This is an op-ed piece my friend Dick Dahlgren wrote for the Idaho Statesman. He lives in Idaho and is an ally we, in Washington, need to fight in the battle of the dams.
Governor Kempthorne, Senators Craig and Crapo, Congressmen Simpson
and Otter, this years salmon and steelhead season was sensational. The
rivers were jammed with anglers. My friends and I hooked steelhead by
the dozens near Stanley, and did we have have fun. Thousands of us had
fun, and we spent an estimated $100 million in rural Idaho, towns with
weak economies, towns you publicly state your concerns for.
By the time the tackle shop owner had used our recreational dollars
to buy milk from the grocer, who bought gas from the gas station owner,
who bought breakfast from the waitress at the cafe, who paid the baby
sitter and the hairdresser, the $100 million recirculated through these
rural communities, swelling to a value of over $350 million.
Up and down the rivers anglers asked the same questions, why was this
run so good? Why can't it be like this all the time? One guy knee deep
in the water yelled, "If it wasn't for those damn dams, we would have it
every year! 100% of the others on the bank agreed. At night around campfires, in
the restaurants and bars, talk was the same. "Breach the dams and the
fish will be back forever. 100%.
Hundreds of scientists with degrees from every university in the
country have reached scientific consensus. Fishing was great because of
high water years three years ago, good ocean conditions, and the smolts
were flushed to the Pacific naturally, not by the harmful methods of
trucking and barging. If Idaho wants more runs like this in the future,
the four dams must be breached. Not to accept their findings is an
insult to them, and a slap in the face to our nations scientific
Calling for more studies is nonsense. All the science is in, over
twenty years of it. The public knows this. And dollars for habitat
restoration? Idaho has over 4,000 miles of spawning streams in pristine
As I read a new study published by Eagle Idaho's Northwest Resources
Information Center, it's obvious the Army Corps of Engineers lied about
the economics of Idaho's fish and the dams. NRIC used the Corps own
figures and discovered totally different conclusions. Read it for
yourself at www.nwric.org. The report found we have lost $1.6 billion
fishing dollars since the dams were completed. If they're not breached,
we will lose an additional $93 million annually. The Corps promised us
fish gentlemen. They didn't deliver. It's possible the Corps actually
owes Idaho this lost revenue.
It puzzles me why the five of you continue to support the dams?
They're not in Idaho. They're not even needed anymore. The Northwest
aluminum industry is dead. Kaiser and Vanalco are bankrupt. Alcoa
produces in 38 foreign countries and is in Hanoi working on a new
venture in North Vietnam - Reuters Company News, May 11.
In BPA's own words, if the remaining companies begin producing the
metal again, they will not buy power generated from the dams. Open
market electricity, per the Wall Street Journal, fluctuates between $19
to $27 per megawatt. BPA's best price is $37.50. Plus there are over
three hundred new power plants on the drawing boards for the West.
Barge shipping tonnage continues to decline. You may check these
figures for yourself, on line, at The Port of Lewiston's web site.
Potlatch ships 90% of their product by truck and rail. This information
is available in their annual reports. A railway and highway exists that
can replace the barges, and cost increases to grain growers can be
Breaching the dams would restore 35,000 acres of beautiful river
bottom and 140 miles of free flowing river, prime recreational assets.
Rethink your position gentlemen, the fish mean millions to Idaho.
Three hundred thousand of us love fishing. I don't have to remind you
that we vote. We want our salmon and steelhead back every year like it
was this year.
Fishin‚ Folks of the West
Box 4402, Ketchum, Id 83340
Even as recently as my years of residence in the PNW, the grip Intalco and forestry conglomerates like Plum Crk had on the region's governmental strucutures was suffocating good sense like this. With economic changes that have come about now is our chance to make what is obvious in the Great Lakes, northeast, and other regions of North America undeniable in the pacific northwest.
This is the time to put all we can into driving home the points that the government is in denial of -
- from decades of barging only high-spill years have produced good runs (barging has been ineffective)
- barging is extremely costly in and of itself (tax write off?)
- angling dollars are significant to the economy and this impact can be increased as the fishing improves
- spilling water during smolt years represents a trivial increase in rate payers in some of the cheapest power rates per capita in the country
Dams were a mistake that took only one perspective into consideration at the loss of many other resources. At the very least we need to consider free-flowing diversionary branches around the dams, increase spillway flows during smolt years, and study the real economics of the situation to make better decisions than we made in the past.
Great stuff Mr. Dahlgren!
According to my latest electricity/gas bill, BC Hydro is looking into harnessing the action of Waves in the ocean to create electricity.
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