Is It Fair to Compare
by Rocky Barker
River ecologists nationally issued a paper this spring decrying the lack of data to compare river restoration projects. Each waterway and dam is unique. River systems are complex.
However, rivers have proved to be far more resilient when a dam is removed or pollution stopped. The Edwards experience follows the success of many other dam removals including the Sunbeam Dam in the 1930s on the Salmon River and the Lewiston Dam on the Clearwater River in the 1970s.
The Edwards Dam was a 917-foot-wide, 25-foot-high concrete and timber dam, comparable in size to the Swan Falls Dam, which is 30 miles from Boise on the Snake River. Swan Falls Dam is 24 feet high and 1,187 feet wide. Edwards only produced 3.5 megawatts of electricity and served no other purpose.
The four lower Snake dams are three times as large, and produce nearly 1,000 times the electricity as Edwards. They provide a link by barge to the Pacific Ocean with Lewiston.
Removing the Edwards dam cost Edwards Manufacturing $2.5 million in lost annual revenues and the city of Augusta lost electricity sales. By comparison, the Corps of Engineers four lower Snake dams in Washington generate $250 million in revenues annually for the Bonneville Power Administration.
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