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Commentaries and editorials

Breach the Dams

by James Mulcare
Everett Herald, September 13, 2020

(Darin Oswald) Fish ladders at the the Lower Granite Dam had water that was too warm for salmon, but turbine manipulation saved the day. In this region, the removal of our four lower Snake River dams seems to be one of our most controversial topics. Certainly, there are pros and cons, and depending on which side you stand there can be bias. Because of the considerable impacts of such decisions, objectivity is critical, yet it can be quite elusive.

Impacts on transportation, hydropower, irrigation and recreational use must be considered. Accordingly, ECONorthwest, an economics firm, was employed to assess the impacts of breaching our four dams. These four variables were considered in their cost-benefit analysis.

This firm's conclusion was that "the benefits of removal exceed their costs, and thus society would likely be better off without the dams."

While informative, this cost-benefit analysis certainly lacks from a qualitative perspective. How do you value the negative or positive (emotional) effects on people when forced to relocate or change jobs? How do you value the ceremonial rights of Native Americans who have lived here for thousands of years? What value do you put on species endangered or extinct?

I feel these intangibles, while not easily quantifiable, have intrinsic value and are under-appreciated. Do we not have a responsibility to future generations to leave our ecosystems somewhat functioning? Should other species be allowed to slide into oblivion for our short-term economic gains? Are we really so selfish that we deny science and damn the future?

All dams have a shelf life. These dams have outlived their usefulness. These dams have reached their expiration date.

James Mulcare, Clarkston
Breach the Dams
Everett Herald, September 13, 2020

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