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Big Uncertainties and Statistical Hints in the Snake River Dams Report » Publications » Washington Policy Center

By on June 13, 2022 0
Lastly Inslee-Murray report of the week on dealing with the aftermath of the destruction of the four Lower Snake River dams, the authors use one phrase several times. They repeatedly state that Snake River salmon populations “continue to decline.” In one place, the authors write, “Snake River salmon populations are expected to continue to decline.” At another point, they say “salmon abundance continues to decline.” There are also other examples of this claim.

One thing that all of these claims of decline lack is a source. There is no footnote, quote, or data source to support this claim.

They provide information that they hope readers will believe. For example, the authors note, “the total abundance of salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia River” has not changed since the 1990s. Why not provide the salmon data for the river? in question – the Snake?

The obvious answer is that despite the authors’ repeated claims, the data simply does not support their narrative that salmon populations are in decline, so the false claim is simply asserted and the supporting evidence left undone. side. As we have repeatedly noted, Spring/Summer Chinook salmon populations on the Snake River are increasing this year, for the third year in a row as part of a natural cycle. Returns on the Snake will be above average this year.

This type of sleight of hand — implying something without evidence or substituting numbers from a different river — is a consistent pattern in the report. Rather than honestly presenting data and information, there is a driving narrative and selected data is only used when it matches the message.

There are many similar examples.

The report suggests that destroying the dams would increase the incomes of commercial fishermen. They note that between 2010 and 2019 there was a 41% decline in Pacific salmon fishing revenue. There are many interesting things in this statement.

First of all, why choose 2019 as a stopping point? We are in 2022 and there is certainly more recent data. This is likely because 2019 was a very weak year for salmon fishing in the Pacific region, which makes the numbers particularly bad.

Second, why use data for the Pacific Ocean and not just the Snake River, where the dams in question are located? Again, the implication is that Snake River returns are driving the results. Ironically, by choosing the entire Pacific, the report itself demonstrates that salmon trends are not isolated to the Snake River, but are a region-wide phenomenon. Ocean conditions and other significant factors play a role, so while anti-dam campaigners point to poor racing on the Snake in 2019, the report opaquely admits that this was true everywhere.

There are also similar issues with their cost estimates.

More fundamentally, the report notes that projected costs to replace the functions of the four Lower Snake River (LSR) dams range from $10.3 billion to $27.2 billion, with some additional costs not taken into account. account. This is a huge range and indicates the authors’ huge uncertainties about the final cost. Even the $27.2 billion figure, high as it is, is still lower than the $33.5 billion estimate of Congressman Simpson’s proposal to destroy the dams. A potentially inaccurate estimate of $17 billion — an amount equivalent to more than 150 years of statewide salmon salvage funding at current levels — is worth taking seriously ? The inclusion of a decimal point implies false precision in what are really very rough guesses.

The estimated cost of replacing the electricity supplied by the dams shows how far off the estimates are. The numbers range from just over $8 billion to over $18 billion. These comparisons also have many caveats, such as failing to include the cost of new power transmission and incorporating the cost of increased CO2 emissions. It should also be noted that of the three studies reviewed by the report, two were funded by groups advocating the destruction of dams.

Additionally, the estimates do not include the potential cost of reducing the amount of dispatchable energy – i.e. energy that can be turned on or off at will to meet changing demand. – as Washington is poised to add millions of electric vehicles over the next two decades. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that with existing generation, Washington would have to import additional natural gas-generated electricity to meet this demand, and that electricity costs during peak hours in the summer could double.

We’ll get a fuller look at the report over the next week, but the tone and approach of the report is consistent – driving a pre-set narrative that destroying dams is the only solution to the salmon runs they say “continue to decline”. when races actually increase. The Washington State taxpayer paid $375,000 for this report. They deserved better and more honest results for their money.