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Commentaries and editorials

It's Time to Breach the Dams

by Bonnie Schonefeld
Idaho Mountain Express, February 28, 2018

Snake River sockeye salmon that returned from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho over the summer swim in a holding tank at the Eagle Fish Hatchery in southwestern Idaho. Fisheries biologists in Idaho say THEY THINK they know why a relatively new $13.5 million hatchery intended to save Snake River sockeye salmon from extinction is instead killing thousands of fish before they ever get to the ocean. (Dan Baker Photo, Idaho Fish and Game) Idaho sports anglers, wake up! Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead are in rapid decline. Don't care about wild fish? Then consider this: The Bonneville Power Administration, which pays much of the cost of fish hatcheries, is billions in debt and has exhausted its $917 million reserves. Guess who pays much of the cost of producing those hatchery fish you love to catch?

BPA claims it may need to take "an intellectually honest" look at breaching the lower Snake River dams, among BPA's highest cost producers. Fish Passage Center research shows lower Snake dam removal and increased spill for juvenile fish at four downstream Columbia River dams would result in a 400 percent increase in adult Snake River salmon and steelhead!

Here are the choices: BPA ratepayers pay ever-higher prices for electricity while Idaho's salmon and steelhead runs collapse, or the lower Snake River is returned to its natural flow. With the first alternative, ratepayers, sports anglers and rural communities all lose, as does BPA itself. Taxpayers also lose by spending millions of dollars annually to subsidize declining Snake River barge traffic.

Economic reality and fish biology -- as well as common sense -- say it's time to breach the lower Snake River dams.

Bonnie Schonefeld, Kooskia, Idaho
It's Time to Breach the Dams
Idaho Mountain Express, February 28, 2018

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