To Extol the Value of Dams
by Mitch Sanchotena
I am always in "shock and awe" whenever I read one of Ms. Patricia Barclay's opinions on salmon recovery (Reader's View, May 26). I am always amazed at her facts. They resemble a squeaky wheel needing grease -- whether it's going forward or backward.
One thing readers must know about Ms. Barclay is that she always wants to blame the victims of lost salmon fishing and related economies for the loss of salmon. She makes mention that commercial fishermen decimated the runs in the 1800s. The fact is the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council estimated that during pre-European settlement of the Columbia Region, there were approximately 16 million to 20 million adult salmon entering the Columbia River each year, and that Idaho produced roughly 65 percent of all those salmon and steelhead. This same council claims that hydropower dams are responsible for the loss of approximately 7 million to 11 million adult salmon each year. The balance of the loss is attributed to habitat degradation such as urban sprawl, logging, highways, etc. It's easy to see that dams are the major killer of salmon -- not Indians, not fishermen, and not some shadowy figure hidden behind a grassy knoll. We are the victims of these federal dams, not the problem.
She says the Army Corps of Engineers claims removing the dams will not recover the salmon. Now there is a real fish agency. Ms. Barclay is stretching for data when she relies on the Army Corps. As a lay person trying to understand this issue, I think I'll put my money on the Indian and state fisheries people charged with the stewardship of our fish and wildlife resources -- not the Corps of Engineers. How about you?
Ms. Barclay wants you to believe there would be significant economic hardship brought upon us from breaching these four dams. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when everything is factored in, there is an economic benefit. For instance, a restored Idaho salmon fishery combined with an adequate steelhead fishery will generate more than $500 million annually. Other examples the Corps omitted are: the fact that over 34,000 acres of riparian area will be uncovered; $200 million in recreation benefits from a free-flowing river below Lewiston to Pasco; a reduction in the need for water from Idaho to help migrating salmon smolts; and savings in Clean Water Act mitigation for excessive temperatures in the lower Snake. In fact, some studies show a $50 million benefit from breaching.
Barge transportation from Lewiston is basically a non- issue. There is a well-established railroad that has already proven it can more than handle the commodities that are now shipped by barge. Treasure Valley shippers do not have the benefit of a heavily subsidized barge system to ship with, and we do just fine shipping thousands more tons of produce out of this valley and southern Idaho than all of Lewiston combined. To make transportation an issue is a far stretch.
Ms. Barclay, we are proud as Idahoans for what we have done to protect and restore our salmon. We have set aside the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 states to protect our salmon spawning areas. We have set aside the spectacular Sawtooth National Recreation Area to protect our salmon. We are providing valuable water flushes, paying a part of our power bill and in general being good stewards. Now we want Washington and the corporate fatties to do their share, and if you can't appreciate it, I feel sorry for you.
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