A forgotten side of the Alamo

“Just as Alamo visitors often overlook important parts of history, Washington can benefit from a more complete look at the benefits of irrigated agriculture.”

Most of the 2.5 million annual Alamo visitors focus on the epic 1836 battle in which a small band of brave Texans was eventually overrun by the Mexican army. Folk heroes like Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis were among the Texans killed while fighting for independence from Mexico.

However, the Alamo is more than a small Spanish-style church depicted on tourism brochures which barely withstood a 13-day pummeling from Mexican cannons. It is a large complex built nearly a century before the seize where irrigated agriculture was introduced to arid south central Texas — an area which has very similar topography and precipitation levels of Washington east of the Cascades.

Just as Alamo visitors often overlook important parts of history, Washington can benefit from a more complete look at the benefits of irrigated agriculture.

The Alamo is the northernmost of the Franciscan missions establish between 1720 and 1750 along the San Antonio River. Four other missions downstream diverted river water to irrigate 3,500 acres on farm land where corn and vegetables were grown and cattle and other livestock foraged.

By 2007, irrigated agriculture in Texas grew to $4.7 billion. Today, Texas agriculture’s total economic impact reaches $115 billion annually, and one out of every seven Texans work in agriculture-related jobs.

In Washington, agriculture contributes $51 billion to our economy and our state is America’s third largest food and agricultural products exporter. At last count, the Washington Farm Bureau estimates our state has 1.8 million irrigated acres of farmland.

Washington’s largest fruit-tree crops are apples, cherries and pears annually bring in $2.5 billion. They require river water. The same is true for potato, hop and hay crops. Exportable food products provide jobs for 166,000 Washington workers.

Much of Washington’s irrigated farms and orchards are supplied water from federal dams on the Columbia, Yakima and Snake rivers.

The battle today is over whether to remove the four lower Snake River dams. While debate primarily focuses on salmon runs, breaching implications reach deeply into agriculture, hydropower and commercial navigation.

Early in discussions, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers zeroed-in on irrigation impacts of Ice Harbor, the most down river of the Snake River dams.

“For purposes of analyzing the economic effects to pump irrigators under dam (Ice Harbor) breach conditions, it is estimated that approximately 37,000 irrigated acres in Franklin and Walla Walla counties would be impacted,” the Corps reported.

Not only would dam removal hurt farmers, but it would end river barging from Lewiston, ID, to seaports in Portland, Vancouver and along the lower Columbia. The main crops barged through the locks at Lower Granite, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Ice Harbor dams are wheat, corn, soy and wood products.

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association estimates that 134 grain trucks and 35 jumbo hopper rail cars would be required to replace each barge.

Pacific Northwest families and businesses are spending billions of dollars through their electric bills to make the federal dams more fish-friendly and restore salmon habitat in the Columbia Basin. Salmon are returning, but there is work to be done and other Issues to address. One is the impact sea lion predation on salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia.

Before we consider spending billions to rip down the lower Snake River dams, wouldn’t it be better to consider the progress already made to salmon runs enhancement and all of the factors threatening the salmon we all cherish?

It makes sense for our judges, lawmakers, and others we elect to public office to take a comprehensive look at the big picture of the Columbia River Basin and the benefits of the dams.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

Photo courtesy of Gyros House Mediterranean Grill.
Gyros House Mediterranean Grill closes Friday

The restaurant, which like many has been hit hard by the impacts of the closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, is now moving to catering-only after 26 years.

Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn to reopen May 26

Face masks to be required of guests and employees

NASA selects Kent-based Blue Origin to help return humans to the Moon

Goal to land the first woman and next man on the surface by 2024

Construction worker installs siding to a building in Snoqualmie. File photo
Inslee gives construction a green light

It was unclear when sites would re-open, but employees will have to have PPE and stay six feet apart.

Report shows severity of COVID-19 impacts on hotels nationwide

70% of employees laid off or furloughed, eight in 10 hotel rooms empty

State processes record number of applications for unemployment benefits

Employment Security Department had challenges with the volume

Cantwell calls for nationwide support for local media hurt by COVID-19 pandemic

Remarks come on Senate floor: ‘We need the media. …and need to help them’

Gyms, fitness centers must allow members to cancel memberships or face legal consequences

State attorney general responds to consumer complaints during COVID-19 outbreak

Boeing to resume Washington airplane production next week

More than 27,000 employees are expected to return to work at the Everett campus starting Monday.