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Commentaries and editorials

Hydro Dams

by Reed Burkholder
Idaho State Journal, May 6, 2005

Fifty years ago hydro dams were important for keeping our lights on. At that time this region had no other commercial generating operations. Now, in addition to hydro, we use four more modern commercial technologies as well -- coal, gas turbines, nuclear and wind.

Fifty years ago this region was nearly 100 percent hydro. Now it is about 50 percent hydro, and the percentage continues to drop with the completion of each new gas turbine, wind farm or coal-fired plant.

As hydro dams become less important to our region, the idea of removing some to aid in the recovery of our salmon runs becomes more reasonable.

This year the adult salmon returns are very low, and we need to consider again the one recovery tool with the promise to truly improve the runs -- dam removal.

The dams that need removing are in the Snake River downstream of Lewiston, Idaho -- Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor. (These dams do not serve agriculture with irrigation storage or diversion. They are so low in elevation that they are below the farm land.)

We need congressional approval for the removal of these "federal dams." We need to gently remind our congressmen that dam removal is in the best economic interests of our state.

Fifty years ago dam building was considered "progress." I suggest that now the removal of our most harmful dams is "progress."

Reed Burkholder, Boise
Hydro Dams
Idaho State Journal, May 6, 2005

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