“A question I’ve received often on my Columbia Basin Initiative is “Why are you talking about bypassing Washington dams when you represent Idaho?”
“The short answer is because the Washington dams are the dams that are killing Idaho salmon. Idaho salmon must go through eight dams, Washington salmon go through four. Eight dams are just too many for Idaho salmon to maintain a healthy and viable return. The map below demonstrates this in more detail.
“As the map shows, John Day River Salmon in Oregon go through three dams and have a 3.6% smolt to adult return (SAR) ratio. Yakima River salmon in Washington go through four dams and have a 2.7% SAR. Anything above 2% is sustainable for salmon populations. The problem biologists tell me is that Idaho smolt go through eight dams and return through the same eight dams as adults. They have a less than 1% smolt to adult return ratio.
“This is not replacement level and will eventually lead to extinction. Our Idaho salmon go through the same predators, oceans, climate change, harvest and other hazards as the Oregon and Washington salmon. The only variable we can identify that is different for Idaho salmon is that they have four additional dams to navigate as juveniles and adults.
“Are there other dams that could be removed that would open significant areas and opportunities for salmon recovery and viability? Sure. But this goes directly to why my concept would lock in the FERC licenses of all Columbia Basin dams greater than 5 megawatts for an extension of 35-50 years and also bans all litigation against the federal and FERC dams for 35 years. Anyone following my career knows that I know and have supported our hydroelectric resources. I do not raise the issue of bypassing dams lightly. I would not have suggested it if I believed there was any other alternative. That is why I refuse to create a slippery slope of other productive Northwest dams being targeted or removed, and that is why I insist on their being protected, or “locked-in” with certainty for generations. I believe the below map is worth a thousand words, and will show the vast protection for dams in our region that my concept would provide protection for.
“I have spent the last two weeks travelling around Idaho discussing these issues, and I appreciate the many thoughtful people I have spoken with that pose good questions and are willing to at least consider that this may be a viable path forward. I continue to welcome comments, questions, and suggestions on this concept as we all seek the same goal—a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for all stakeholders and communities. Please visit my website or email me.”