Guest Opinions

Discussion about dams should prompt us to focus on energy solutions that make sense

Linda Rytterager
Linda Rytterager

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson spoke passionately about salmon recovery and the role of dams in the Northwest at a recent conference on Energy, Salmon, Agriculture and the Community at Boise State University, and asserted his readiness to consider all options for saving Idaho’s salmon and water.

I agree with Rep. Simpson that those involved should focus on finding solutions rather than solely protecting their self-interests. The 31 dams, operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, are an integral part of our electric grid, and the interconnected issues of salmon recovery, water use and energy generation. We need to address these issues, not only regionally, but on a broader scale. The key is to develop alternate sources of reliable, cheap power. Our region and the entire country will benefit and move faster toward solutions once we have a national policy supporting such innovations.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, introduced as House Bill 763, would speed the transition to renewable power. This market-based plan places a predictable, steadily rising price on greenhouse gas pollution. All fees collected, minus administrative costs, are allocated equally to all American households in the form of a monthly dividend check, to use as they see fit. In just 12 years such a system would reduce emissions by 40% and add 2.1 million jobs to the American economy (

The act has growing bipartisan support from many economists, who say that the dividend would protect households from price increases and more than offset increased costs for lower- and middle-income Americans. A border carbon adjustment on imported goods would protect U.S. manufacturers and jobs, and get our trading partners to reduce their emissions, while U.S. exports would receive a refund. It would strengthen the economy and create jobs, slash CO2 emissions, and improve health.

Most importantly, enacting HR 763 would avoid the enormous costs of NOT doing something about rising temperatures and threats from drought, forest fires, reduced snowpack and warmer rivers. The economies of Idaho and the Northwest depend on the health of our agricultural and recreational industries. We can’t afford to do nothing. As Rep. Simpson noted, climate change is a looming problem that will require good people coming together in a bipartisan way.

A significant number of environmental organizations, businesses and faith-based groups have put out positive statements about this bill, including Trout Unlimited, World Resources Institute, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and the Catholic Church.

I applaud Rep. Simpson for passionately advocating for salmon and our rivers, under existential threat from the changing climate. As we consider options for energy, let’s do consider ALL the possibilities. Supporting HR 763, with its major positive impacts and no significant negatives, will help preserve what makes our region great. This legislation will lead us into a fossil-free energy future, one that offers hope for future salmon runs in the great rivers of the Northwest. Please call or write your representatives to tell them you support it.

Linda Rytterager is a member of the Boise chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grass-roots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.