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Your Water or Their Dams

by Shelton Beach, Readers Advisory Board
Idaho Falls Post Register, November 20, 2003

Don't you just hate it when people talk to you like they think you're stupid? When they tell you something that cannot possibly be true and they expect you to believe it? That's how I felt as I read Butch Otter's guest column on Nov. 5.

Otter states: "Using the Endangered Species Act as a weapon, their (environmentalists) scheme is to ransom all the water in the Snake River Basin for the breaching of four Lower Snake River dams."

Please read that last paragraph again and think about what he is saying. Otter's premise is that if the dams are breached, the government will confiscate all the water stored in Idaho to flush salmon downstream. The resulting re-desertization of southern Idaho would be catastrophic.

On the subjects of dam breaching and salmon flushing, either I am stupid or Otter is stupid. The only other alternative is that Otter is intentionally misrepresenting the facts and I know of no politician who would do that.

I submit the following in defense of my sanity: The purpose of "flushing" is to create a current in the slack water created by the dams in question. If no dams are present, no flushing is necessary. The next time you stand next to a flowing stream, think to yourself, "That is a naturally flowing stream. It has a current and there is no flow augmentation or flushing taking place." Then go and stand on the banks of a reservoir. Look at the reservoir and say to yourself, "That is an unnatural lake. There is no current in it. But if someone upstream sent millions of cubic feet of water downstream and the dam were opened to its maximum, perhaps there would be a slight current." Congratulations! You now understand the problem. And you now understand why I am not the stupid one.

Contrary to Otter's rhetoric, once the dams are breached, no flow augmentation or flushing is required. Hence, none of our water is required. Period. The river runs free. The salmon are naturally flushed downstream and not a single drop of Idaho's water is required for flushing. Idaho farmers get to keep all their water. The desert continues to bloom. Our reservoirs remain full. Idaho Power generators operate at full capacity. Salmon and steelhead return to Idaho in historic numbers. Towns like Riggins, Salmon and Challis enjoy huge economic benefits as thousands of fishermen flock to town and spend millions of dollars chasing salmon and steelhead. It's a win situation for everyone.

But it will never happen. The dams will remain in place. Salmon will continue to die en route to the ocean. Environmentalists will scream for Idaho's water to flush the salmon downstream. Judges will give our water to them. And Otter's dire scenario of declining boat sales, reservoirs becoming mud holes, loss of fish habitat and wetlands, decline in property values, decline in tax revenues and higher power bills will play itself out - all because our congressional delegation will not back breaching of the dams.

The question is: Why won't they support breaching? The answer is simple. It has nothing to do with our water. It has everything to do with the Republican philosophy that any dam is a good dam.

Remember, not one drop of Idaho's water is stored in Washington. Once that water crosses the state line, it is gone forever. Only by breaching the four dams in question can we assure that more of our water stays in Idaho.

Related Pages: Activists Drop Carrot, Use Litigation Threat as Stick by Butch Otter, Post Register, 11/20/3
Salmon Recovery Needs Realistic Options by Butch Otter, Post Register, 11/5/3

by Shelton Beach a retired Army noncommissioned officer. He lives near Blackfoot.
Your Water or Their Dams
Post Register, November 20, 2003

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