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Breach Those Dams

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
Letter to Editor - Wood River Journal - July 26, 2000

After months of delays, the Clinton administration is still waffling on the salmon issue. Last week the administration once again delayed its final decision on whether the dams will be breached. Instead, officials announced, a final decision on dam breaching might be made after five to 10 years of further study and experiments in recovery strategies.

More than $20 million worth of research completed in the last few years confirms that any successful recovery strategy must include dam breaching. The Army Corps of Engineers has been barging salmon around the dams since 1968 -- and all species of salmon and steelhead on the Snake River have been listed as endangered or threatened since then. Scientists have already completed 10 years of studies and now all they can do is document the fast slide into extinction.

Unfortunately, administration officials assure the public that the 1,000 page salmon plan will have biological goals and standards, habitat restoration and technological fixes to the hydropower system. And it appears that other federal agencies and stakeholders -- such as the Bureau of Reclamation, Corps of Engineers, timber companies, irrigators and power companies -- are whittling even this weak plan down to mere happy talk about salmon and buffer zones.

This most recent announcement puts any real decision about the dams well past the November presidential election, and to the next administration, keeping Al Gore out of this tough and controversial issue. If this administration is serious about salmon recovery, then its plan will include engineering studies, a transition plan for the local economy, and a start date for the bulldozers to begin removing the earthen portions of the dams. But even as Sen. Slade Gorton (WA) gets his wish that the dams stay in, he says hell block Congress from funding any plans to help the local economy transition with dam removal.

We all konw that dam removal is the only way to recover salmon. If the experimental recovery strategies don't work, five to seven years could be long enough to study the salmon into extinction.

We ask the White House to take a firm stand on the Snake River salmon issue by telling the truth about the tradeoffs necessary if the dams stay in place for the next five years. Now is the time to make a decision based on the reams of data already collected -- not to make a non-decision based on the politics of the Vice President's presidential campaign.

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
Breach Those Dams
Wood River Journal July 26, 2000

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