Quarter 3, Summer Newsletter

Quarter 3, Summer Newsletter Articles

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Talent & Prosperity for ALL

Our team at the Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR COE), made up of Director Lindsey Williams and Coordinator Ceana Pacheco attended each of four listening sessions, hosted by the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board’s (Workforce Board) Rural Community Vitality Listening Forums. These listening sessions were held in Toppenish, Aberdeen, Colville, and Quincy. The Workforce Board is developing a strategic plan for unlocking Washington’s workforce potential, called Talent and Prosperity for ALL. This initiative intends to help disperse the flow of economic prosperity to ensure all communities across Washington State are supported and uplifted towards economic vitality, stemming from workforce development policies. These forums were a step in opening dialog about what is working and what is not for people and their communities – discussing the various systematic challenges from aging infrastructure to a lack of both health care coverage and broadband connection.

Stakeholders from business, industry, labor, and education convened to voice their hopes and concerns, and to help the Workforce Board identify current rural community needs as they  develop strategies for increasing rural economic vitality across the state. The fate of our rural and urban communities alike are intertwined by economic and social factors that shape our community values and lifestyles – often through the exchange of goods and services. There are systematic challenges confronting rural Washington; a call to action in shaping “rural proof policies” has been voiced, but not at the expense of urban Washington. Developing a more in-depth understanding of the social and economic issues may help spearhead a more equitable policy approach to help revive rural Washington’s economic vitality –a model that could serve the nation.

These four rural listening forums gave the Workforce Board space to capture ideas from stakeholders, and integrate those ideas into a report that will be handed to federal policymakers in Spring of 2020 for their review and approval. The Workforce Board will be submitting all of their findings on their website –click link to view Rural Community Vitality Forums Insights.

Future of Our Dams

On May 13th ANR attended the “Future of Our Dams” forum in Richland, Washington. The forum highlighted a range of informative and thought-provoking Q&A from a panel of experts on dams, hydropower, and salmon. Rep. Dan Newhouse, Congressional representative for the 4th District, and a third generation Yakima farmer, participated in the forum –as his service district would be economically and socially impacted by breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams. As the forum participants made clear, these dams are a way of life here in the Pacific Northwest, the multitude of services the dams provide through transportation, energy, recreation, and irrigation etc. are woven into the social fabric of our region –dams are the Pacific Northwest.

The ambiguity of the proposed dam breaching has polarized our region. It’s unclear whether or not the breaching of the four Lower Snake River Dams would help restore salmon and orca populations –as they continue to decline beyond the geographical boundaries of the Columbia Basin. The iconic Pacific Northwest Salmonids are ingrained into our cultural, social, and economic identity –stakeholders on both sides want to save our salmon, but recognizing the economics of our region is a necessity. After roughly 20 years and 1 billion spent on conservation, restoration, acquisition & planning, and assessment initiatives across Washington State, there are still salmon species on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list well below goal, namely the Upper Columbia River Spring Chinook and the Puget Sound Chinook which are categorized as getting worse while 6 other ESA listed salmon species in Washington, primarily in the lower Columbia River, are not making progress; however the Snake River Fall Chinook are approaching goal which signals some improvement for Salmonids in the Columbia Basin. Progress towards recovery is often slow and riddled with unforeseen obstacles that require more time and money; the very two resources that we may run out before the historic salmon runs are restored within the Columbia Basin.

The “Future of Our Dams” forum was a valuable opportunity for ANR to document the Q&A around salmon recovery offered with opposing perspectives on the issue. As always, ANR strives to remain reliably unbiased to best serve our mission as a statewide liaison to collaborate, communicate and convene partners in business, industry, labor, and education. To learn more about upcoming dam forums –check out our events page on our website. 

The Lower Snake River Dams and the PNW Power Grid

On May 7th, 2019, Governor Jay Inslee, signed into law the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) (SB 5116), becoming one of a growing number of states in the race to reach 100% carbon free electricity. The CETA has simultaneously pushed energy, economic, and environmental boundaries for the Evergreen State. This act intends to ensure that Washington’s energy portfolio is 100% carbon neutral by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2045. This Act will likely shift the debate surrounding the four Lower Snake River Dams and the Pacific Northwest power grid.

In the face of both climate change and a shifting energy grid, the fate of the four Lower Snake River Dams is clouded in ambiguity, with often more questions than answers in regards to the energy, economic, and environmental sectors tied to the dams. Washington has substantial accords to strike over the future of our power grid and how to balance a diverse yet reliable 100% carbon free energy mix. The most abundant and reliable carbon-free energy is hydropower, generated in the Columbia Basin; however, it may not be enough to fill in the gaps left behind by natural gas and coal.

Below, Figure 1 represents Washington State’s electricity mix with natural gas and coal accounting for 24% of the total electricity mix and figure 2 illustrates the 14 hydroelectric dams located on the main stem of the Columbia River System.

Putting the annual energy production of the Columbia Basin into perspective –the Federal Columbia River Power System (FRRPS), comprised of over 30 hydroelectric projects in the Columbia Basin, generates roughly 1/3 of all electricity used in the Pacific Northwest annually and provides Washington with 68% of the state’s total electricity. The four Lower Snake River Dams provide roughly 1/9 of the total Federal Columbia River Power System power generation annually. To adequately visualize that energy, the annual output of the four Lower Snake River Dams is equivalent to 1,000 megawatts which is commensurate to the annual load of Seattle’s City Lights, according to the Bonneville Power Administration.

While the tasks ahead are daunting, there are already important milestones in place to reach Washington’s goal of 100% carbon free energy mix by 2045. Currently, Washington has plans to retire 3 coal plants by the end of 2019, while completely exiting from coal-use by 2025. These milestones are critical for Washington and it will pave the way for the potential of a carbon free Pacific Northwest power grid.


Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Washington Academy for Collegiate Agriculture and Natural Resource Educators

In previous years, the Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence has hosted an annual meeting for the WACANE (Washington Association of Collegiate Agriculture & Natural Resource Educators) group. In an effort to make this group, meeting, and networking event more useful to our collegiate faculty partners, ANR is re-working WACANE into “Washington Academy for Collegiate Agriculture and Natural Resource Educators”. Our team would appreciate your participation in the short survey linked below. This is the first step in helping us understand what professional development needs are in our system. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Lindsey Williams at [email protected] or 509.527.4635.

We look forward to your feedback, and working to develop this opportunity!