SUNNYSIDE — Speaking Wednesday at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Spokane, started their effort to convince the U.S. Senate to save four lower Snake River dams.

The two lawmakers have ushered their bill to save Columbia and Snake River dams through the House. They’re not sure of adequate support in the Senate. They’re not even sure of support from the state’s two senators — Patty Murray, D-Shoreline, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mount Lake Terrace. Both have come down on the side of extreme environmentalists on many issues.

If something is not done, and soon, the lower Snake River dams could be lost. Already, extreme environmentalists have convinced a federal judge in Oregon and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to order an increase in spill rate over dams on the Snake and the Columbia to save salmon and other migrating fish populations. Their long-range goal of breaching or destroying dams is within sight.

Many of you watch this issue play out to see which side will win, much like a heavyweight fight. It doesn’t matter to you which side wins — you pay the price of a ticket to watch.

You don’t, you say. But you do. You just haven’t noticed because you haven’t paid at a box office.

Since the 1970s, power companies have spent $16 billion to increase the number of salmon and other fish in the Pacific Northwest. That’s okay, you say. It was their money. No. The money came from anyone who has paid for electrical power in the northwest during that time.

Extremists, who’ll never tell you their ultimate goal is a wild Columbia River, want more salmon. Fine, let them have more salmon under the current mitigation program.

But do not give away everything. It just makes no sense.

The building of those dams is what brought prosperity to Eastern Washington and the rest of the state. When Washingtonians started to produce food for the world-wide market, the state started to flourish.

Before you decide what should be done with the dams, get in your car and explore Eastern Washington. You will be amazed at what you see, at what those dams have allowed man to do.

Sure we thinks as dams as power generators. But they also create recreational opportunities with reservoirs supporting fishing, boating, Jet Skiing, hunting, swimming and more. They provide for flood control during spring runoff. They also have increased aquifer levels and water tables, and provide enough water for residents, agriculture and wildlife.

Imagine what the same area would look without those dams. Imagine what the level of world-wide hunger would be.

You don’t need numbers. You just need common sense. Increased spill rates, and breaching or destruction of dams is idiotic. That’s simply throwing away the investment that was made and all of the benefits that came from it.

That’s billions of dollars of value, not to mention the loss of quality of life that will follow.

Take time this week to call Sens. Murray and Cantwell and let them know how important the dams are to the culture, heritage, economy and way of life here in Eastern Washington.

The telephone numbers for Cantwell include 509-946-8106 in Richland and 202-224-3441 in Washington, D.C.

Murray has multiple telephone numbers, including 509-453-7462 in Yakima and 202-224-2621 in Washington, D.C.

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