WAWG issues statement on dam breaching draft report

Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released the draft report of their study on breaching the lower Snake River dams. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) finds the report’s conclusions — replacement of the dams’ benefits are possible but at a significant cost and with major restructuring of the region’s infrastructure — to be flawed and the costs to wheat growers and the region significantly undervalued.

“Farmers from as far away as the Midwest rely on the transportation options provided by the dams on the lower Snake River. Railroads are already running at or near capacity, causing delays, labor shortages and cancelled railcars, issues that were discussed in the recent Surface Transportation Board hearings. Railroads and trucks simply can’t absorb the volume of shipping that is currently being done by barge,” said Howard McDonald, WAWG president and a wheat farmer from Coulee City, Wash. “The draft report acknowledges that many costs are not available, and we believe the true costs to replace all of the dams’ benefits are incalculable. Dams and salmon can and do co-exist, and that money would be better spent adding fish passage capabilities to dams that don’t have them and addressing other resource concerns, such as predation and habitat restoration.”

“My family farm depends on low-cost, efficient transportation to move our wheat to market to feed people around the world. There simply is no alternative to barging that can move over 60 percent of Washington’s wheat as safely and efficiently, and without the lower Snake River dams, barging becomes nonexistent,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “I’m concerned about the draft report, which shows a lack of understanding of the practical impacts that breaching the lower Snake River dams would have on thousands of farmers across the Pacific Northwest. Increasing our reliance on rail and trucking will only drive up costs for farmers and consumers, further congest our railroads and highways, and add harmful emissions to our environment.”

A copy of the report can be found here.