Northwesterners want to keep Lower Snake Dams, poll finds

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The majority of residents of the Northwest interviewed as part of a survey commissioned by Northwest RiverPartners said they oppose the demolition of the four Snake River dams in eastern Washington.

The results, released Tuesday, contrast with the survey results released in October by the Washington Conservation Voters who found broad support in Washington state for removing the four dams to help salmon.

The latest survey found that residents surveyed in Washington, Oregon and Idaho were in favor of keeping the dams – when asked about the hydropower they produced.

Some 60% of 1,200 people surveyed said they supported the use of hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River to generate electricity.

This included 68% of Idaho residents surveyed, 61% of Washington residents surveyed, and 55% of Oregon residents surveyed.

Opponents of the four hydroelectric dams made up 17% of those polled, including 18% of Idaho and Oregon residents and 17% of Washington residents.

In total, 23% of those questioned said they were undecided.

“Today’s survey results ultimately demonstrate that residents of the Pacific Northwest understand the critical role hydropower plays in supporting our clean energy grid and recovering energy. fish and our political leaders should take note, ”said Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners.

Northwest RiverPartners is a not-for-profit organization whose members include electric utility customers, farmers, and businesses that benefit from the dams.

“With national inflation now reaching a 30-year high and soaring energy prices, affordable access to hydropower is more critical than ever when it comes to meeting ambitious decarbonization targets and economic justice in our region, ”Miller said.

Some 43% of those polled said they were concerned that removing or breaking dams on the Snake River would increase electricity costs. Respondents were allowed to choose two areas of concern.

Dams and ag, clean energy

Some 35% said they feared losing a carbon-free energy source, and 29% said they were concerned about the impacts on agriculture.

The dams are needed to transport wheat and other agricultural products, including for export across the Pacific Ocean, and they help some farmers with irrigation water.

Additionally, 20% of respondents said they were concerned about the impacts on rural and low-income communities.

This was followed by 12% worried about the increase in blackouts and 10% concerned about the impacts on small businesses in the dam areas.

Dams include the Ice Harbor Dam near Tri-Cities upstream of the Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston, Idaho.

A minority of respondents, 29%, agreed with a statement that dams on the lower Snake River are “a major source of problems for wild salmon, killer whales and other animals.” We should make the decision to remove dams to protect animals and their habitats. “

The survey suggests that support for the Lower Snake River Dams is bipartisan and geographically diverse, with residents of metropolitan and rural areas indicating high levels of support, according to Northwest RiverPartners.

A majority of Republicans and Democrats polled in each of the three states said they supported hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River.

This included 63% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans in Washington; 71% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans in Idaho; and 52% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans in Oregon.

In Washington state, 61% of those polled in King County, where Seattle is located, said they supported the dams. In eastern Washington, 68% of those polled supported the dams.

The poll results were released less than a week after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a guidance note on saving salmon, outlining plans ranging from restoring salmon habitat to addressing predation of salmon.

He called for determining whether there are reasonable ways to override the benefits of the four dams if they were to be removed, which would be a federal decision.

In October, Inslee and U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., Announced a joint federal and state process to see if there are reasonable ways to replace the benefits of the lower Snake River dams.

He followed a similar proposal earlier this year by U.S. Representative Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to spend $ 33 billion to break down the four lower dams on the Snake River.

The money would cover dismantling the earthen parts of the dams to allow water to flow freely, building new energy and transportation systems, and tackling the economic impact of the loss of the dams.

Political efforts to remove the lower Snake River dams should be informed by the latest results of the investigation, Northwest RiverPartners said.

Dams and salmon surveys

The survey was conducted by DHM Research, which describes itself as independent and non-partisan, from July 26 to August 3.

The survey of Washington residents, the results of which were released in October, was carried out by the Mellman Group and funded by the California-based Water Foundation. He focused on the benefits to salmon rather than low-cost power generation.

The survey interviewed 800 Washington state residents, 58% of whom said they wanted businesses, scientists, farmers, tribes and communities to cooperate on a plan to remove the lower dams in the river. Snake River.

In the Seattle area, 63% of those polled supported removing the dams, compared to 47% in eastern Washington, according to the Mellman Group.

This story was originally published December 21, 2021 6:00 a.m.

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Annette Cary, editor, covers Hanford, energy, environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for over 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.


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