About 3,000 people rallied on the Tri-Cities cable bridge in February 1999 in response to a proposal to remove the four lower Snake River dams, a fairly new idea at the time.
Nearly two decades later it seems time to remind the public again of what the dams mean to the Eastern Washington economy and way of life, according to supporters of keeping the dams.
But this time, organizers plan a festival with information about the Federal Columbia River Power System, which includes dams on both the Columbia and Snake rivers.
A coalition of agencies that support or rely on the dams have planned RiverFest 2018 in the east end of Columbia Park in Kennewick from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 8.
“There is a time and place for a rally,” said Colin Hastings, chairman of RiverFest and chief executive of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce. “We want a different way to get our message out.”
Supports of the system of dams have new concerns that the four lower Snake River dams could be removed.
A federal judge ruled that not enough is being done to improve Northwest salmon runs and ordered a federal environmental review of the Columbia and Snake power system that began in 2016. It is required to consider removing the dams.
RiverFest is planned to include a combination of information about the benefits of the dams and hydrosystems and fun for adults and children.
The festival has confirmed one of the tugboats that pushes barges down the river system will be on hand, and organizers are working to arrange public tours of it.
The Wanapum Band’s Native American Discovery Unit, a 38-foot-long motor home with exhibits on Wanapum culture and heritage, will be at the festival.
Kids can hear stories told in a 30-foot-fish shaped theater, or go down an 18-foot fish slide, intended to provide information about fish slides at dams.
The Benton Conservation District will have a “river maze” for visitors to walk through with a message of coexistence of rivers and dams.
The Whooshh salmon “cannon” will be demonstrated. It uses a flexible, pressurize tube to give salmon a boost over dams so they can swim upstream to spawn.
About 50 exhibitors have signed up, including ports, utilities, agri-business and trade organizations, fish and wildlife organizations, tribes, and recreation- and tourism-related businesses.
The festival will kick off at 11 a.m. with Mid-Columbia Mastersingers singing the national anthem at the stage near the Lampson Pits. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is expected to attend and the Boys and Girls Club Drum Line will perform.
Organizers say the festival will provide information about the Northwest’s clean and low-cost hydropower and the billions of dollars invested in the dams to help improve salmon migration survival rates.
The festival is modeled after an event the Port of Whitman County developed, a Snake River Family Festival in Colfax.
But the Tri-City event is designed to reach more people, Hastings said.
The Tri-City event will be held at the same time as the Free the Snake Flotilla, in support of a free-flowing Snake River, at Chief Timothy Park in Asotin County about eight miles from Clarkston.
The event starts with music and activities 4 to 10 p.m. Sept. 7. On Sept 8 boats will launch at 10 a.m. to paddle out to meet tribal canoes. Last year 400 people paddled in the event to send a message to elected officials.
Sept. 8 will be packed with activities in the Tri-Cities, and organizers of Riverfest say its Columbia Park location is convenient for people who want to attend more than one activity.
The Fiery Foods Festival in downtown Pasco, with food and music, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 8. A food Truck Faceoff, Celebrity Pepper Gauntlet and Salsa Showdown are planned.
Downtown Kennewick’s Best of Summer Fest will be Sept. 8. Activities from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Keewaydin Park include a pancake breakfast, burger and hot dog lunch, BMX demonstration and corn hole tournament.
Kennewick Avenue in downtown will have bands, a woodworking fair and an alley sale, with events form 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The festival will end with an outdoor classic rock concert at Clover Island from 5 to 10 p.m. Concert tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate.
Kid’s Duck Conservation Day also is planned 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 8 with activities related to wildlife conservation planned at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge’s Environmental Education Center. It’s at 64 Maple St., Burbank.