The feds weigh in on the Lower Snake River; plus, pressure on Whitworth to protect LGBTQ+ staff and faculty

click to enlarge The feds weigh in on the Lower Snake River; plus, pressure on Whitworth to protect LGBTQ+ staff and faculty

Discussions getting louder on possible dam removal on the Lower Snake.

As Northwest tribes and environmental groups continue their call to remove four lower Snake River dams, including at a gathering outside the U.S. Capitol last week, the Biden administration released two reports highlighting the costs and benefits of removal.

In one report solicited by the Bonneville Power Administration, which controls the energy production of dams along the Columbia/Snake river system, a contractor found that replacing the dams’ power under current clean energy policies could increase customer costs by $100 to $230 per year per household by 2045. In one scenario, if the dams are breached in 2024, replacing their energy production would cost about $12.8 billion.

Dam breaching in 2024 also would result in substantial increases in carbon emissions (about 15 to 25 percent of annual Northwest emissions) through 2030, the report states. Still, the region would meet its near-term clean energy goals without replacing the power from the dams solely with clean resources in that case. Even if the dams remain, with the region retiring coal and working toward zero-emission benchmarks, significant investment in new clean power will be needed, the report states.

Another draft from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) called “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead” states that returning threatened and endangered fish stocks to healthy and harvestable levels will require a suite of actions. Predators need to be managed, habitat needs to be restored and protected, fish should be reintroduced and given passage in blocked areas, and hatchery and harvest reform are needed.

“For Snake River stocks, it is essential that the lower Snake River be restored via dam breaching,” the NOAA report states. “Breaching helps address the hydrosystem threat by decreasing travel time for water and juvenile fish, reducing powerhouse encounters, and reducing stress on juvenile fish associated with their hydrosystem experience that results in delayed mortality after reaching the ocean.”

In response to the NOAA draft, Trout Unlimited’s President and CEO Chris Wood said by email, “This report is a wake-up call for Congress and the Administration to start planning, now, so these dams can be removed in time to enable recovery, and so investments can be made to replace the socioeconomic benefits the dams provide.”

Meanwhile, dam proponents U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, Republicans from Washington, tweeted their disdain. Newhouse said “science was the casualty” in those reports and another report on dam breaching impacts solicited by Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, both Washington Democrats. McMorris Rodgers said that dam breaching is “a one-way ticket to more carbon emissions, less clean energy, and higher energy costs.” (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

“WALKING THE NARROW RIDGE”

Over 600 current and former Whitworth students are calling on the university to support LGBTQ+ staff, students and faculty.

The letter follows a New Yorker profile of former political science professor Kathy Lee, the school’s first openly gay professor. Lee kept her sexual orientation under wraps for most of her career before coming out in 2017. Lee told the magazine that, even after coming out, she lacked institutional support and was concerned about being fired. While some of Lee’s peers were supportive, the school lacks an official policy on LGBTQ+ staff and faculty.

The letter, which was sent to Whitworth’s administration, urges the private Christian university to clearly state that LGBTQ+ students are welcome at the school, enact explicit employment protections and direct funding toward causes that support the LGBTQ+ community.

In a statement to the Spokesman-Review, Whitworth did not provide any detail on its policy or approach to LGBTQ+ issues. The school said it will be giving the issues raised in the letter the “serious and careful attention they deserve.”

On Monday, the school released a portion of an internal campus update from President Scott McQuikin titled “Hiring Policy Update.” The statement does not directly mention Lee or the petition and does not contain substantive information about the school’s hiring policy. It does say the school’s Board of Trustees “committed to engage in a process of assessing the university’s hiring policy” at a meeting in April.

Washington state law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the law gets complicated when mixed with religious exemptions. Seattle Pacific University is one of several religious schools that have been subject to lawsuits for allegedly discriminating against LGBTQ+ staff and professors.

Margot Spindola, a 2018 graduate who wrote the letter, said she wants the school to honor its mission, right the wrongs of the past and stand with LGBTQ+ people.

“Whitworth has benefited for far too long in avoiding taking an affirming stance with the LGBTQ+ community,” Spindola wrote. (NATE SANFORD) ♦

Article Source: Inlander