Sen. Carl Crabtree’s recent statement about my energy and salmon concept is emotional. I get that. I am proposing to do things very differently—to make a proactive, rather than reactive change. That is very hard. But Sen. Crabtree might not be so upset if he understood a little bit more about my proposal. I am more than happy to have difficult conversations, answer questions, solicit and consider feedback. But there were several completely inaccurate statements in his piece that I feel are important to correct.
First, and most importantly, I have not drafted legislation. I have released a concept, a series of ideas that I am asking the stakeholders to consider and respond to. I have started a conversation. I am open to changing aspects of the proposal. I am not trying to push a “my way or the highway” approach.
Second, I agree with Sen. Crabtree that we have an abundance of clean, reliable power in the Northwest. I have stated many times that if the four lower Snake River dams are to be removed, they must be replaced with clean, reliable power. Hydropower is not the only form of clean, reliable power. It is possible to replace the power the dams produce with sources that would not put us at risk for what happened in Texas. It is a false and inaccurate comparison that he has drawn. Also, the dams produce about 3,000 megawatts of power—not millions.
Third, regarding the Port of Lewiston, he says, “There is talk of expanding rail as an option, but talk is cheap.” I am not sure what he means by that. I agree—talk is cheap. And my concept lays out very specific, and yes—very expensive—alternatives to barging for producers. One of my greatest fears is that a judge or administration will break the status quo for us and hinder or halt barging to Lewiston without warning, leaving our producers and communities with nothing to compensate them for those changes.
I also agree with Sen. Crabtree that we are not Oregon and we are not Washington. In fact, Idahoans currently flush 487,000 acre feet of our water down the river for salmon to help get them through these four Washington dams. We will bear the burden of a future judge’s order to flush more water as salmon continue to decline. If these four dams are breached, we may be able to keep that water for Idaho agriculture and Idaho recharge.
Finally, Sen. Crabtree says we cannot risk the instability of my plan. I would argue we cannot risk the instability of the status quo. Is the status quo working for anyone? Besides trial attorneys? We are one lawsuit away from total chaos. And no one knows when that might happen. I am asking the Northwest stakeholders: Do we want to come together to solve these issues once and for all to give our children and grandchildren certainty and security for the future? If you think it can’t happen, ask the Klamath producers how they did after fighting lawsuit after lawsuit. The fourth dam is expected to be removed in 2024, and they will have nothing to compensate them for their losses. I want to protect agriculture and end the lawsuits, period.
I knew there would be a lot of emotions surrounding my concept. I hope people will take the time to learn the facts of the plan for themselves before dismissing it out of hand. I do not pretend to know everything. I genuinely want feedback and am willing to incorporate changes and new ideas if possible. I encourage everyone to visit my website and review the concept and the possibilities that it provides for all stakeholders in the Northwest. I welcome your comments and feedback at Simpson.firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson represents Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives.