Snake River Transportation Services
Joined by vice chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, American Rivers, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Trout Unlimited, Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, and railway system staff, we flew above the Snake River. Our overflight examined how breaching of the four lower Snake River dams will affect barge transportation and how the rail system can be bolstered to support increased use.
The growing momentum to remove the lower four Snake River dams will restore 140 miles of river and over 14,000 acres of riparian habitat and bottomlands. It will cut dam-caused salmon mortality by at least 50% and restore productive access for wild salmon and steelhead to over 5,500 miles of contiguous, pristine, protected upriver habitat in northeast Oregon, central Idaho and southeast Washington. Our flight took us over sections of this hydropower system - dams that were constructed on the homelands of 19 tribes, who have relied on salmon since time immemorial. Restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River will deliver tremendous economic, ecological, and cultural benefits to the tribal and non-tribal people of the Northwest and the nation.
The economics of these four dams have long been in question; additionally, Federal agencies have spent more than $17 billion of public money on fish restoration, but have yet to recover a single salmon or steelhead population. The dams produce about 925 megawatts of electricity each year - a service that can be easily, and cost-effectively replaced with reliable, effective alternatives like wind and solar.
We flew above the region's vast agricultural industry and existing rail system. Our overflight examined the transportation infrastructure, like the rail-lines, that will likely replace barging in the future. Currently, the four dams and their locks support around 60% of wheat exports out of the Pacific Northwest region. We flew over the most inland port in the US, the Port of Lewiston, that allows Idaho farmers to affordably export their wheat through the barge system.
The EcoFlight team is so grateful for our partners' work to analyze the transportation transition necessary to restore a resilient lower Snake River; protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead facing extinction; save American taxpayer and Northwest energy consumer dollars; benefit struggling wildlife populations including endangered Southern Resident Orcas; and do right by Native American Tribes in the Columbia Basin.