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Inslee, Murray, Cantwell oppose proposal to remove Snake River dams

The Ice Harbor dam on the Snake River in Pasco in 2006.
Jackie Johnston
The Associated Press file
The Ice Harbor dam on the Snake River in Pasco in 2006.

Washington state's top Democrats have come out against a proposal from U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River and replace their benefits as part of a huge infrastructure bill being crafted by the Biden administration.

Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said more work is needed on a comprehensive solution to save endangered salmon runs.

The proposal had gained the support of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., as well as many tribes, after it was announced last winter.

Republican members of Washington’s congressional delegation oppose Simpson’s plan.

“While we appreciate Rep. Simpson’s efforts and the conversations we have had so far with Tribes and stakeholders, it is clear more work within the Pacific Northwest is necessary to create a lasting, comprehensive solution, and we do not believe the Simpson proposal can be included in the proposed federal infrastructure package,” Murray and Inslee said in a joint statement issued Friday.

Cantwell told The Seattle Times she does not support the Simpson proposal, though she does support salmon recovery.

Simpson’s plan to remove the Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Granite, and Lower Monumental dams also includes a 35-year moratorium on lawsuits, ending costly litigation over the dams’ environmental impact. That provision prompted more than a dozen Northwest environmental groups to oppose the plan.

Most of the proposed $33.5 billion cost of Simpson's plan would replace the power the dams generate, the barging capacity they provide between the Tri-Cities region of Washington and Lewiston, Idaho, plus irrigation and other benefits.

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