European settlers who witnessed the Columbia River drainage in its natural state more than 200 years ago could hardly believe their eyes, or their good fortune. Rivers churning with huge salmon presented irresistible economic opportunity.
By the late 1800s huge canneries and a large fishing industry had sprung up all along the Pacific Coast and in the Columbia River. Millions of pounds of fish were harvested, processed and sent on their way to far-off markets.
The good times lasted well into the 20th century. But the human impacts from fast-growing cities, agriculture and especially dams soon took their toll. After the completion of the lower Snake River dams in 1975, Idaho's salmon populations plummeted.
Towns from Astoria, Oregon, to Stanley, Idaho, suffered. Impacts of the fishing restrictions that shut down commercial and recreational industries rippled throughout the Northwest economy. Idaho hasn't had a salmon fishing season on the Salmon River near Stanley, Idaho since 1978!
The lower Snake Dams are a drain on taxpayers It has become increasingly clear that the four dams on the Lower Snake River are the biggest obstacle to restoring a healthy wild salmon fishery and that removing those dams would not only save taxpayer dollars, it would be an economic boon to our region.
Recent studies show that dam removal will save U.S. taxpayers and Northwest electricity consumers billions of dollars and generate billions more in increased tourism, outdoor recreation and improved sport and commercial fishing opportunities.
Continuing to pour public money into the maintenance and operation of the Lower Snake River dams doesn't make sense for the 21st century. Lower Snake River dam removal is a reasonable solution that will benefit both salmon and people.
What the experts are saying: "The bottom line is clear. The financial cost of maintaining and operating these dams far outweigh their benefits." David Jenkins, Republicans for Environmental Protection
"Taxpayers cannot afford to continue to foot the bill for the expensive failures of the status quo." Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense
"Electric ratepayers keep paying and paying for measures that can't possibly restore threatened and endangered Columbia Basin fish or help those living, working and doing business in salmon-dependent communities." Sara Patton, Northwest Energy Coalition