the film
Commentaries and editorials

Semanko Uses Politics Not Science
in Dam Breaching Rhetoric

by Barry Ross
The Idaho Statesman, August 23, 2005

Norm Semanko is a Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District of Idaho. Norm Semanko, candidate for Congress, missed the point of the article on the removal of the Edwards Dam in Maine. The point was that salmon are resilient and came back quicker and in greater numbers than expected even though the dam had been in existence for more than 150 years. The removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington could have the same effect. This could provide Idaho with a restored salmon and steelhead fishery worth $544 million annually, according to a recent study by Don Reading, a Boise economist. Most of that economic boost would benefit rural Idaho.

I am also concerned about the way Norm uses numbers about the lower Snake River dams. The Snake is a desert river in which the flow plummets dramatically in late summer through early winter, causing power production to drop to less than 500 megawatts. Norm stated that the dams produce "nearly 1,200 megawatts." This is true but only for short periods of time. Right now production is at 350 and last year at this time it was 591 megawatts. That's public record which even a politician can check. Seattle, that uses an average of 1,100 megawatts, would not be too happy with reliability of the lower Snake dams for its power needs.

I would like to know what makes up Norm's $36 million and 1,600 jobs for the transportation industry. Are those jobs and money from other states or does that include truck and train transportation too? We know the barging only provides a handful of jobs in Lewiston and a few million dollars. What makes up the rest?

Norm, you of all people should know that the irrigation of those 35,000 acres of farm ground in Washington have a flow water right, not a storage right. Lowering the pump intakes will solve the irrigation problem. You should also know that the 427,000 acre-feet of water that Idaho's farmers have to provide to keep those dams in place could provide irrigation for over 100,000 acres here in Idaho. You say you "continue to work to save our dams and our water from out-of-state interest," but I see a benefit for Washington and none for Idaho.

Oh by the way, the four listed stocks passing though the lower Snake dams are Idaho stocks. The rest are stocks from California, Washington and Oregon and many from coastal streams that have poor habitat. The Snake was historically the most important river system for producing spring/summer chinook and summer steelhead (the two most important listed populations to the Columbia River's legacy). The river continues to be significant, primarily because of the quantity and quality of the remaining habitat found in the Clearwater and Salmon river drainages in Idaho, the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers in Oregon and the Tucannon River in Washington.

Then there is the science. More and more reliable and trusted fisheries scientists are saying the only way to save Idaho salmon and steelhead is to remove the four lower Snake River dams in Washington. Even Don Chapman, who for years was opposed to dam removal, has changed his thoughts and come out in support of removing the four lower Snake River dams in Washington.

And Norm, the lower Snake dams don't provide any flood control. Only a politician would suggest they do.

Related Pages:
Well-known Biologist Reverses Stance on Dam Breaching by Alyson Outen, KTVB News, 8/11/5
Statesman's 1-Sided View on Dam Breaching is Absurd by Norm Semanko, Idaho Statesman, 8/6/5

Barry Ross is retired and past president and CEO of Fisheries West Inc., was appointed to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council by Gov. Cecil Andrus, was past president of Idaho Trout Unlimited and is not a candidate for any office.
Semanko Uses Politics Not Science in Dam Breaching Rhetoric
The Idaho Statesman, August 23, 2005

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