So a dam has not been removed (yet). Nor has a river been restored (yet). BUT, yesterday, May 4, 2016, was a day to celebrate wild salmon and free-flowing rivers.
Yesterday, federal judge Michael Simon ruled that for the fifth time in a row, the federal government has not actually considered all that is needed to recover salmon in the Columbia Basin. In other words, they’ve left some things off the table, and the Judge said — again — you have to consider all of the options, including removing the four lower Snake River dams.
In legalese, the judge said that the 2014 Columbia Basin salmon biological opinion (called the salmon plan, or BiOp) violates the federal Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Read the press release at Save Our Wild Salmon’s website, and read the Oregonian article here.
For decades, hard-working, river-loving, salmon-loving activists have been working to prove to federal agencies, the American people, and the courts that these dams don’t make sense. But agencies refuse to even look at the possibility that the lower four Snake River dams — which provide our region with less than 5% of our electricity — just don’t make sense. The harm they cause outweighs their benefits.
We could replace the hydropower with wind bower. We could replace the barge traffic with trains. There’s very little irrigation from these dams, and irrigators upstream would actually benefit from dam removal. Recreation? There’s very little reservoir-related recreation, and removing the dams would recover salmon, thus increasing recreational, commercial, and tribal fishing. The list goes on, and you can read more here.
We’re thrilled that the judge said the agencies have to follow the law, but this is the fifth time the judge said you have to follow the law, and you didn’t; try again. How many times must the agencies hear that message before they actually follow the law and truly analyze the costs and benefits of Lower Snake River dam removal?
Photo courtesy of Greg Stahl and Idaho Rivers United