An Idaho Republican Congressman suggests removing four dams to save the dwindling salmon population. It will take billions of dollars to get it done.
If you could stand on the shores of Redfish Lake in Idaho 150 years ago, You can testify to the breathtaking glacial lake that is red from spawning sockeye salmon.
The splashing of thousands upon thousands of bobcats kept the farmers awake during their migration more than 900 miles upstream. And after eating and swimming in the sea for a lifetime, they returned to their original freshwater home. There they leave their legacy of eggs and their body’s nutrients to start the cycle over.
In 2020, only 18 bobcats returned to Redfish Lake. The incredibly degraded condition of sockeye salmon salmon is not unique for its species. The Columbia River Basin was once home to hordes of wild Koho, Steel headand Chinook too. Of the more than 1 million salmonids that ascend the Columbia and Snake Rivers to only thousandsthe species are all in final trouble.
An Idaho Republican Congressman has plans to change that. Or at least give the salmon a chance to fight.
The hydropower problem and salmon
The Ice Harbor Dam (pictured) would be removed from 2030. Credit: JewelsPics via Shutterstock
There are currently eight dams along the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers. Four dams on the lower serpent provide many in the Pacific Northwest with low-carbon hydropower. These include the Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Lower Granite dams. But the huge blockages kill salmon by the thousands and reduce the annual migration at every obstacle along the corridor.
In addition, almost a quarter of every customer’s electricity bill goes to wildlife control, which is primarily aimed at the salmon population (40 years old) $ 18 billion in investment with minimal return. It is estimated that every salmon that flows the river is worth thousands of dollars.
The clean energy generated by the dams is of course praised in today’s era of climate change. The federally owned dams provide jobs, energy, and an agriculture that relies on water for both growth operations and grain transport along the rivers.
Different interest groups, different needs
Nov 2, 2020: A Native American man fishing for salmon in the Deschutes River Rapids at Shearers Bridge with a diving net from a wooden platform near Tygh Valley, Ore; Photo credit: Bob Pool
The $ 34 billion plan proposed by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) takes into account the positive properties of the dams. Attempts are also being made to resolve what he calls “Salmon Wars,” an ongoing salmon lawsuit between environmental groups, tribal groups, anglers and the state of Oregon versus the federal government.
Rep. Mike Simpson has done his research, and in no small dose. More than 300 meetings held by Simpson covered every community affected by the impact of the four dams. This includes those on all sides of the argument, from the farmers who depend on the current dam system, to the biologists who understand the ecological complexities, to tribal leaders and groups who have long been dependent on the now tiny salmon runs.
According to Simpson, the question is not simply “salmon or dams?” It is a nuanced conversation in which the benefits for the dams and the affected communities are understood. And, of course, how much economic recovery these communities would need to find new solutions. The dams benefit many communities; The cost of replacing these benefits is high.
But the Biden administration looks like it Handed a 2-3 trillion dollar bill focused on building a new infrastructure that focused on clean energy for the nation’s future. Simpson’s proposed $ 34 billion plan would account for less than 1-2% of that stimulus package.
A $ 34 billion salmon rescue plan
Called that “Energy and salmon conceptThe plan includes a detailed breakdown of the financial resources required to rebuild and rewire each sector affected by the dam injury. Affected communities include agriculture, transportation, utilities, outdoor recreation, irrigation equipment, the Army Corps of Engineers relocation plan, tribal rights to waterway management, and more.
The plan has not yet been incorporated into legislation, but provides a framework for future legislation. It would be called the Columbia River Basin Fund. Additionally, the Department of Energy would manage the fund out of the Idaho Tri-Cities area.
“I want to be very clear. I haven’t drafted legislation, and I am not currently drafting legislation, ”Simpson said. “With such a concept, all of the Northwest delegations, governors, tribes and interest groups must work together to work out a solution. It won’t be an easy task and on a very tight schedule. “
Given that the $ 17 billion to $ 18 billion spent over the past 40 years has not produced a significant return, the breach of these four dams in favor of salmon in the Columbia River watershed is of scientific importance. And a lot of it.
In fact, the federal government recently released one Environmental impact assessment this aided the removal of the dam to restore species. In addition, the Northwest Energy Coalition found similar results, saying that breaking the dams would bring about recovery for salmon species and a subspecies of wild orca dependent on chinook salmon in the Salish Sea.
An Ave Maria for salmon
The dams aren’t the only problem salmon face on their 1,800-mile round-trip migration. Warming water, bad sea conditions, increased predators of sealsand more are stacked against the recovery of Idaho’s salmon populations.
But if the natural course of the lower Snake River continued as it used to, it could provide a safe haven for young salmon and migratory salmon.
“Idaho’s salmon is not doing well today, and I see no sign that ocean conditions or the climate will improve fast enough in the coming decades to avoid extinction,” said Simpson.
“I can’t be sure whether I’ll remove the four [dams] I’m sure if we don’t remove them, our salmon and steel head are on a certain path to extinction. “