Breaching Four Dams would Double Tourism Revenue, study saysBy Jonathan Brinckman, The Oregonian - 5/6/99
Breaching the four lower Snake River dams probably would more than double the value of recreation and tourism to the region's economy, primarily because a free-flowing river would attract more California tourists, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday.
The corps's draft report concludes that the annual value of tourism and recreation along the 140-mile stretch of the Snake River from Lewiston, Idaho, to Pasco, Wash., would increase from $62 million to $129 million.
The corps is studying the effect of breaching the dams to save federally protected salmon runs. Its findings about tourism and recreation could add momentum to arguments favoring changes in the Columbia River Basin's hydropower system.
Breaching the dams by removing the earthen sections of the dams so the river flows around them would require congressional approval. The corps's recommendation is expected by early next year.
The projected increase in tourism revenue is far lower than the $400 million to $5 billion increase contained in a partial report released earlier this year by conservation groups.
Proponents of dam breaching heralded the conclusions of that report, conducted by Colorado-based consultant John Loomis for the corps. They said it showed that breaching would bring substantial economic benefits to rural Washington communities near the dams: Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite.
Corps officials at the time said those figures misrepresented a partially completed study. Dutch Meier, a spokesman for the corps, said Wednesday that he could not comment on the earlier report.
"The draft that we posted (Wednesday) provides information as we have it at this point," Meier said. "It explains our current thinking on that system's recreation value."
The report released Wednesday is part of a much larger study the corps is conducting, analyzing the social, economic and biological effects of breaching the dams.
The other alternatives being weighed in the study are leaving the dams unchanged, increasing the use of trucks and barges to carry young salmon past the dams and further modifying the dams to help salmon get past.
Breaching the dams would cost about $1 billion, the corps estimates.
The agency also estimates that replacing electric power lost if the dams were breached would cost $200 million to $300 million a year and that using trucks and trains instead of the river to transport grain and other commodities would cost $50 million a year.
A panel of scientists convened by the National Marine Fisheries Service last month called breaching the dams the most certain way of restoring Snake River salmon and steelhead trout, which spawn in Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.
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