Judge James Redden's ruling on the government's latest, inadequate salmon plan was very clear on two points:
To address these issues, President Bush and Northwest policy makers have only one path to follow -- removing four low-value, high-cost federal dams on the lower Snake River.
- The Endangered Species Act requires recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, not just preventing extinction.
- The impacts of Columbia and Snake River dams cannot be ignored. These dams kill more than 80 percent of Idaho's migrating salmon and steelhead.
Dam removal is not a radical idea.
A 1998 panel of independent, peer-reviewed scientists concluded that removing the dams (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite) offers an 80 to 100 percent chance of restoring wild Snake River salmon and steelhead. Those are good odds.
Dam removal has worked before:
Removing the lower Snake dams would benefit many Idahoans, by:
- The 1934 removal of Sunbeam Dam near Stanley resulted in an almost immediate return of wild salmon and steelhead to the Salmon River above the dam site.
- Removal of Grangeville Dam on the South Fork Clearwater in 1963 did the same.
- The 1999 removal of Maine's Edwards Dam brought immediate returns of ocean-going fish. Since then, 200 other U.S. dams have been removed, with similar results.
Removing the dams need not be draconian.
- Eliminating the need to use Southern and Eastern Idaho water to augment flows for out-migrating baby salmon, protecting farmers and agricultural communities.
- Eliminating the need to empty Dworshak Reservoir every year, creating economic opportunities for people in the Clearwater Basin.
- Restoring sport fisheries, adding $544 million a year to Idaho's economy. Much of that money would land in struggling towns along the Salmon and Clearwater rivers.
The perfect dam removal bill (an act of Congress is required for removal) should include:
We can have healthy salmon and healthy economies. But to get there, Idaho's political leaders must stop backing failed policies and turn their attentions toward finding solutions that restore salmon and steelhead, revitalize Central Idaho economies and communities, protect farmers and begin healing places like the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness -- places that need salmon to stay healthy for generations to come.
- Provisions to make sure that water now used to flush baby salmon to the sea is protected for use by Idaho farmers and growing Idaho cities.
- Investment in North Idaho and Eastern Washington highways and railroads, as well as the Port of Lewiston, to facilitate shipping of commodities to Pacific ports.
- Investment in riverfront restoration in Lewiston and other communities affected by dam removal.
- Investment to ensure that 13 Washington farmers who pump irrigation water from behind the dams can continue to obtain water.
- Investment in energy-efficiency measures and new power sources to replace the electricity now generated by the dams (one gas turbine plant would do it).
Only removing the lower Snake dams can do all these things. Let's get on with it.
Bill Sedivy is executive director of Idaho Rivers United, a statewide river conservation organization based in Boise.
Dam Removal is Not a Radical Idea; It is the Only Logical Solution for Idaho
The Idaho Statesman, June 5, 2005
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