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Commentaries and editorials

A Dam Plan for Fish, Roads and
Everything But the Kitchen Sink

by Representative Lance Clow
Twin Times-News, February 24, 2021

Map showing location of 4 lower Snake River dams and reservoirs being considered for removal Over the years we have seen and heard about the decline of wild Idaho Salmon runs. There is no doubt that man has contributed to the decline. On the other hand, billions (my estimate) has been invested to restore Salmon returns. After all the investment wild salmon remain an endangered species. The Dam Plan is supposed to fix all of that -- and more.

The Dam Plan includes $33.5 billion of new dollars to breach four dams. Investments will also be targeted for improvement in transportation, infrastructure, replacement of power, watershed, and agriculture programs. This multi-billion-dollar proposal assumes it will end the Idaho Salmon issues. Will it? Will all the stakeholder groups agree? Will this end the endless environmental lawsuits and future taxpayer investments?

When we talk about endangered species, we think we know what that means. However, the environmental groups are not protecting salmon. They expect to protect specific species down to the DNA of a run. They have identified the difference in salmon that return to Redfish Lake from those that return from the Columbia. We invest millions of dollars to determine if the returning Salmon are wild versus fish returning from salmon fish hatcheries. We currently laser zap millions of hatchery fish to remove a small fin (adipose) so that a salmon without that fin can be harvested and wild salmon released. Without the removal of the adipose fin, we could not tell the difference. This appears to be an important environmental identifier to protect the species. Will the restoration plan allow enhancement with the offspring of hatchery salmon? After all, environmental groups have fought to introduce the Northern Canadian Wolf after the near extinction of the Idaho Grey Wolf. If a different species of wolves was acceptable to environmental groups, a Salmon with a nearly perfect DNA match should also be acceptable.

The Dam Plan will offer a transportation plan and billions to replace the loss of the Lewiston Port of Entry. Is there anything in this for the Magic Valley? Idaho and Magic Valley irrigators and cities have been required to invest millions of dollars to enhance water flows to help salmon migrate to the ocean. Water is valuable and salmon recovery efforts have forced agriculture changes and reduced the agricultural footprint in southern Idaho. Agriculture is our heritage and economic base. We must transport Magic Valley crops and value-added products like cheese, sugar, yogurt, grain and potatoes over inadequate rail service, roads, and bridges. What about a half-billion dollars to increase the capacity of our commercial, industrial, and personal transportation needs?

I have not favored the concept of breaching these dams. Dams are an integral part of our renewable power, agricultural transportation system and North Idaho's economy. If this plan were ever to become reality, it must address the infrastructure and economic needs of the entire state. How about a bridge across the mid-Snake River, which is near the confluence of historical salmon spawning streams?

If this Dam Plan is a solution, we should leave out the kitchen sink, but include a bridge not-too-far-fetched. Something that can be used by our kids and grandkids. After all, they will be paying for it.

Related Pages:
Public Comment and Federal Responses, 45-day comment period of 8,000 page CRSO EIS, by bluefish during the Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020.

Representative Lance Clow (R-Oakley) is speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives.
A Dam Plan for Fish, Roads and Everything But the Kitchen Sink
Twin Times-News, February 24, 2021

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