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Breaching Snake River dams is action of last
The latest proposal by the federal
government to spur salmon recovery should be given a chance to
By the Union-Bulletin Editorial Board 1/28/07
It is not a certainty that breaching the four dams on the lower
Snake River would guarantee the long-term survival of salmon.
Yet, a few people are convinced that dam breaching is the cure-all
for the salmon problem and they have mounted a steady, relentless
campaign to bring the dams down. In their minds, breaching the
dams is the answer.
And this obsession with dam breaching causes them to reject any
and all federal proposals for salmon restoration that don't
include taking down dams.
Unfortunately, U.S. District Judge James Redden seems to be among
them. Redden ruled in 2004 that the Bush administration's plan for
making the hydroelectric generation system on the Snake and
Columbia rivers safe for salmon violated the Endangered Species
Act. Redden takes exception to the plan because it considered dams
as part of the landscape and makes only changes in how the dams
were operated. Last month the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
upheld Redden's ruling.
And that spawned a new federal plan for salmon recovery.
That plan was quickly blasted by salmon advocates and Indian
tribes for not considering breaching or major changes to the dams.
Come on! Breaching the dams would significantly reduce power
production, force a significant change to irrigation systems and
prohibit barge transportation to Idaho. It would put a lot of the
region under water. And it would take an economic toll on the
Dam breaching would not necessarily ensure the survival of salmon.
This is why it is prudent to consider other actions to enhance the
Any plan to restore salmon is simply a guess. They all involve
trial and error, which means it is wise to consider the impact the
plans will have on society, not just salmon.
This is what is being done.
Breaching the dams must be an action of last resort.
In 2001 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study on
breaching the Snake River dams. It concluded that breaching the
dams would increase the chances of salmon restoration only
slightly - if at all - while certainly hurting the Northwest's
The plan being put forward to restore salmon might work, it might
not. But it should be given a chance. It's a far more reasonable
approach than demanding the dams be taken down.
Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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