Pendleton, OR – Oregon’s wheat growers and rural communities, along with other PNW states, collectively depend on the broad range of direct and indirect benefits provided by the Columbia-Snake River dams for transportation, power, flood control, irrigation, recreation, and infrastructure. The Columbia Snake River System is the nation’s single largest wheat export gateway. Barging plays a key role in this transportation system and moved over 4 million tons of wheat to Lower Columbia River ports last year. Each year, nearly 10% of all U.S. wheat exports move by barge just on the Snake River. As we anticipate release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Columbia and Snake River System operations, the Oregon Wheat Growers League urges all of our stakeholders to engage in the comment period for the draft EIS.
We are deeply concerned by communications such as Governor Brown’s recent letter to Governor Inslee (Washington) seeking removal of the dams on the Lower Snake River. The Oregon Wheat Growers League is deeply disappointed with the Governor’s letter and wish that the Governor would show passion and commitment to protect Oregon agriculture and our rural communities and economy. Loss of these four facilities will cause irreparable damage to the PNW economy, including Oregon’s wheat growers, not limiting to,
- Transportation and storage expense are likely to increase 50% to 100% for grain suppliers and shippers. These costs could increase by up to $0.80 per bushel if barging on the Snake River is removed as a transportation option.
- Diesel fuel consumption to increase by nearly 5 million gallons per year as barges are replaced by much less efficient truck-to-rail shipments.
- Highway, rail and grain elevator networks would need over $1.6 billion in capital investment.
- The loss of hydropower generation will reduce the baseload power available to balance the power provided by variable generation sources like wind and solar.
- Carbon emissions from transportation and replacement power generation would greatly increase, something the State of Oregon is supposedly trying to reduce with countless other policy initiatives
According to the Columbia Snake River System Fact Sheet provided by Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, barging is the safest method of moving cargo, with a lower number of injuries, fatalities and spill rates than both rail and trucks. It is also the most fuel efficient and has the lowest emissions. One standard barge on any of these rivers takes 134 semi-trucks off our roads, while one barge tow takes 538 semi-trucks off our roads.At least 201 additional unit trains and 23.8 million miles in additional trucking activity would be required annually if the Snake River dams were removed. In addition, the installation of surface passage has reduced the percentage of fish that go through the powerhouse (turbine), also decreasing the fish travel time through the system. There is a 97 percent juvenile fish survival rate, which is reaching levels seen in rivers without dams and increasing overall survival rates.
The Oregon Wheat Growers League recognizes the critical role the Columbia and Snake River dams play in protecting Oregon’s agriculture, our rural communities and our economy. We encourage comments to the draft EIS once released as maintaining and enhancing the river system is essential to our future.
DEIS Review and Comment Opportunities
It is expected that the Draft EIS will be released the end of February. The public review and comment period for the DEIS will open for 45 days starting on the date the NEPA Notice of Availability is published in the Federal Register. Look on the project website for more info www.crso.info.
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About the Oregon Wheat Growers League
OWGL is the primary representative for Oregon’s wheat growers; working to enhance the profitability of wheat growers by communicating with and educating growers and the public, assuring markets, conducting important research, and advocating for sound business, trade, and environmental policy.
For more information visit www.owgl.org.