Once again the Idaho Statesmans editorial board repeats its tired and out-of-touch refrain that the Snake River dams should be removed (Idaho Salmon: the $9,000 Sockeye. There is a better answer Dec. 6). Of course, $9,000 for each returning fish is a shocking number, but the problem lies with the Endangered Species Act, which requires that listed species be protected regardless of cost, not the dams.
So if the Statesman wants to go bring monetary values into the debate, then lets take a hard look at the economic and environmental values those dams bring to Idaho and the Northwest.
To begin with, the Snake River dams are a key part of the Northwests hydropower system that provides nearly 60 percent of the Northwests energy. This clean, renewable energy makes us far less dependent than the rest of the country on coal, natural gas or nuclear plants, keeping the Northwests carbon footprint half that of the rest of the country. And these dams alone produce enough energy to power the city of Seattle.
But their contribution doesnt stop there.
The Snake River dams are the regions workhorses, completing a 465-mile river highway that moves millions of tons of food and products worth billions through the Port of Lewiston to overseas markets, while providing thousands of jobs. This also helps keep 700,000 trucks off our highways, further reducing carbon emissions.
They provide vital irrigation to farmers in Idaho and eastern Washington and Oregon to grow the crops that feed Northwest residents and are exported to the world. And as we all know, the wind doesnt always blow, but the rivers always flow. The dams play an important role filling in the energy gap when wind turbines are not spinning.
If the Statesmans editorial board had its way, the environment would be far worse off and the Port of Lewiston and all this economic activity would cease to exist.
Fortunately, Idahoans do understand the value of the Snake River dams, as evidenced by DHM Research 2011 polling which shows that an overwhelming majority 78 percent agree that removing them would be an extreme solution that could do more harm than good.
Certainly, no one would begrudge the editorial board for rethinking its position. The facts speak for themselves. Its time to for them to re-examine this stubborn stance.
Terry Flores is executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, an alliance of farmers, utilities, ports and businesses that support Northwest hydropower and sensible salmon restoration policies.