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Virtual event will revisit the question of salmon and dams

The Andrus Center will revisit its 2019 conference on salmon and dams with a virtual event on May 13. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer are the event’s keynote speakers.

Two years ago, Idaho Gov. Brad Little called for “breaching the status quo” at an Andrus Center for Public Policy conference on the Snake River salmon and dam controversy. Rep. Simpson responded by asking federal power agencies, electric cooperatives, grain farmers who ship by barge and river communities to ask “what if” the four lower Snake dams were removed. Simpson answered his own question with a $33.5 billion concept to replace the power from the dams, invest in the Tri-Cities and Lewiston, pay the transition costs for farmers and shippers, give the region’s Indian tribes and states control over salmon funding and put a moratorium on litigation to provide certainty.

Little and the governors of Oregon, Montana and Washington have begun their own collaborative process to seek a permanent solution as Idaho’s salmon and trending toward extinction.

The event on May 13 will be a check-in about what has happened since the 2019 conference. The online gathering will include diverse voices reflecting stakeholders across the region. Simpson and Blumenauer will be keynote speakers.

“We’re going to be doing things together on this,” Blumenauer told the Portland Business Journal. “This year, potentially, could be very determinant on the future of the entire Columbia Snake River system.”

Rocky Barker, author and retired environmental journalist, will moderate a panel of stakeholders including Debra Smith, general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light, David Reeploeg, vice president of Federal Programs for the Tri-City Development Council in Washington, Shannon Wheeler, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, Sam White, COO for the Pacific Northwest Farmers’ Cooperative in Genesee, a major grain shipper from the Palouse, Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited from Washington D.C. and Lynda Mapes, environmental reporter for the Seattle Times.

Registration is open. Tickets are $10. Some scholarships are available.