Governor Brad Little convened his Salmon Work Group for their first meeting Friday, June 28, in Boise. His opening remarks rang hollow as he stated, “I remain unconvinced at this time that breaching the dams will recover salmon in Idaho. In order to keep this diverse group of stakeholders (together), we will put polarizing issues aside and focus on pragmatic, achievable solutions." IRU, and other conservation partners remain steadfast, however, that the work group must address dam breaching as a viable option in their deliberations. To not do so would be to ignore sound science on salmon hydrosystem mortality and invite the recycling of decades of failed recovery plans.
The Governor has taken an important first step in gathering a diverse array of stakeholders to the table, and it is clear that Idahoans want their salmon and steelhead back in sustainable, harvestable numbers. To truly represent Idaho he and the group members must go further and consider solutions that lead to recovery.
Crafting meaningful solutions means addressing polarizing issues; this is where the value of the Governor’s work group truly shows itself. The strength of the group lies in its diversity of stakeholders represented. The members must take this opportunity to have a discussion in which all options are covered. Idaho needs a proactive plan and approach to salmon recovery as well as dam removal. Ultimately, the decision making process is out of the work group’s hands, so why not take this opportunity to set Idaho up for a strong future in every potential scenario?
"I just feel strongly that helping salmon thrive and fostering a strong Idaho economy produces good jobs. Those two things are not mutually exclusive,” the Governor said as he closed out his speech. We couldn’t agree more. Economic models show that both the river economy and the agriculture community can thrive without relying on the four lower Snake River dams. The dams and the services they provide, from electricity to a transport corridor, can be replaced via other means. Our salmon and steelhead cannot. To ensure the strong cultural, ecological, and economic support that Idaho’s native fish carry upstream with them does not disappear, the Governor’s work group must address dam breaching as a viable solution. We are at an inflection point where we have the opportunity to make this critical decision to restore our native salmon and steelhead, or risk losing them forever.