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Commentaries and editorials

The Statesman's One-Sided View
on Dam Breaching is Absurd

by Norm Semanko
The Idaho Statesman, August 6, 2005

Norm Semanko is a Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District of Idaho. The Statesman's editorial of July 24 highlighting the removal of Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Maine qualifies for the absurd reasoning hall of fame. It is no secret that The Statesman's editorial board supports dam breaching and its editorial illustrates just how one-sided its view on the issue really is.

Let's just take its conclusion: removing a dam built on the opposite side of the country 50 years before Idaho became a state -- a dam that supplies only 3.5 megawatts of electricity to a region that doesn't need it, supplies no water for irrigated agriculture, and supports no other industry -- means the Pacific Northwest should tear out four Snake River dams. Dams that supply nearly 1,200 megawatts of electricity, directly make possible a $36 million per year shipping industry and more than 1,600 jobs, supply irrigation water to farmers, aid in flood control and foster a thriving recreational environment.

The apples to oranges cliche does not even begin to rise to the level of absurdity demonstrated in the editorial.

The Pacific Northwest, particularly Idaho, is one of the fastest-growing areas of the country and is hugely dependent on electricity. We'll need more -- not less -- electricity to meet the demands of new growth. Destroying the capacity to produce enough electricity to power the city of Seattle -- or the states of Idaho and Montana -- makes absolutely no sense.

Then there's the science. There is no consensus that dam removal will recover the fish, or that it would stop the demands for Idaho water. Removal of the dams could also release tons of sediment from behind the dams, causing untold damage to the salmon and other fish and habitat. Salmon returns are up over the past five years -- with the dams in place. So why take this kind of risk?

In addition, only four of the 26 fish listed under the Endangered Species Act actually pass through the four lower Snake River dams. How many more dams will have to be removed for the other 22 stocks? We might as well go back to the dark ages, literally.

Maybe most absurd of all, The Statesman chose to misrepresent the nature of the Nez Perce Water Rights Agreement. For the record, the agreement does not provide any kind of platform for dam removal. Indeed, one of the goals of the agreement was to keep the northern and southern parts of the state united against dam removal. That opposition to dam breaching was reflected in the huge margins in favor of the agreement -- from all quarters of the state. Furthermore, BSU public opinion polls continue to show very strong statewide opposition to dam removal.

The Statesman calls for negotiations. While talks are always possible, environmentalists had a prime opportunity two years ago when Sen. Mike Crapo organized negotiations asking the parties to drop the threat of litigation in favor of trying to reach some kind of agreement. The state of Idaho, the Bush administration, water users and the Coalition for Idaho Water, representing virtually every other sector of Idaho, stood ready to do so. But environmental groups, driven by out-of-state lawyers and East Coast funding, chose to sue to take Idaho's water instead. Working together, we have been successful in beating down this misguided litigation.

We will continue to work to save our dams and our water from out-of-state interests, out-of-touch environmental activists and the incomprehensible logic of The Idaho Statesman.

Related Pages:
Well-known Biologist Reverses Stance on Dam Breaching by Alyson Outen, KTVB News, 8/11/5

Norm Semanko of Eagle is executive director and general counsel for the Idaho Water Users Association, president of the National Water Resources Association, and president of the Coalition for Idaho Water. He was appointed to the Western States Water Council by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and is member of Idaho United for Fish and Water. He is also a Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District of Idaho.
The Statesman's One-Sided View on Dam Breaching is Absurd
The Idaho Statesman, August 6, 2005

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