April 13 marked expiration of the public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement prepared by three agencies responsible for the Columbia River System operations, including dams. The final version of this court-ordered document will determine what actions those agencies take to save Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead from extinction.
As the majority of comment on the draft will undoubtedly note, it is woefully deficient in many ways. The most egregious omission is failure to recommend the best (probably only) action to save these fish, repeatedly urged by fish scientists and acknowledged in the EIS—breaching the four lower Snake River dams. The agencies would rather perpetuate a failing status quo than listen to advice of scientists and cries for help from citizens across Idaho.
Many different stakeholders in the discussion of how to address salmon recovery will be impacted by the agencies’ actions. Fishing families and communities are concerned that absent dam removal, they, like the fish they depend on, will go extinct. Farmers and barge operators are concerned that dam removal will eliminate river shipping from Lewiston. The Bonneville Power Administration and its customers are concerned that removal will jump the cost of electricity.
There are solutions for these concerns, like railroad and truck shipping and alternative energy sources. And there is money to implement these solutions if the billions spent on salmon recovery programs is eliminated because an undammed, free-flowing Snake River allows many times more salmon to successfully spawn, generates major economic benefits and removes the need for expensive salmon mortality mitigation programs.
There are good solutions we can implement, but only if all stakeholders, including those currently refusing to even consider the possible impact of breaching, talk, listen and work together! Otherwise, we all will lose.
Paul Hill, Stanley