Salmon Recovery Relies on Free-Flowing Riverby Joseph Bogaard
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - April 23, 2003
Thank you for Robert McClure's April 10 article Snake River on Watchdog's Sick List. I offer two clarifications on an issue plagued by misunderstanding: removing the four Lower Snake River dams to restore wild salmon.
First, while the dams do generate energy for a Seattle-sized city, most of it comes when least needed -- in spring when the region has high runoff and relatively low demand.
In winter, when demand is greatest, the four dams generate about half that. Overall, they contribute less than 5 percent of our region's energy while damming 140 miles of once-exceptional free-flowing river and they are driving our salmon toward extinction. Last fall, Rand Corp. issued a report recommending that the Northwest reduce its overreliance on hydropower and estimated that removing these four dams could generate up to 15,000 new jobs in the region. For a struggling economy like Washington's, job creation via salmon-recovery, energy-efficiency and wind-power investments reflects a path forward, particularly in rural communities.
Second, the article suggests that irrigation for farming depends on these dams. Irrigation on the Lower Snake River began long before the dams were completed in the 1970s and would continue after their removal. A free-flowing Snake River would lower the water level and, thus, increase the cost of pumping slightly. The water rights would remain unimpaired.
Salmon recovery in the Snake River basin depends on restoring a free-flowing river and alternatives currently exist to remove the dams while protecting and enhancing the economic prospects for rural communities of the Northwest.
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