U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden tells Federal Government to come up with backup plan to breach dams.
Hatchery Chinook Salmon in the South Fork Salmon River. © Ken Cole
Judge faults gov’t plan to save Pacific NW salmon
The four dams on the lower Snake River, Lower Granite Dam, Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam, were originally built for navigation purposes so that Lewiston Idaho could become a sea port. The river provides subsidized transportation for the Palouse region’s wheat and other products but there are other options for them including the existing rail system. The dams don’t generate much in the way of electricity either and when they generate the most, during spring runoff, the demand isn’t at its high as it would be during the heat of the summer when people use it for air conditioning. Because of this the Bonneville Power Administration sells it at very low rates to aluminum smelters on the Columbia River. During the Enron contrived “power crisis” the subsidized electricity was re-sold at a profit by the aluminum smelters instead of letting water pass over the spillways to benefit salmon during the low water year.
The dams disrupt many natural conditions on the river and kill juvenile fish on their downstream migration. Their impact on returning adult salmon is lower but they do cause issues by raising the temperature which diverts a number of Idaho bound late summer, early fall-run steelhead into cooler rivers like the Deschutes River in Oregon.
Several Native American tribes, Idaho, Montana and Washington have engaged in a collaborative process in an attempt at saving the dams but the Spokane and Nez Perce Tribes and are siding with the environmental groups.
Todd True, attorney for the legal group Earthjustice, had this to say about the collaborative process being utilized to come up with a solution.
“Salmon don’t swim in collaboration,” Todd True said. “They won’t return in greater numbers because of a new collaboration — no matter how sincere.”