Guest column: Biden needs to expose his secret Snake River Dam plan to reality

The $33 billion secret Snake River Dam plan that President Biden and friends cooked up in the White House basement needs to be exposed to the light of day and thoroughly aired by all. It is time to assess how it might work in the real world rather than wait and see what happens once it is implemented.

While $33 billion may seem like “walking around” money to a President who tosses around trillion-dollar programs like horseshoes at the church picnic, the amount is equal to the yearly operating budget of the entire state of Washington.

It cannot be treated as just a “pie in the sky” pipe dream. It has real consequences for people.

For example, look at what is happening with California’s fetish to replace diesel big rigs with electrics. California has nowhere near enough chargers to service the number of electric semi-trucks that will soon be on the road, Wall Street Journal’s Sierra Dawn McClain wrote.

Last month, McClain spent a day with trucker Ariel Ramos who hauls containers from seaports and rail yards in southern California. His employer is switching from diesel long-haul trucks to electrics to comply with the new California law which went into effect on Jan. 1.

Additionally, the state’s Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation mandates that companies rapidly phase out diesel semi-trucks, starting with older models, and replace them with zero-emission trucks to improve air quality and limit greenhouse-gas emissions, McClain added.

“A diesel semi can fuel up in 15 minutes and then drive 1,000 miles — a round trip from Los Angeles to Reno, Nev. — before needing to refuel. Making the same trip, Ramos’s electric truck would have to make six recharging stops of at least 90 minutes each,” McClain reported.

Electric trucks are heavier and allow less room for cargo, therefore, requiring more of them further adding to road congestion.

Imagine the catastrophic impact of recharging thousands of grain trucks plugging up narrow two-lane southeastern Washington highways?

Dam removal ends barging, the safest and most efficient transporter of products. One barge can carry the same amount of wheat as 35 rail cars or 134 trucks and can move a ton of wheat 647 miles per gallon while a truck moves a ton of wheat 145 miles per gallon. In total, it would take 162,153 (diesel) semis and 42,160 rail cars to move 4.2 million tons or cargo currently barged on the Snake River.

Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) reports dam breaching poses a significant, and negative, energy-environmental impact. “That means an increase in CO2 and other harmful emission by over 1.25 million tons per year—-the same as opening a new coal plant every six years.”

Replacing the dam’s electrical output with carbon-free electricity is a herculean task.

Existing Washington law requires a renewable electricity build out of 160,000 megawatts which is 23 percent of the Western Power Pool (WPP). It is enough electricity power 15 cities the size of Seattle, according to Northwest RiverPartners.

Even if the WPP region doubles its historic pace of renewable electricity generation, it is unlikely the state requirements are met until 2076, causing CO2 emissions to increase by 132 million metric tons to maintain electric grid reliability.

Removing Ice Harbor Dam alone would impact up to 44,000 irrigated acres of apple orchards, vineyards, and crops such as potatoes.

“The on-farm harm of destroying the dams would be approximately $769 million, a direct financial hit to the people of Washington state,” PNWA added.

The stakes from the Biden scheme are too great to gloss over. It is time to shine light on the dam destruction plan while it is still under consideration.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at