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Commentaries and editorials

Save the Steelhead

by John H. Weis
Opinion, Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 2004

Brett Prettyman's article on Idaho steelhead trout highlighted the obstacles these fish must overcome to spawn. What was once a fast-flowing river has been replaced by a series of anadromous-fish-killing stagnant lakes created by eight separate dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. As each successive dam was constructed, reproduction of these fish was increasingly compromised.

Notable among these are the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River. Ice Harbor provides limited irrigation water. All four generate electricity but provide only a fraction of regional needs. The waterway produced by the dams is used for barge traffic but at a significant financial subsidy from the government. Goods could be more efficiently transported by rail or truck. All four dams could be easily opened by removing their earth fill sections.

The Idaho economy is enhanced $90 million per year by steelhead anglers. It has been estimated that Idaho could reap revenues up to $250 million if steelhead/salmon numbers could be restored to what they were before the four dams on the Snake were built.

It is in the economic interest of the region, as well as the biological benefit to these fish, to open these dams. Sadly, such arguments of reason have little impact upon the powers that regulate these dams: the parochial wants of a few clearly outweigh the benefits to the many.

John H. Weis, Salt Lake City
Save the Steelhead
Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 2004

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