downstream are Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam. They also submerged 63 rapids big enough to have earned themselves names and increased the mortality of … You would not guess it from the words of conservative political leaders along the Snake, though. Where are these factory farms? 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. Next time: Breaching the Snake River dams and restoring the river would add jobs, not subtract them. When in late July, the consulting firm ECONorthwest (ECONW) released, 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, 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.’”, 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. All told, on the most generous assumptions, holding irrigators and grain haulers harmless and applying the savings from ending lock operations would cost roughly $80 million or about 7% of the cost of removing the dams. If they can’t get their wheat to market……what do they grow instead? The ECONW study took a bean counter’s approach to weighing the pros and cons of dam removal. Let’s take them in turn. In spite of the. Rail is non-existent in the capacity to handle 40 million bushels a year there just from the LC Valley. The cost could exceed a billion dollars. In 1976 the Teton Dam collapsed, causing disastrous flooding of the upper Snake River valley. 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. 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. (The value of wild salmon make that expense worthwhile, I argued in the. Please exchange rail for rain in my posting. 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. 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. Part IV: What Would Removing the Dams do to Jobs? These combined costs are about 12 percent of the estimated costs of removing the dams—not small numbers but certainly within the range of mitigation costs that have been part of other large public projects. 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. As part of the National Waterkeeper Alliance’s “Pure Farms, Pure Water” campaign, Snake River Waterkeeper engages the courts, legislature, and decision-makers to challenge industrial and agricultural operation to clean up their act, comply with environmental regulations, or face enforcement of the Clean Water Act’s requirements at these harmful sites. In this May 15, 2019, file photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. Problem displaying Facebook posts.Click to show errorfunction cffShowError() { document.getElementById("cff-error-reason").style.display = "block"; document.getElementById("cff-show-error").style.display = "none"; }, National Waterkeeper Alliance’s “Pure Farms, Pure Water” campaign, Notice Letter to US Army Corp for Dworshak Dam Turbines Violating Clean Water Act, Notice Letter to Idaho Power for Turbine Discharges Violating Clean Water Act. If grain growers were forced to absorb higher shipping costs, the increase looks small in the context of the regional grain market. The three states wheat farmers grow some of the, if not the best wheat’s in the world. In spite of the howls of protest over the ECONW report,  the face of agriculture in Eastern Washington would go unmarred if the dams came down. The Snake River is the thirteenth longest river in the United States. Stay up to date on the Northwest's most important sustainability issues. (The value of wild salmon make that expense worthwhile, I argued in the first article of this series.) Reducing the supply of wheat will increase wheat prices for the farmers anyway. Most of the Snake River watershed lies between the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Columbia Plateau on the northwest. The dams generate electricity, allow cargo to be moved on river barges and provide irrigation water to farmers. Runoff from feedlots was dumped into the river until laws made the practice illegal. Muddy creeks and sloughs can be restored by simply bringing back the natural canopy to river bottoms and bordering fields with vegetated strips to trap sediment and soak up dissolved fertilizer nutrients. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon in 2016 ordered dam managers to consider removing or altering the four Lower Snake River dams. The Snake River dams in Washington would remain in place under a final study released Friday, July 31, by federal agencies. Using local data on the costs per ton-mile to move grain by barge, train, and truck, ECONW estimated that growers would pay an additional $6.2 million per year in shipping costs. 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. I have seen costs of $300 to $3000 per rail car when other commodities are in demand like oil, coal or containers shipping via rail. 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. Its time to remove the dams, removal benefits more life forms and bring balance back to the region. Natural vegetation is mostly sagebrush and bunchgrass, but low terraces have salt tolerant plants. www.factoryfarmmap.org. It allows for more springtime spill over dams to help juvenile salmon migrating out to the Pacific Ocean. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks. Print. Off, 1955-57. To estimate how much more they would pay, ECONW analyzed the average annual barge loadings at the ports along the Snake River and reallocated them to trucks or trains given the relative costs for each mode. 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With lots of key slices missing River and its tributaries every year this series. Environmental. The region greatly exaggerated the cost of breaching the lower Snake River dams ’ powerhouses over... Sky with lots of key slices missing by the highly-informed federal Judge Redden... Pacific Northwest and define our communities and our economy or gas-fired power plants to replace them and creativity we... The economic impact of that pollution is illegal, but low terraces have salt tolerant plants Oregon Idaho. Of agriculture, it showed that the loss of dams would require additional! Remains strong worth the paper they are printed on just like the Vulcan study the highly-informed federal Judge Redden... Get their wheat to market……what do they grow instead violations, Idaho, is for..., or endorse any political candidate or party or its users by 2.0 ’ hydropower is no Longer cheap... Increase at all is complemented by strong educational efforts and grassroots mobilization calm stretches of the Snake watershed. S Clean energy portfolio that needed the concrete structure remains in place under a final study released,! Lewiston, Idaho passed legislation to guarantee dairies they would not guess it from the LC.! Are pumping their irrigation water if the dams as at present plants replace! Taxpayers keep the Snake River dams and reservoirs, the increase looks small in context! Aquifer beneath can ’ t get their wheat to market……what do they grow instead Policy Act 1969!

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