The recent letter to the editor claiming that removing dams on the Snake River would not save salmon lacks information specific to Northwest salmon recovery.
In October 2022 NOAA released Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead, a 42-page referenced analysis prioritizing actions to recover salmon on the Snake and Columbia rivers. At the top of their priorities is breaching the lower Snake River dams because the dams are restricting access to the largest and most climate resilient spawning habitat in the contiguous U.S. The Idaho Salmon River and Oregon Wallowa Mountain wilderness areas and adjacent forests are high elevation, pristine environments with an area the size of South Carolina. This should be and can be where salmon endure.
Replacement of the average output of the lower Snake River dams, which ranges 600 to 1,200 megawatts depending on the season, is not without precedence. In 2020 three Northwest coal plants were retired with a combined average output of 1,600 MW.
Both the Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray Lower Snake River Dams: Benefit Replacement Report and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s Columbia Basin Initiative give cost estimates for dam breaching and supporting the region’s economy and communities through the transition. While the estimates are in the range of $10 billion to $30 billion, there are also significant costs to maintaining the status quo with over $24 billion previously spent on failed fish recovery.
There can be a future with salmon if we act on the analysis and planning currently focused on solutions for Northwest salmon, Tribes, farmers, power consumers and orcas.
Donald J. Miller