It was a better-late-than-never moment last week when U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho announced that he wants to stick around long enough to see healthy salmon runs return to our state.
Simpson, 68, spoke in Boise at an Andrus Center confab on Energy, Salmon, Agriculture and Community that looked at the potential for breaching four lower Snake River dams to restore Idaho’s formerly magnificent salmon runs.
The idea has been anathema among the state’s Republican majority for more than 40 years. But times have changed.
Apparently, so has Simpson. While not endorsing breaching, he said he and congressional staffers have discussed what breaching might mean to the Port of Lewiston and agricultural shippers, who increasingly are relying on railroads.
Simpson described seeing a salmon that had survived the 900-mile journey to Marsh Creek at the headwaters of the Middle Fork of its namesake river. It had come to create new young and then to die. It was a moving story, but it was not responsible for Simpson’s epiphany.
The economics of power generation that are changing radically because of the additions of solar and wind to the power mix have radically changed the electric calculus. The four dams, major salmon killers, have become dispensable to the power supply.
It took 15 years from the time Simpson recognized the need to create a wilderness area in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains before Congress approved his legislation. If it takes that long to remove the dams, he will be 83 years old and the battle to save salmon will be lost.
If Simpson and other Northwest elected officials get on board fast, it won’t have to take that long. Idaho could yet see its salmon legacy restored.