NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pacific Northwest Dams Or Salmon?

December 17, 1999

Hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest provide clean, cheap electricity, irrigation water and waterways to ship farm goods to market. But that may change under some of the options being considered by 10 federal agencies studying ways to protect some species of salmon and trout from extinction in the Columbia River system. The agencies are issuing environmental-impact statements and other reports today on the options available.

Some of the reportedly suggest the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River, which flows into the Columbia.

Environmentalists, some Indian tribes, fisherman and outdoors groups have been pushing to remove the dams, while farmers and businessmen in the area have mounted a campaign to save them.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency leading the trout and salmon study, has estimated it would cost $1 billion to remove the dams and more than $400 million a year to replace electric power, shift transportation, obtain new irrigation water and compensate for the lost tourism on the lakes formed by the dams.

However, the studies also say it may be expensive to improve the chance of fish survival without breaking the dams.

That could involve restrictions on logging, irrigation and commercial fishing to meet requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Columbia Dam Issue to Push into Election Year," Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1999.


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