WSU economists seek stakeholder input in review of Snake River breaching analysis

Scientists with Washington State University’s Freight Policy Transportation Institute will reach out to regional stakeholders as part of a newly launched independent review of a state-contracted analysis of transport impacts from potential breaching of four lower Snake River dams.

The review calls for engagement with representatives from agriculture, tourism, ports, and other industries that would be affected by breaching.

Eric Jessup
Eric Jessup, Director, Freight Policy Transportation Institute

“The Columbia and Snake River system affects many different attributes of the Pacific Northwest, from the economy to recreation and the environment,” said Eric Jessup, research professor and director of the institute. “Proposed changes to that system should only be considered with accurate information and analysis of the impacts to all stakeholders, without bias or advocacy. Our institute is committed to providing this independent review.”

The team was selected due to its established history of research on transportation economics, river navigation, and freight systems modeling.

Jessup’s team will review a $4 million, two-year study of transportation needs, options, and impacts from the shifting of barged goods and passengers to truck and rail. That analysis is currently being conducted by private firms Jacobs and CPCS and was commissioned by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The WSU economists will assess its assumptions, stakeholder engagement and cost and impact estimates, and present their findings through quarterly reports and presentations to state legislators and transportation officials.

As part of their review, the institute will bring together commercial and transportation stakeholders in a River Transportation Working Group to provide data and guidance. The research team plans to approach representatives of grain production and processing, towing and barging, forest products, fertilizer, ports, cruise lines, fishing, railroads, and other industries. Members will meet in person and virtually and may be interviewed to gain their perspectives.

“Each has valuable information that can enhance the quality of the analysis involving impacts to their businesses and operations,” Jessup said. “Our goal is to make sure they have an avenue for being involved and heard.”

The larger analysis being reviewed includes input from tribes, local governments, freight interests, and representatives from overburdened communities and vulnerable populations.

“Since we are reviewing that activity, we will be incorporating those issues and concerns as part of our work,” Jessup said.

Jessup, Scholarly Assistant Professor Jake Wagner, and several graduate students in the School of Economic Sciences will perform the work, which will conclude in June 2025. The team will review the analysis as completed during that time frame. The project is funded by $485,000 from the state legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee.

The work group is expected to begin meeting this summer; and an engagement plan is now being drafted. Jessup encourages stakeholders of the lower Snake River system to connect with him to learn about the review process.

“Anyone should feel free to contact our team at any time,” he said.

About the Institute

Part of WSU’s School of Economic Sciences, the Freight Policy Transportation Institute works to improve understanding of the importance of efficient freight transportation to the economy, boost transport performance, and address the need for action to lower costs, increase safety, and minimize environmental acts.

• Contact: Eric Jessup, Director, WSU Freight Policy Transportation Institute, (509) 335-4987,