On the Hot Seat: Proposed budget includes $750,000 waste on dam breaching study

Gov. Jay Inslee made it clear last Thursday that he only represents Western Washington.
Buried deep in his proposed $54.4 billion biennial budget is the allocation of $750,000 to study breaching the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Under his budget proposal, Inslee would create a new state task force to study breaching as part of a plan to address the ailing orca population in Puget Sound. In the governor's policy brief on orcas, he cites the need to increase the water-spill rate over our dams in an effort to cool the water and improve salmon populations.
But it’s only a dog-and-pony show — the state has no jurisdiction over the orca population or the dams. Federal agencies hold the authority over orcas and the dams.
Still, the effort allows Inslee to kowtow to environmentalists who funded his gubernatorial campaign and will likely fund his 2020 presidential bid.
And make no mistake, while he hasn't formally announced his presidential candidacy, the gallivanting governor is testing the national waters with his excessive trips across the nation and overseas at the expense of Washington taxpayers.
Spending three-quarters of a million dollars to study something the state has no jurisdiction over is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
And it’s a slap in the face of Eastern Washington residents who rely heavily on the Columbia and Snake river dams for electricity, water, irrigation, flood control, commerce and recreation.
Furthermore, Inslee's proposal is reckless — it comes at a time when the federal government and Canada are negotiating a new Columbia River Treaty. (That treaty governs power allocations, flood control and more.) Any leverage Inslee's proposal gives Canadian negotiators will come at the expense of Eastern Washington residents.
Official discussions of breaching dams here should send a shiver down your back as there will be economic reverberations.
State-level acceptance of dam breaching will likely cause a spike in costs of living, working and recreating in Eastern Washington. Potentially, waterfront property values could take a hit, leaving rural communities to deal with declining property tax revenues.
The impacts of such a proposal may fall on deaf ears in the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, but they won't on the elected officials representing Eastern Washington, sans Inslee.
In the state Capitol Building during the upcoming legislative session, Northeast Washington Republican Reps. Joel Kretz of Wauconda and Jacquelyn Maycumber of Republic are sure to challenge Inslee's budget plan. Knowing Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, I expect she'll put up even a bigger fight in the Senate.
In Congress, Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside have already said they object to Inslee's budget proposal, and state government overreach.
“Congress has the sole authority to authorize breaching our federal dams, and as representatives of Eastern Washington communities that depend on the many benefits they provide, breaching them is out of the question,” they said in a joint press release after the budget was unveiled. “We commit to do everything in our power to save our dams.”
Indeed, every one of us in Eastern Washington should do everything in their power to save our dams. Without them, our way of life will disappear.

— Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of the Statesman-Examiner and Deer Park Tribune. Email him at publisher@statesmanexaminer.com.