National Small Business Week was earlier this month. It celebrates small businesses, the backbone of our communities. Recently, 24 small business owners and entrepreneurs in Riggins sent a letter to Idaho Sen. Risch requesting him to support their businesses by advocating to breach the four lower Snake River dams. These entrepreneurs, like many in small Idaho river towns, believe that a healthy fishing industry promotes a thriving community. One study showed that in 2001, angling accounted for 25 to 33 percent of Riggins’ economy. Anglers spent at least $10 million that year on fishing guides, lodging, food, gas, and supplies.
Today the world-class wild salmon and steelhead runs for which Riggins and other riverside towns are famed, have plummeted. The lower Snake River dams were the nail in the salmon’s coffin, so to speak. Fisheries managers’ predictions for 2017 steelhead returns are the worst in nearly 20 years.
Without the dams, salmon and steelhead could make a giant leap towards full recovery. Can Riggins afford to wait for the completion of the current NEPA process, which may take 10 years? Will the wild Snake River salmon and steelhead be able to recover if we wait that long?
John Twa, Boise