Saturday, April 3, 2010
The dams on the Snake River should not - and cannot - be breached as a way to save salmon.
Yet, the Obama administration has kowtowed to environmental extremists by leaving that option on the table. The federal government now classifies breaching dams as a contingency of last resort.
Given that, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dutifully preparing to launch another study on the impacts of taking down one or more of the dams on the Snake River. The Corps last week released a plan that lays out how a study would be done.
Lt. Col. Michael Farrell, commander of the Corps' Walla Walla District, said in a news release that while the status of the Snake River salmon species has improved, "this plan of study is ready should the administration determine that an examination of the risks and benefits of breaching is needed."
Another study on breaching the Snake River dams is not needed now or anytime soon. The salmon population is on the rise.
Beyond that, this matter has been studied and studied. A 2001 study by the Corps concluded that breaching the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams would increase the chances of salmon restoration only slightly - if at all - while significantly hurting the Pacific Northwest's economy.
Taking down the dams would change the flow of the river, putting a lot of the region under water. It would force a significant change to irrigation systems, likely putting an end to many agricultural operations.
And crops and other goods could no longer be barged down the river, forcing the products to be hauled by trucks on the roadways. Boosting the truck traffic would be environmentally irresponsible.
The loss of hydropower would also be a blow to the environment as well as the economy. The water that flows through the turbines at the dams creates electricity that can't be produced as cleanly or cheaply any other way.
A great many factors other than dams contribute to the health of salmon - everything from ocean conditions to the abundance of natural predators.
As the nation digs itself out of the Great Recession and seeks to free itself from a dependence on foreign oil, it's clear breaching dams would be incredibly foolish.
Continuing to fixate on dam breaching as a solution to the salmon problem is a waste of time and money.