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Rep. McDermott wants Dam Review

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, March 14, 2007

A Washington congressman has introduced legislation calling for new scientific and economic analysis on the pros and cons of dam breaching and other salmon-recovery methods.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and 32 co-sponsors introduced the Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act Tuesday. The bill calls for the National Academy of Sciences and the Government Accountability Office to conduct independent, one-year studies on the best scientific and economic ways to recover salmon and steelhead runs in the Snake and Columbia rivers.

But unlike previous versions of the bill, it does not authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove four dams on the lower Snake River if that recovery method is found to be the best and cheapest way to save threatened and endangered fish runs.

"The Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act does not endorse, authorize or make any judgment on lower Snake River dam removal," said McDermott in a news release. "It calls on the Government Accountability Office and the National Academy of Sciences to review all options for salmon recovery and provide needed information on what should be done to restore salmon in a fiscally responsible way."

Proponents of the bill believe those studies will clearly show dam removal is the best and cheapest option.

"We believe if the authorized studies are properly funded and are comprehensive and are done independently, the data will bear out that removing the four dams is the surest and most cost-effective way to restore salmon," said Bill Sedivy of Idaho Rivers United at Boise.

Sedivy and other salmon advocates say there are so many competing and contradicting studies on both the biology and economics of dam breaching that an independent investigation is needed to establish a baseline of credible information.

"I think for too long decision-makers in our part of the world have had to cope with dueling studies on the best way to save salmon and the costs and benefits surrounding the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River," Sedivy said.

Mike DeCesare, a spokesman for McDermott, said removing the part of the bill authorizing dam removal and the Democratic takeover of the House gives the bill a better shot at passage this year.

Several Republican members of Congress from the Northwest are aligning against the bill. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., circulated a letter signed by Reps. Bill Sali and Mike Simpson of Idaho, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, and Greg Walden of Oregon, urging House members not to sign on as co-sponsors. The letter says the act would waste taxpayer dollars by analyzing an issue that has been exhaustively studied in recent years. It also points out that removing dams on the Snake River would do nothing to help other troubled runs in the Columbia basin.

Eric Barker
Rep. McDermott wants Dam Review
Lewiston Tribune, March 14, 2007

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