'It's time for political leaders from the region like Gordon Smith to summon the political courage to do what is best for the salmon and the Pacific Northwest'
12/17/1999 -- -- A spokesperson for the nation's largest coldwater conservation organization says the documents released today by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) confirm that the time is now for the Northwest to recognize that removal of the four Lower Snake River dams is the clear choice to recover the region's imperiled salmon.
"Today we begin in earnest the process of finding out whether the people in the Northwest have the courage and decency to make a place in our society for salmon," said Jeff Curtis, Trout Unlimited's Western Conservation Director. "The decisions that we in the region make in the next four months will determine if a species that defines the Northwest and that has survived the ice age can survive our onslaught on their rivers over the last 60 years."
Curtis said the companion documents - the Corps' Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and NMFS' All-H Paper - while making a solid biological case for dam removal as the only way to save the species, still contain flaws that underscore both the urgency needed for substantive action to stave off extinction and the economic feasibility of dam removal.
"The Corps and NMFS want the people of the Pacific Northwest to believe that the economic feasibility of removing the Lower Snake River dams is still questionable and that the region still has lots of time to debate how to best save the salmon. They are wrong on both counts," he said.
Curtis said the Army Corps of Engineers' EIS continues to seriously underestimate the long-term economic and social benefits of removing the four Lower Snake River dams. An economic analysis of removing the dams, which Trout Unlimited sponsored and released last month, found that not only would removing the four dams create positive economic impacts in the region, any negative impacts from removal could be easily addressed. ECONorthwest, the Pacific Northwest's largest and most respected economic consulting firm, conducted the study.
The ECONorthwest study analyzed the data collected by the Drawdown Regional Economic Workgroup (DREW) in reaching its conclusions - the same information the Corps used in developing their economic impact statement. The study found that DREW underestimated the positive economic impacts of dam removal because they failed to recognize that the economy in the Pacific Northwest is continuing to evolve and many of the industries which may be impacted by dam removal are already in decline, losing both jobs and income.
The study also found that DREW did not calculate quality of life issues and the positive economic impacts they would have on local and regional economies, as a result of dam removal, and failed to calculate the costs of the subsidies currently enjoyed by the beneficiaries of the dams which amount to $10 million in taxpayer funded dollars each year.
Curtis said that independent studies have also show that time is running out for the Snake River salmon, with both wild spring and summer chinook populations facing extinction between the years 2008 and 2017 (see the study listed below). In March of this year, over 200 scientists, many of whom have worked for both federal and state agencies, sent a signed letter to President Clinton in which they cited dam removal as having the best promise for reversing declining salmon populations on the Snake River.
"The NMFS is relying on overly optimistic assumptions of the risk of extinction associated with delaying the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. In fact, two of the indicator stocks which they claim to have only a small risk of extinction over the next 10 years are already extinct by their own definition," said Curtis.
Curtis said it is time for political leaders in the Pacific Northwest like Gordon Smith and Slade Gordon to summon the political courage to do what is right for the salmon and ultimately for the citizens of the Pacific Northwest.
Trout Unlimited is North America's leading coldwater conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 110,000 members in 472 Chapters in North America, including over 8,000 members in the Pacific Northwest.