TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online.
Monday, Mar 27, 2017

Wasteful dams

If the Obama administration is sincere about wanting to eliminate government waste, it will remove four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River in Washington. The case illustrates how federal policies jeopardize resources and tax dollars at the same time. The dam turbines crush salmon as they attempt to migrate to or from the Pacific. Efforts to truck salmon around the dams cost $500 million a year but have proved futile. In the 1960s, about 100,000 adult salmon returned to the river each year. Then the dams were erected. Now the number is less than 10,000. Several species of salmon are threatened with extinction. One already has gone extinct. The commercial and recreational fishing industries have been wrecked. And the government has spent some $8 billion trying to make the dams viable. The dams provide no flood protection and irrigate only about a dozen farms. They do produce electricity, but less than 5 percent of the Northwest's total. Alternatives are readily available.
The structures also enhance navigation for barging farm products, but modest investments would make rail and road alternatives available. Repairs to a dam on the Columbia River would provide a navigational alternative. Independent studies indicate removing the dams and investing in alternatives would generate more jobs - in agriculture, fishing, energy and transportation - than the status quo. A judge must approve the administration plan and has rejected the last one submitted by the Bush administration because it violated the Endangered Species Act. The administration should go with the choice that will create jobs, cut government waste and restore a valuable natural resource.