It’s about dam time: 7 things you didn’t know about local rivers and dams
SPONSORED — Whether you’re out on the boat or relaxing in your air-conditioned living room, Pacific Northwest rivers — and the dams that manage them — have a big impact on your life. In fact, you may not realize just how much these beautiful waterways affect your family, community and lifestyle.
Here are a few examples of how these rivers and dams are a vital part of life in the Pacific Northwest.
They cleanly power your life
Sure, they help protect and manage Pacific Northwest waters, but the Columbia and Snake River dams do a lot for the air as well. According to Bonneville Power Administration, a key benefit of federal dams is clean air. In fact, the four lower Snake River dams alone produce more than 1,000 average megawatts of emission-free energy. That’s enough to power more than 800,000 average U.S. homes.
They bring goods to you
Spotting a barge along a Pacific Northwest river isn’t a rare occurrence. What you may not know is that those barges are towing a ton — well, much more than a ton! In fact, a single barge tow is the equivalent of 538 tractor-trailers traveling on the highway. The cargo moving along the Columbia near the Columbia River Gorge on a single barge could fill 140 rail cars, making the river the most fuel-efficient way to transport goods. The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association reports that the Columbia Snake River system is responsible for transporting $24 billion in cargo value each year.
They protect our fish
If you thought dams were harmful to the region’s fish, it’s time to take a closer look at what the region’s dams actually do. The four lower dams on the Snake River alone include the most advanced and successful fish passage systems in the world, according to Bonneville Power Administration. Dams may look imposing, but they’re pretty helpful for traveling fish friends.
Each hydropower dam on the Snake and Columbia Rivers safely passes more than 95 percent of migrating juvenile salmon, according to The United States Army Corps of Engineers. If we were grading their homework, that’s straight A’s.
“The greatest drop in the Columbia and Snake River salmon populations was caused by unregulated overfishing in the 1880s. Salmon were fished nearly to extinction long before any dam was built on the Columbia and Snake Rivers,” Stated Rachel Little, Benton Conservation District
They feed us
Our rivers are more than a one-trick-pony. With proper management, the Columbia and Snake rivers can provide for salmon, power generation, irrigation water delivery, commercial navigation, economic development and recreation. Washington’s economy is strong because of hydropower, keeping our environment clean and carbon free while funding measures so native fish can continue to go on their journey from the rivers to the ocean and back again. Opponents of the Snake and Columbia River dams call for the removal of the dams in order to save salmon and restore their natural habitat while downplaying the fact that the rivers are already managed to protect salmon.
Hydropower doesn’t pollute the air we breathe and makes it possible for wind and solar energy to be “backed up” when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
“Beyond providing enough carbon free energy, enough to power all of Seattle, the Lower Snake River Dams offer our family farm the ability to grow premium Washington wine grapes, helping to making our state a respected wine industry leader in the world. In addition to grapes, we grow organic alfalfa which is supplied to local organic milk producers. We also produce world class organic cherries, found in grocery stores and farmers’ markets throughout the Northwest and the world!” added Vicki Gordon – Gordon Estate Winery
They’re a whole lot of fun
You can water ski, fish, kayak or paddleboard. Spend a day on a local river and you’ll soon understand why these waters are an integral part of our community. Whether you’re enjoying a Sunday afternoon picnic on the banks of the Columbia or casting for steelhead on the Snake, Washington’s rivers don’t simply enrich the environment — they enrich lives.
They build the community
Ask any of your neighbors; there’s nothing better than living in the Pacific Northwest. These communities are built on and enriched by its rivers — and the dams power and empower them.
“Our dams, in so many ways, serve as a cornerstone for our state and our communities,” said Nickolas Bumpaous, government affairs director at Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 598. “As citizens, our collective investment has provided for an abundance of affordable electricity, attracting business, protecting our agricultural leadership and empowering our growing economy. Good family-wage jobs, youth apprenticeship programs and STEM opportunities are a few of the critical byproducts our communities reap from our investment in these dams.”
They’re worth a celebration
The Pacific Northwest depends on its rivers. Show your appreciation by spending a Saturday along the banks of the Columbia. The 2018 Riverfest, held at the Lampson Pits in Columbia Park, is a great opportunity to celebrate the region’s rivers, take in some educational exhibits, tour a tugboat and learn about rivers and dams — straight from the experts. Fun for the whole family!
Riverfest runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8. For more information, visit the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.