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Commentaries and editorials

Dam Breach

by Dan Goicoechea, Director of Information, Idaho Farm Bureau
Idaho Farm Bureau Opinions, March 10, 2000

I’ll tell you one thing: salmon fishing must be one heck of an enjoyable hobby if some enthusiasts are ready to tear down dams and gut economies for the sake of it. Then again, maybe bait shops have more job creation potential than most of us realize.

We’re talking, of course, about the possibility of breaching four dams on the lower Snake river to aid the recovery of salmon. The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation does not believe the loss of jobs, hydro-power, and shipping are worth the no-guarantee possibility of improved fish runs. This is particularly true in light of recent indications that salmon may be making a comeback anyway, based on counts made at dams of those returning inland from the ocean. (Maybe these so-called “techno-fixes” of dam by-pass and fish transportation systems are working better than critics will allow.).

By now, you may have heard all the pro and con arguments about dam breaching that you want to, scientific and otherwise. So let’s frame this whole issue as it relates to Idaho in a slightly different way. We believe most Idahoans are moderately-conservative to conservative in nature. We don’t think we need to go too far out on a limb to say that most Idahoans – and the elected officials who represent them – are opposed to tearing down multi million dollars public works projects.

If this is not the case, why aren’t Idaho’s politicians shaking in their boots at the prospect of a groundswell of pro-breaching sentiment knocking them out of office? If lawmakers are adept at feeling the pulse of the electorate, that pulse apparently isn’t thumping very hard for dam breaching in the Idaho heartland.

As for the vocal environmental activism, we all probably know that there’s a lot more going on behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain than is visible to the public. Here’s what’s brewing: the very same philosophy that sees these four dams as evil can’t help but see all the rest on the river system as evil also. After all, when it comes to returning balance to nature, four dams out is good, eight would be twice as society slowly regresses to a pre-Lewis and Clark era. If these four dams go, the scorched earth policy will move up and downstream as new targets are put in the cross hairs.

To most rank and file Idahoans, concerned as we are with jobs, kids, education, and health care, it may seem a little bizarre that others – a loud minority, thank goodness – seem to have embraced dam breaching with something approaching religious zeal, especially given the ambiguous outcome for actual salmon recovery. As a group, you’re unlikely to find a more rude and self-important bunch than these folks – as evidenced during public testimony during recent Army Corps of Engineers hearings across the state.

The best chance for proponents of dam breaching is a favorable ruling from some federal court somewhere or having enough eastern members of congress gang up on the Northwest. If it’s left up to us here in Idaho - the people through their elected representatives – breaching ‘taint gonna happen.

Dan Goicoechea, Director of Information, Idaho Farm Bureau
Dam Breach
Idaho Farm Bureau Opinion - March 10, 2000

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