Economic Tradeoffs of the Snake River Dams

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
WFF Supporter
Kudos to your Father, Billy. Now that I know origin of the islands, I will tip my hat & thank him whenever I'm in their vicinity in the future.
 

longputt

Active Member
This is obviously different then removing the dams but I believe with a little help the river bed left behind by the dams being removed would recover just fine. Infact I think it's a little silly to assume otherwise.
When I looked at the drawn down river it looked to me like this stretch was going to be more like the Salmon River than Hell's canyon. I agree I think it will recover fast, very fast, willows grow fast!

The only thing that concerned me was the release of dioxins from the pulp mill trapped in the soil. Did you ever hear what the conclusion was on the dioxins? It seemed to me as the river was lowered you could wash the sediment down. It may take a couple of years.
 

Driftless Dan

Driftless Dan
WFF Supporter
Washington isn't the destination that Alaska or B.C are.
Out in Wisconsin's Driftless Area, trout fishing-based tourism is estimated to bring in over $400 million annually. We're not talking the sexy fishing spots in Montana or Wyoming or Colorado; most of you have likely never even heard of the Driftless Area. So Washington doesn't have to be the destination that Alaska or B.C. are to reap an economic benefit.
Celebrating the Economic Impact of a Priceless Jewel
 

theleo91386

Active Member
Out in Wisconsin's Driftless Area, trout fishing-based tourism is estimated to bring in over $400 million annually. We're not talking the sexy fishing spots in Montana or Wyoming or Colorado; most of you have likely never even heard of the Driftless Area. So Washington doesn't have to be the destination that Alaska or B.C. are to reap an economic benefit.
Celebrating the Economic Impact of a Priceless Jewel
That's an interesting article and it's cool to see they're getting that sort of return on their investment to rehab and improve the streams there. A distinct difference though, since they're fishing is based on trout, is that the area there is seeing the full effect of their money being spent to improve habitat. Half of the economic benefits from increased salmon returns from the removal of the dams is 300 miles away from Lewiston. How do you sell the idea to that community when half there sacrifice goes directly to benefiting communities 300 miles away?
 

cmann886

Active Member
PNW WATERWAYS ASSOCIATION RELEASES CONSULTANTS’ STUDY ON COSTS OF LOWER SNAKE DAM REMOVAL AND NO BARGING
JANUARY 9, 2020
A study commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association says the removal of four lower Snake River dams would cost the U.S. over $2.3 billion over the next 30 years.

The study was performed by financial and economic consultants FCS Group to assess several impacts that would result if barging on the Snake River is lost.

In a press release, PNWA says, “Significant additional effects due to the loss of hydropower, irrigation and other authorized uses would also occur, but are not captured in this targeted report.”

The PNWA is a non-profit trade association of ports, businesses, public agencies and individuals who support navigation, energy, trade and economic development throughout the region.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration – as co-lead agencies – are currently preparing a court ordered environmental impact statement (www.crso.info for the federal dams on the Columbia/Snake rivers. One of the options being analyzed is the breaching of the lower Snake dams. The draft EIS is scheduled to be released in February.

The PNWA report follows others as the draft EIS nears release. See:

— CBB, Nov. 21, 2019, COLUMBIA-SNAKE RIVER IRRIGATORS ISSUE WHITE PAPER ON MITIGATION COSTS IF LOWER SNAKE DAMS BREACHED, POOLS DRAWN DOWN

— CBB, Aug. 2, 2019, ECO-NORTHWEST RELEASES REPORT ON ECONOMIC TRADEOFFS OF REMOVING LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS; NORTHWEST RIVERPARTNERS CHALLENGE

— CBB, Dec. 20, 2019, LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT REPORT’ RELEASED FOR PUBLIC COMMENT; DIFFERING VIEWS REPRESENTED

The report says:

— Carbon emissions equivalent to the cumulative emissions generated by a Boardman coal-fired power plant every 5-6 years would result. Breaching the Snake River dams would cause diesel fuel consumption to increase by nearly 5 million gallons per year as barges are replaced by less efficient truck-to-rail shipments. At least 201 additional unit trains and 23.8 million miles in additional trucking activity would be required annually, resulting in increases in CO2 and other harmful emissions by over 1.2 million tons per year.

— Transportation and storage expense will likely increase 50% to 100% for grain suppliers and shippers. At the current reported “break even” cost per bushel of $5.00, the transportation/storage cost is now approximately $0.40 per bushel of wheat. These costs could increase by up to $0.80 per bushel with barging removed as a transportation option.

