Supporters of Dam Breaching
by Jeff Ray, KBCI-TV
Claim salmon generate $544 million for Idaho's economy
BOISE -- Last week a federal court ruling re-opened the debate over breaching four lower Snake River dams. Judge James Redden ruled that the Bush administration's plan to protect Columbia and Snake River salmon runs was against the law. Now, supporters of breaching are trying to make the most of the ruling.
At the Riverkeeper Fly Shop in Boise, owner Tim Burke says salmon mean business. "When we started having salmon seasons in Idaho a few years back, we saw an immediate increase in our sales of our tackle," he says.
The Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association and Idaho Rivers United are trying to drive that message home in a statewide ad campaign that claims salmon bring $544 million dollars to Idaho's economy.The ads will run in newspapers over a period of six weeks.The groups believe the only way to protect the industry is to breach four lower Snake River dams.
Critics say breaching would hurt an even bigger economic driver, agriculture."Water means food. Water means dollars. Water means basically the whole state economy, and we are for keeping these dams and even adding storage and adding more water to meet these needs that we have," says Jake Putnam of the Idaho Farm Bureau.
(bluefish adds: the four Lower Snake River dams are downstream of Idaho, located in southeastern Washington state. 13 farms near the Tri-cities of Washington pump water from the lowest of the four reservoirs which is behind Ice Harbor dam. The dams do not provide an irriagtion storage benefit but save these thirteen farmers about 1/5 of their pumping costs as the reservoirs are 80 feet deep and thus save 80 feet of pumping costs. It is unclear why a spokesman from the Idaho Farm Bureau would still be ignorant of these facts.)
Environmentalists say breaching the dams would mean more water for farmers because less would be needed to flush the salmon down the river."Under the status quo Idahoans from all different walks of life are suffering because we haven't done enough to bring our salmon and steelhead populations back...Dam removal makes complete economic sense for Idaho," says Bill Sedivy of Idaho Rivers United.
In the end, it appears it will be a debate over dollars and cents with both sides appealing to you and your pocketook.
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