By Norm Ritchie, At Large Board Member
Norm Ritchie has been an active member of Northwest Steelheaders for quite some time. He currently serves on the Board of Directors as an At Large Member, guiding advocacy campaigns, organizing events, and engaging with elected representatives in Salem. He is an avid angler and resident of Rockaway Beach, OR. He wrote the following letter-to-the-editor of his local paper, the Headlight Herald, to clarify some of the misinformation that was perpetuated about the amount of renewable energy the lower Snake River dams provide Oregon's energy grid. It is copied below for reference.
Tillamook PUD provides a great service for its customers. Their ability to return power to us during storms is heroic but for a long time, they have been on the wrong side of the Columbia River salmon declines. Power is incredibly important, but healthy salmon populations are also important for our quality of life as Northwesterners.
Despite claims that the lower Snake River dams are a critical component of our energy system, the meager energy these dams provide has been replaced multiple times by solar and wind developments in recent years. Meanwhile, the cost of maintaining these dams is rapidly increasing at the expense of rate and tax payers in our community.
Meanwhile, salmon and steelhead returns continue to decline. Fishing seasons are getting shorter. This year, spring chinook returns were some of the worst in history. Steelhead fishing on the Snake was preemptively closed due to historically low projections for adult steelhead returns.
The latest plan for managing the Columbia (and Snake) River hydrosystem is due at the end of July, but based on the draft they released in February, it’s unlikely to offer the solutions we need. We know that slight changes to hydrosystem operations will not recover these endangered species. We also know that there are innovative, fish-friendly solutions to offset impacts to the energy system associated with removing the lower Snake River dams.
Tillamook PUD, we need your leadership and bold action. Join energy providers throughout the Pacific Northwest and push for a regional solution to restore salmon and modernize the energy system. There are innovative solutions if we work together as a region.