Eastern Washington’s Republican congresswoman used a House hearing on clean energy alternatives to jab the state’s Democratic governor over his study of the possible removal of the Snake River dams.
As she has in the past, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers denounced a study to review the benefits and problems of removing the four dams to help restore salmon runs. The study is part of a larger effort by Gov. Jay Inslee to help the Northwest’s dwindling orca population by providing more salmon for them to eat.
At a congressional hearing this week on “Building a 100% Clean Economy: Solutions for Planes, Trains and Everything Beyond Automobiles,” McMorris Rodgers said the dams provide a form of environmentally friendly transportation by shipping grain and other goods downriver to Portland.
“In Washington state right now, some politicians and special interests are threatening to breach the four lower Snake River dams,” she said. “Gov. Inslee is currently spending almost $1 million of taxpayer money to justify doing this.”
Technically the Legislature approved spending the $750,000 for the study at Inslee’s request. McMorris Rodgers and fellow Washington Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse asked him to take the money out of the state’s general operating budget with a line item veto before signing the budget in May; he didn’t. They had also denounced the study as a waste of money when he first proposed it as part of a series of recommendations from a task force last December.
This week McMorris Rodgers tied her criticism to one of Inslee’s key issues, clean energy, going beyond the fact that the dams create electricity without burning fossil fuels to include vehicle emissions. Without the dams and the waterway they provide, she said, farmers would have needed another 135,000 semi loads on the state’s highways.
Inslee has said he isn’t calling for dam removal but trying to get people on all sides of the issue to discuss options as the state prepares a response to an Environmental Impact Statement.
Possible pollution from extra traffic on the roads if the dams are removed is among the things being studied, Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Inslee said Thursday.
“The report will show the impacts,” Lee said.
A draft copy of the report is scheduled to be released in mid December, with time for people to submit comments and public hearings in Clarkston and Vancouver in January. A final report is scheduled to be delivered to Inslee in March, Lee said.
But any decision to remove the dams is ultimately up to the federal government, which built the dams and operates them.
While McMorris Rodgers’ criticism wasn’t surprising, “she’s still an important stakeholder,” Lee said. “We’ll need to work with her.”
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