Why we support keeping the Snake River dams
We add our voice to those who support
maintaining the Lower Snake River Dams.
Here at Columbia Grain International
we have been supplying the world with grain, pulses, edible
beans and oilseeds for over four decades. Our supply chain
stretches across the northern tier of the United States from
North Dakota to Washington, cultivating the growth of our
farmersí crops to safely nourish the world.
We operate nine grain elevators in
Eastern Washington, own or participate in loading grain at 3
Lower Snake River terminals, and are the majority owner in 2
export terminals in the Columbia River District. Itís an
understatement to say that we have a vested interest in this
Removing the Lower Snake River dams as
part of Idaho Congressman Mike Simpsonís $33.5 billion
framework doesnít promise to bring back Idahoís salmon, but
it will have devastating effects on our farmers who rely on
this river system to successfully transport their crops to
key export terminals to supply the international markets.
The Columbia River System is the
nationís single largest wheat export gateway, transporting
50% of all U.S. wheat to markets overseas. The Northwest
Infrastructure Proposal will slow international trade
including the distribution of wheat, soy, corn, wood, autos,
mineral bulks and cruise tourism, and has the potential to
eradicate the 40,000 local jobs that are dependent on this
For us, it will endanger the economic
viability of at least two Portland-based export terminals,
which rely heavily on barges and donít have the land
footprint to expand rail placement capacity.
The removal of the dams will cause
transportation methods to shift towards truck and rail,
creating greater instability in freight costs, and exposing
farmers to potentially higher transportation costs for grain
shipments to destination markets, particularly during the
fall when corn and soybean shipments from the Midwest are
Although small compared to the giant
Columbia Basin Project upriver on the mainstem Columbia, the
lower Snake River also plays an important irrigation role,
watering over 60,000 acres of farmland in Central and
Southeastern Washington that produce dozens of different
varieties of fruits, vegetables and grains.
The evidence is clear. If the dams are
breached, our farmers will be paying more and making less at
the end of the day.
For over 40 years, the Columbia Snake
River System has successfully served our communities,
providing our regions with clean power, jobs, efficient
transportation, irrigation, flood control and more. It is
critical now more than ever to keep this region stable and
competitive in a time of global economic and social
uncertainties. We are committed to cultivating the continued
growth of our farmers and our PNW communities, and have
serious doubts about the inherent cons which we feel
drastically outweigh the pros of this proposal.
Proponents of the proposal argue that
removing the dams is necessary to restore salmon population.
However, studies show that salmon survival rates may be
greater now than if no dams existed. This all goes back to
the life cycle of fish, and the fact that they spend most of
their lives in the ocean. As we learn more about ocean
conditions from NOAA Fisheries, West Coast wild salmon and
steelhead runs are struggling, and the commonality is the
When considering dam removal, Iíve
studied the statistics which came from 40 years of research
by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power
Administration, and were compiled by retired Fish and
Wildlife biologist John McKern. McKern spent much of his
30-year career researching fish survival, and developing and
implementing fish passage improvements at the Snake and
Columbia river dams. He found that after the fish leave the
Columbia River about 88% of the remaining fish die during
their first two or three years in the ocean from predators,
adverse ocean conditions and commercial fishing.
The Frazier River in Canada is very
similar to the Columbia River system. It and other rivers
along the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada have no dams and
have the same fish problems as the Columbia River system.
Currently, we have done quite well
stewarding fish and protecting them every step of the way as
they move and make their journey on the river. Removing the
dams will have grave implications for our vital farm
communities that depend on this transportation system to
feed the world. We hope people consider that there are a lot
of other things taking place that are impacting our fish.
Jeff Van Pevenage is president and CEO of Columbia Grain
International, the leading supplier of bulk grain, pulses,
edible beans, oilseeds, both conventional and organic,
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