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Commentaries and editorials

Dams are Central to Salmon Problem

by Melissa Metcalfe
St. Petersburg Times, October 24, 2002

The benefits of restoring the Snake River's natural flow outweigh its costs.
Al Gore, once again, has chosen to be ambiguous instead of taking a real stand.

In his letter to the editor, Brig. Gen. David Fastabend of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland office seems to have ignored your editorial -- to which he said he was responding. He also told us Floridians that we did not understand the complicated situation with salmon and the Snake River dams, but at the same time contended that we should understand because we have much in common with them because we are undertaking restoration of the Everglades.

We do understand. Here are the facts his letter ignored.

All species of Snake River salmon are on the endangered species list, thanks primarily to the four lower Snake River dams in Washington state. State, federal and tribal scientists continue agreeing those dams are the biggest culprit in the decline.

For decades, the Corps has been spending millions of dollars to save salmon on the Snake River, and everything they have tried has failed. Some measures, like trucking salmon around the dams, are downrightsilly. The main thing these projects has accomplished is putting millions of dollars into the Corps’ budget.

The people of the Northwest are not uniformly supporting the Corps’ continued dam operation on the Snake River. Thousands of people support breaching the dams, including taxpayer advocates who are tired of the pointless waste of our money; anglers who want to preserve their sport; family fishing businesses who depend on the salmon; and native Americans whose treaty with the U.S. government is violated by the dams’ decimation of salmon.

It is even peculiar that the general referred to Everglades restoration, because it is our equivalent of breaching those dams. Most of the massive Everglades restoration involves reversing the damage done primarily by dams, sluices and canals built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Gen. Fastabend’s letter never even alluded to the RAND report, “Generating Power in the Pacific Northwest,” mentioned in the Times editorial. That report from the internationally-respected, non-profit research and analysis firm concluded that removing the four lower Snake River dams and investing in clean energy would create up to 15,000 jobs and improve the environment.

The Corps needs to spend more time examining new ideas like those in the RAND report, which could benefit everyone, and less writing letters trying to justify past mistakes.

Melissa Metcalfe, Endangered Species Coalition, St. Petersburg, FL.
Dams are Central to Salmon Problem
St. Petersburg Times, October 24, 2002

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