— If farm subsidies are not increased, over 1,100 farms may be at risk of bankruptcy. Average regional net farm cash income was only $42,825 in 2017. With wheat prices already down near the break-even point, the federal government would need to increase annual direct payments to farmers by up to $38.8 million to maintain current income levels.

— Highway, rail and grain elevator networks would need over $1.6 billion in capital investment. If barging were removed from the Snake River, new infrastructure or costly upgrades would be needed to accommodate the displaced cargo. This includes hundreds of miles of shortline rail track that have been abandoned, new rail, major highway improvements, and retrofits for grain elevators that do not have rail loading capabilities.

— Essential health, sanitation and safety would be jeopardized, along with other public services. As observed in the 1992 Snake River drawdown experiment, existing wastewater infrastructure is likely to be damaged or rendered useless if the river level drops, requiring new investments in water intakes, filtration and pumping/transmission systems for a number of cities, counties and major industrial businesses. Roadways, public docks and other infrastructure that are adjacent to the river would also be damaged or rendered useless. Safety is also a major concern, with additional rail and truck traffic leading to corresponding increases in accidents and fatalities.

— The impacts would be socially unjust and target fragile economies. The 10 counties most impacted by a dam breaching scenario are primarily rural areas in which 1 in 5 people are already at or below the federal poverty level, and average wages are 25% below the national average. Dam breaching would have a negative regional economic impact on agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and tourism businesses that are physically or functionally related to freight movement and river access.

“Dam breaching extremists talk about how easy and inexpensive it would be to compensate Washington, Oregon and Idaho businesses and residents if the lower Snake River dams were removed,” said PNWA Executive Director Kristin Meira. “We commissioned this study to show federal and state decision makers the real economic and environmental impacts on real people and communities that would result.”

Also see:

— CBB, Dec. 3, 2019, EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR COLUMBIA/SNAKE DAMS: TURNING POINT OR STATUS QUO? https://www.cbbulletin.com/editors-notebook-a-new-environmental-impact-statement-for-columbia-snake-dams-turning-point-or-status-quo/

— CBB, May 23, 2019, DETAILS OF FIVE DRAFT ALTERNATIVES FOR COLUMBIA RIVER POWER SYSTEM EIS FOR SALMON/STEELHEAD: STATUS QUO TO DAM BREACHING, MUCH IN-BETWEEN https://www.cbbulletin.com/details-of-five-draft-alternatives-for-columbia-river-power-system-eis-for-salmon-steelhead-status-quo-to-dam-breaching-much-in-between-2/

More news from CBB:
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
I suppose I would expect an outfit like the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association to release a report that might as well be titled THE PARADE OF HORRIBLES OF SNAKE RIVER DAM BREACHING. A more biased report from a more biased organization would be hard to come up with. So without saying so, they seem to be saying that federal taxpayers should continue to subsidize money-losing federal dams so that those who benefit from the subsidy can continue to do so. Status quo is invariably the preferred bureaucratic decision, cuz that change thing. That said, I don't expect dam breaching to be a bed of roses either, and the fishery benefits, while important, are more likely than not to be less than estimated. They always are.
 

FinLuver

Active Member
I suppose I would expect an outfit like the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association to release a report that might as well be titled THE PARADE OF HORRIBLES OF SNAKE RIVER DAM BREACHING. A more biased report from a more biased organization would be hard to come up with. So without saying so, they seem to be saying that federal taxpayers should continue to subsidize money-losing federal dams so that those who benefit from the subsidy can continue to do so. Status quo is invariably the preferred bureaucratic decision, cuz that change thing. That said, I don't expect dam breaching to be a bed of roses either, and the fishery benefits, while important, are more likely than not to be less than estimated. They always are.
It all about the pen master, when such reports are written...no matter what side of the aisle...
And who’s playin’ for it. ;)
 

Dustin Bise

Hot-spotting Sheriff.
wait so if we stop subsidizing the barges it will cost more for the farmers and the ports? no shit? lmao
 

KillerDave

Have camera, will travel...
Stop with all the Shiny Object arguments already. They're not taking the dams out.

The older generations of my family were mostly high-level military. Nearly all of the infrastructure in the Great Northwest was built to fight the cold war, which still has more than a few coals simmering under the ashes.

The next major industrial shift involves electric cars replacing gas cars and water to grow food to feed a growing population; the demand for water and hydro power will accelerate. Looking into the not too distant future 20 years from now, diverting resources to recover salmon that can be caught by foreign trawlers in international waters doesn't make much sense.
 

