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Seek the Real Answers from Dam Breaching

by Editors
Editorial, Times-News, September 14, 2003

In response to The Times-News editorial, "Bush keeps solid policy in place for dams and fish" on Aug. 27:

Would breaching four dams in southeastern Washington bring adverse economic effects to the region? The RAND think tank does not think so, at least in a macro-economic sense.

But what about effects on individual economies? A short-line rail worker may gain while a barge worker may lose by being limited to floating the Columbia. A wheat grower or grain elevator operator may gain or lose depending on his proximity to the Snake River's subsidized barging (of $1.10 per ton). The builder and installer of surface bypass collectors, removable spillway weirs and fish screens may find less future work if Idaho's salmon actually begin to recover.

How would southern Idaho be affected? Idaho Power customers receive only one-sixth of 1 percent of their electricity from the Lower Snake River dams, while rural electric cooperatives receive 10 percent of their electricity from the Lower Snake. Most likely, electric rates will improve as salmon recovery costs decrease along with real salmon recovery. Currently in southern Idaho, willing sellers sell water rights downstream in an uncertain attempt to speed young salmon to the ocean. Other than that, I cannot think of how southern Idaho might be affected.

Elsewhere in the Northwest, "Salmon Recovery" is big business. The federal government doles out some $250 million annually, while these four dams generate around $110 million in net revenue. This money is going into somebody's pockets, and it will likely continue indefinitely without real salmon recovery success.

If we seriously want to know the economic effects of breaching, we should ask our country's General Accounting Office to provide us an answer. Such a request is the central tenet of the Salmon Planning Act, which awaits further support in Congress. Call Congressman Mike Simpson at 734-7219 in Twin Falls and ask for his vote toward a more meaningful discussion. Until then, we are just a bunch of letter writers, voicing our incompletely informed views.

Scott Levy, Ketchum
Seek the Real Answers from Dam Breaching
The Times-News, September 14, 2003

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