Guest opinion: Brunell’s treatise on Lower Snake River dams is flooded with falsehoods

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

Don Brunell’s recent column titled “Dams are the Northwest’s Flood Busters” (Sequim Gazette, Feb. 19, page A-10) relies on fear-mongering, rather than facts, to make his point.

Brunell takes a circuitous route through disasters in the Midwest, conjuring up images of flooded farms and billions of dollars in losses, before getting to his real point: his belief that restoring the Snake River to improve salmon and steelhead runs isn’t worth the untold natural disasters that would impact all of us living and recreating in its flood plain.

Here’s the problem: the four Lower Snake River Dams don’t provide any flood control. You heard that right, and you don’t just have to take it from me; you can ask the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) directly. Take the following from their own fact sheet on the four Lower Snake River dams, published in 2009: “These dams were not built to control floods.”

If that’s not clear enough, that same fact was confirmed by BPA’s own Robert Petty when he presented on hydro operations to Idaho Governor Brad Little’s Salmon Workgroup in Lewiston last September.

When asked directly by Brian Brooks, a stakeholder appointed to the group by the governor, if the four run-of-river LSR dams provide any flood control benefits, Petty simply stated, “No.”

Does a substantial portion of Idaho and Washington state wheat exports get barged through the LSR system every year? Yes. Would removing non-Snake River dams, like Dworshak or Bonneville, increase flood risks to surrounding communities? Potentially.

Are hydro operations at the four LSR dams impacting salmon and steelhead runs in eastern Washington and Idaho? Unquestionably (50 percent mortality through the hydrosystem, according to BPA).

Would changing those operations expose the LSR basin to untold mayhem and sorrow from continual catastrophic floods? Absolutely not.

We cannot accept the spread of false information if we are serious about recovering our fish and the fishing industry so many citizens from Idaho, Oregon and Washington rely on.

Brunell and others should take advantage of the real information that’s out there in forums like Governor Little’s Workgroup.

Even better, have a conversation with one of the thousands of Idaho families who are being directly impacted by the potential extinction of our fish.

Fishing communities like mine are suffering, economically and culturally, because our fish aren’t coming back. That’s a fact.

The Idaho Wildlife Federation is a sportsman’s conservation group, a nonprofit organization that advocates for “the conservation of Idaho’s fish and wildlife, habitat, and outdoor heritage.” See idahowildlife.org.

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