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Save the Salmon or the Dams?

Dean Boyer, Robert Wheeldon, Al Turpin, Craig Gehrke
New York Times, Letters to the Editor
- October 1, 1999

To the Editor:

Re "Returning River to Salmon, and Man to the Drawing Board" (front page, Sept. 26): You quote from a study by the National Marine Fisheries Service that breaching the dams is "more likely" than any other dam-related action to restore healthy salmon runs.

But the same study also found that "a major uncertainty" surrounds the extent that other aspects of the ecosystem have contributed to the decline in wild salmon. And it concludes that "there are plausible sets of assumptions under which breaching yields little or no improvement."

The science is far from clear, despite what environmental groups would have us believe. In fact, Northwest salmon runs have declined just as precipitously on rivers without dams.

Director of Public Relations
Washington Farm Bureau
Olympia, Wash., Sept. 28, 1999

To the Editor:

Re "Returning River to Salmon, and Man to the Drawing Board" (front page, Sept. 26): Shortages of electrical power in the Pacific Northwest have been predicted unless new generating capacity is added.

Now the environmentalists want to remove the electrical generating capacity provided by dams on the Snake River.

What are our alternatives? Will the environmentalists support construction of fossil fuel or nuclear power plants? Should we shut down the aluminum smelters that are located in Washington State because of our low-cost electricity and become dependent upon a foreign aluminum supplier? Should families with electrically heated homes be forced to convert to wood or fossil fuel heating?

Answering the question about saving Pacific Northwest salmon is easy.

The hard question is how.

Seattle, Sept. 26, 1999

To the Editor:

Both sides of the "salmon or dams" argument fail to discuss the inevitable (front page, Sept. 26). The Snake River dams (and all others) will eventually be removed one way or the other, by nature if not by humans.

Not too far in the future, the solar farms in the Sun Belt will prove to be more cost-effective at energy production than our aging dams. Those dams that develop structural problems will be the first to go when the replacement-cost estimates are made. The dams are only cost-effective now because the Government paid for the construction and the users of water and electricity are not being asked to pay that money back.

We should identify the dams that are the most damaging to the wild salmon runs and begin removing them methodically. We know they are coming down.

The question is, Do we make it happen before or after we cause the extinction of the salmon?

San Francisco, Sept. 27, 1999

To the Editor:

The fight over dams along the Snake River (front page, Sept. 26) has obscured an important cause of the salmon population crash: excessive logging and road building in national forests.

A recent scientific assessment of important native fish species in the interior Columbia River Basin found that every one of those species is in decline, including fish that never have to deal with the hydroelectric dams on the Snake River. The culprit for these declines is too much timber harvesting, road building and livestock grazing, degrading the clean waters of the mountain watersheds that these fish need to survive.

Any effort by the Government to restore the basin's fishery resources will have to include prohibitions on logging, road construction and grazing in undeveloped habitat areas.

Regional Dir., Wilderness Society
Boise, Idaho, Sept. 29, 1999

New York Times Discussion Forum

Dean Boyer, Robert Wheeldon, Al Turpin, Craig Gehrke
Save the Salmon or the Dams?
Letters to the New York Times October 1, 1999

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