08. February 2021 · Comments Off on GOP congressman pitches $34 billion plan to breach Lower Snake River dams in new vision for Northwest · Categories: Current Events

Such a colossal proposal coming from a relatively unknown Republican is a shocker and the delegation is already giving it a look.

All four Democratic senators from Washington and Oregon issued a joint release Friday evening stating: “All communities in the Columbia River Basin and beyond should be heard in efforts to recover the Northwest’s iconic salmon runs while ensuring economic vitality of the region. Any process needs to balance the needs of communities in the Columbia River Basin, be transparent, be driven by stakeholders and follow the science.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, put out a statement in staunch opposition. “These dams are the beating heart of Eastern Washington,” she said in a press release. “Spending $33 billion to breach them — with no guarantee that doing so will restore salmon populations — is a drastic, fiscally irresponsible leap to take.” Washington’s three GOP House members also joined with a representative from Idaho on a proposed resolution supporting existing hydropower dams, and seeking expansion of hydropower in the region.

But Simpson has captured the ear of others who normally would pile on. Instead, they are listening, with caveats and caution, to be sure.

Simpson is careful to point out that what he has released is an overall concept that provides only broad spending targets for key initiatives. What he wants is a regional conversation about a new vision for the Northwest. What if we stopped debating whether the Lower Snake River dams are valuable, and recognize that they are, then figure out together how to replace those benefits?


Idaho Wildlife ORG
February 7, 2021


Contact: Brian Brooks, Executive Director, 208.870.7967 – bbrooks@idahowildlife.org

This weekend Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson released a preliminary proposal to restore Idaho’s salmon and steelhead by breaching the lower Snake River dams and investing in new power generation and transportation infrastructure, among many other things. The Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) applauds the legislative package and the Congressman’s clear commitment to seeing the restoration of the region’s salmon and steelhead while ensuring the well-being of all stakeholders between Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

“This is the first meaningful approach any elected official has made public that recognizes the only way to recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead to meaningful abundance is to untangle the gargantuan and crippling bureaucratic knot that is now also failing ratepayers and taxpayers,” said IWF’s executive director Brian Brooks. “The scope of this proposal will be a massive and decades long – possibly perpetual – shot in the arm for the economies of North Idaho, and Eastern Washington and Oregon.”

What was once a profitable system even 20 years ago is now on course for unending and ever-increasing costs on three fronts. First, the free market is moving away from lower Snake River shipping – down almost 80% from it’s peak – which means taxpayers now shoulder the ever-growing loss of revenue to upkeep the aging dams. Second, BPA – a federal agency – charges $36 per megawatt hour while their competitors charge $22, and is so far in irreversible debt ($15 billion and counting) the former administrator called their situation a ‘bloodbath’. This is the same entity on the hook for funding fish recovery ($17 billion spent so far to no avail). Third, Idaho’s fish are careening toward extinction and after 50 years of trying to reverse the trendline, we are redlining.

Within the legislative package are detailed investments of a modernized rail system for grain growers, economic development plans for communities along the river, irrigation options, investments in modular nuclear power and new transmission lines, a path forward for measurable recovery of Idaho’s anadromous salmon and steelhead, which includes removing recovery oversight from BPA. And much more.

Only the earthen portions of the dams will be removed, leaving in place the concrete infrastructure if one day it is decided to turn the dams back on.

“Idahoans, no matter their background, will benefit from increased salmon and steelhead in our state’s rivers. From the small business owner in Clearwater County to the outfitter in the upper Salmon. Not only will Lewiston become the inland fishing capital of the northwest, it will be a hub of major economic activity with the investments this proposal makes. Its a game changer,” Brooks added.

“This is a only a proposal at this point, but my hope is that Idahoans come together and understand the way we do things now is leaving many of our friends and family behind. Let’s pick a new future – a new system – that works for all of us. I’m hopeful.”

Follow this link to view the Congressman’s proposal.

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