Bryce Levin

Active Member
Stop with all the Shiny Object arguments already. They're not taking the dams out.

The older generations of my family were mostly high-level military. Nearly all of the infrastructure in the Great Northwest was built to fight the cold war, which still has more than a few coals simmering under the ashes.

The next major industrial shift involves electric cars replacing gas cars and water to grow food to feed a growing population; the demand for water and hydro power will accelerate. Looking into the not too distant future 20 years from now, diverting resources to recover salmon that can be caught by foreign trawlers in international waters doesn't make much sense.
What if the four dams only accounted for 4% of the energy production in the NW?

What if the Army Corps cost to operate the dams over the next 30 years was $245 million (our tax $) per year and the removal of the dams is estimated at $1.08 billion? That is less than 5 years before the removal investment is paid off.

What if farmers were still able to draw water from the Snake for irrigation without the dams?

I think it makes sense without factoring in the benefits to salmon and steelhead and the economies that would benefit, also.

Still shiny objects?
 

GeorgeV

Active Member
WFF Supporter
What if the four dams only accounted for 4% of the energy production in the NW?

What if the Army Corps cost to operate the dams over the next 30 years was $245 million (our tax $) per year and the removal of the dams is estimated at $1.08 billion? That is less than 5 years before the removal investment is paid off.

What if farmers were still able to draw water from the Snake for irrigation without the dams?

I think it makes sense without factoring in the benefits to salmon and steelhead and the economies that would benefit, also.

Still shiny objects?
Also factor in the cost of dredging to keep the barge channel open and dredging impact on fish and wildlife habitat. Then add in the increase of tourist dollars.
 

KillerDave

Have camera, will travel...
What if the four dams only accounted for 4% of the energy production in the NW?

What if the Army Corps cost to operate the dams over the next 30 years was $245 million (our tax $) per year and the removal of the dams is estimated at $1.08 billion? That is less than 5 years before the removal investment is paid off.

What if farmers were still able to draw water from the Snake for irrigation without the dams?

I think it makes sense without factoring in the benefits to salmon and steelhead and the economies that would benefit, also.

Still shiny objects?
With respect, you're kind of making my Shiny Object point for me here. Two words: things change.

The things you are quoting won't stay the same, they can and will change as future demands change. The big questions are how will they change and what demands will direct that change?

There will be more demand for "renewable energy" power. When it becomes economically desirable to retrofit the generators in those dams to produce more power, they will.

Climate change is producing more frequent and drastic drought / flood cycles and thus is will become more important to have stored water for farmers to draw on.

One of the major reasons Canada implemented fish farms 20+ years ago is they discovered they could "put more fish into the ocean but wouldn't get more back-less in fact." Now we are seeing the same logic play out in Puget Sound.

For what it's worth this is just my opinion and also I appreciate both sides of the argument. But my mind remains unchanged, which is no big deal. Personally, I'd very much like to see better Salmon & Steelhead returns but there are alot of forces, both obvious and hidden, to consider.
 
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Bryce Levin

Active Member
With respect, you're kind of making my Shiny Object point for me here. Two words: things change.

The things you are quoting won't stay the same, they can and will change as future demands change. The big questions are how will they change and what demands will direct that change?

There will be more demand for "renewable energy" power. When it becomes economically desirable to retrofit the generators in those dams to produce more power, they will.

Climate change is producing more frequent and drastic drought / flood cycles and thus is will become more important to have stored water for farmers to draw on.

One of the major reasons Canada implemented fish farms 20+ years ago is they discovered they could "put more fish into the ocean but wouldn't get more back-less in fact." Now we are seeing the same logic play out in Puget Sound.

For what it's worth this is just my opinion and also I appreciate both sides of the argument. But my mind remains unchanged, which is no big deal. Personally, I'd very much like to see better Salmon & Steelhead returns but there are alot of forces, both obvious and hidden, to consider.
I agree things change, we just have a different view in how to address those changes.

I don’t think that 4 outdated damns that produce such a small portion of the net energy to a region that is selling surplus energy to other states are necessary from an energy perspective. Especially when they cost more to operate then remove. Take the funds available after removing and continue to make alternative energy sources cleaner and more efficient.

I also don’t think that dams are the answer to droughts on largest salmon and steelhead producing river system in the lower 48. I’d rather find ways to use water more efficiently.

Respectfully agree to disagree.
 
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