A new report shows that breaking dams on the lower Snake River, while driving a high price, could benefit endangered fish. But the report released by Democrats will be a tough sell for Idaho politicians, despite a dam-breaking congressman’s plea.
On Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a draft of a report they commissioned to determine the costs and effects of breaching four dams on the lower Snake River. in Washington. Last year, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, proposed a plan to break the dams that was widely criticized by other Idaho politicians.
U.S. Senator from Idaho Jim Risch said in a statement on Thursday that he was “categorically opposed” to breaking the dams, calling the report “a politically motivated review of hand-picked information.”
“Not even two years ago, the federal government completed a multi-year, comprehensive, scientific study of the lower Snake River dams,” Risch said, referring to a study by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Association.
“The conclusions of the study were resounding: the lower dams of the Snake River should not be breached. The benefits these dams bring to our region far outweigh the arguments for their removal.
Rep. Russ Fulcher said in a statement Friday that the report “relies heavily on divisive rhetoric — not substance — to paint a narrative that is grossly devoid of reality.”
Idaho Governor Brad Little’s office told the Idaho statesman in an emailed statement that its position on breaking dams has not changed. The statement echoes Little’s comments on Simpson’s proposal last year, saying “he is still not convinced that breaking dams is a silver bullet for salmon recovery.”
Little’s statement said he would continue to work with stakeholders to find a solution.
“While there is still much to do, (Little) is confident that we are moving in the right direction,” the statement read.
Simpson told the Statesman through a spokesperson that he planned to take the time to review the report. In May, Simpson told the Statesman he was “certain” the salmon would disappear if the dams were not removed.
Democrats Report: Dam Break Would Benefit Salmon
The new report concluded that removing the dams would benefit endangered salmon and local Native American tribes, but could cost between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion. This cost would include the replacement of barges and hydroelectricity, two major industries that depend on dams. Simpson’s proposal cost around $33 billion.
Inslee and Murray said they would take public comments on the report for 30 days and implement those comments before releasing a final conclusion. However, their report already has its supporters and detractors in Idaho.
Several groups, many of whom pushed back against the study Risch mentioned and welcomed Simpson’s proposal, applauded Washington’s new report. In a statement from a cadre of groups including the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited, stakeholders said this report proves that breaking the dam is feasible.
“The report proves that we can break down dams and meet the needs of agriculture, energy production, fish and fish-dependent communities,” said Brian Brooks, director of the Wildlife Federation of the United States. ‘Idaho, in a press release. “It is unconscionable to see the two paths in front of us and choose the one that leaves so many of us behind.”
Idaho outdoor industry figures, including outfitter Roy Akins and fishing guide Jon Kittell, both of Riggins, also expressed support for the analysis in the press release.
“We struggled as fishing guides. Reduced bag limits and, in some cases, season closures have negatively impacted our work opportunities, our businesses and our communities,” Kittell said. “I appreciate that Senator Murray and Governor Inslee in Washington are stepping forward alongside Idaho Congressman Simpson with efforts to resolve this issue in a way that ensures that my friends, neighbors and fellow men of ‘State will not be forced into the difficulties that we have been. face as fishing guides.
Statesman reporters Ian Stevenson and Kevin Fixler contributed.