Study Defends Dam Breachingby Staff
The Idaho Statesman, September 5, 2002
Think tank says N.W. economy would not suffer
Four lower Snake River dams could be breached to reopen a natural channel and bolster migrating salmon and steelhead without harming the Northwest´s economy, a private study says.
The RAND Corp., a nonpartisan think tank, on Wednesday rebutted Bush administration claims that returning the lower Snake to a natural channel would cost jobs. Its report contends the impact — including saving the fish — would create 15,000 new jobs.
“This new report shows clearly that we don´t have to make a choice between saving salmon and doing what´s best for people,” said Bill Sedivy, executive director of the Idaho Rivers United advocacy group. “If we remove the lower Snake River dams, we can have a healthy economy, healthy energy supplies, healthy salmon populations and a healthy Snake River ecosystem.”
RAND concluded that the region can diversify its power mix with investments in energy efficiency, new wind turbine farms and other alternative energy by 2020 for about the same cost as the current sources.
Replacing 20 percent of the proposed new natural gas-fired generators would fight global warming by avoiding the release of more than 45 million tons of carbon dioxide — the amount 7.5 million cars produce — in one year.
“Most likely, the economy will grow at the same rate whether the business-as-usual occurs or 20 percent of the expansion is replaced with alternative energy sources,” RAND analysts said.
The study found 82 percent of the Northwest´s power generating capacity in 1999 came from the huge dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, the Energy Information Administration found.
The RAND report concluded hydroelectric production has hit a ceiling in the Northwest and will not support future growth.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency in charge of restoring fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, recommended against breaching the Snake River dams in December 2000.
It released an alternative plan, labeled “aggressive non-breach,” that called for leaving the dams in place while restoring spawning streams, reforming hatcheries to reduce harm to wild fish by hatchery-born fish, and increasing fishing restrictions.
The federal plan says breaching should again be considered if specific goals are not met by 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and other Idaho leaders oppose breaching.
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