The debate over removing the four dams on the lower Snake River has simmered for decades. In July, the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest (ECONW) issued a new independent analysis funded by the philanthropic arm of the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. on the benefits and costs of restoring the river. In spite of Vulcan’s reputation for funding unbiased scientific inquiry, the reaction to the study by the dams’ proponents was furious. US Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Spokane) and Dan Newhouse (R-Yakima) stoked east-west divisions, labeling the report “another example of Seattle-based interests seeking to disrupt our way of life in Central and Eastern Washington.” The Tri-City Herald’s verdict on the highly researched, lengthy technical report was that it “belongs in the trash.”
Notwithstanding the bombast from those defending the dams, reasonable people on both sides of the Cascades divide over the question of whether to keep or remove them. Fishers and tribal members in Eastern Washington and Idaho would thrill to see increased salmon runs on the Snake River while Seattleites concerned with climate change fear giving up a gigawatt of carbon-free electricity. Many people (including some Sightline readers) who care about fish and climate don’t know what to think about the dams.