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Commentaries and editorials

Bill Opens Possibility of
Lower Snake River Dam Removal

by Pratik Joshi, Herald staff writer
The News Tribune, August 1, 2009

A salmon restoration bill that includes studying the environmental, infrastructure and economic issues associated with removing the four Lower Snake River dams was introduced Friday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, which was sponsored by Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Tom Petri, R-Wisc., requires the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and Department of Energy to take a look at the controversial issue.

The legislation, which had 20 co-sponsors including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., includes language authorizing the Secretary of the Army to remove the dams to "clarify that lower Snake River dam removal is within the Corps' Authority," Blumenauer said in a statement posted on the website of Save Our Wild Salmon, a coalition of conservation organizations, commercial and sports-fishing associations, businesses, and river groups that support restoration and recovery of wild salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake river basins.

"It is important to note this bill contains no 'trigger language' that would mandate dam removal,'' Blumenauer said in his statement.

The bill is about helping evaluate all options for salmon recovery, and understanding the impact of dam removal for transportation, energy, and irrigation in the region, Blumenauer said. He said his support does not mean he necessarily supports dam removal.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., an opponent of dam removal, immediately criticized the bill. He said in a statement that he would fight it in the House Natural Resources Committee, where he is the top Republican.

"Dam removal is an extreme action that would have devastating consequences on our region's economy," Hastings said in a statement. "These four dams are valuable components of the Northwest's clean, low-cost hydropower system that thousands and thousands of jobs rely upon. Dam removal would kill jobs, lead to huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and there's no scientific proof that it would actually guarantee salmon recovery."

Jim Toomey, executive director of the Port of Pasco, said the bill's proposed "drastic" measures are not the answer to salmon recovery.

"I'm surprised it has made (it) into a bill," Toomey said.

Any potential dam removal would mean loss of efficient, renewable and green electric power, and of barge transportation on the river, which will adversely impact the economy in the Northwest, Toomey said. It will also affect irrigation pools and recreation opportunities in the river, he said.

The bill, called the Salmon Solutions and Planning Act, puts all recovery options on the table, McDermott said in a statement.

"We have a responsibility to make sure that the wild salmon of the Snake River and the rest of the Columbia Basin in the Pacific Northwest survive and thrive for future generations, but we should do so in a fiscally responsible manner," Petri said in a statement. "Current efforts appear to be inadequate, in addition to being costly. We must stop throwing good money after bad; it's past time to do some fresh thinking and take the right actions before it's too late."

Hastings said "dam removal extremists" are fighting to spoil agreement on policies that would help salmon recovery.

"Professional activists who make a living off of pushing their dam removal agenda may not like to hear it, but Northwest citizens understand we can protect our clean, renewable hydropower dams and recover salmon at the same time," he said.

Pratik Joshi
Bill Opens Possibility of Lower Snake River Dam Removal
The News Tribune, August 1, 2009

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