A new public opinion poll shows Idaho residents evenly split over whether the drastic step of removing one or more lower Snake River dams should be taken to possibly save salmon and steelhead runs from extinction.
The telephone poll of 412 registered voters on Jan. 25 and Jan. 27 through Feb. 2 found 49 percent supporting at least to some extent dam removal while 47 percent opposed it.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points, was conducted by Idaho Consulting International. Pollster Greg Smith said it was not paid for by any special interest.
The poll’s findings on support of drastic action to save fish runs reflects similar findings by Boise State University pollsters two years ago.
They found 47 percent of 623 people surveyed supported drawing down the lower Snake River Reservoirs or modifying the dams to save salmon while only 29 percent opposed those somewhat less drastic measures.
That poll was taken in late February and early March of 1995 when the debate was raging over drawing down the reservoirs to increase river flows and speed salmon and steelhead migration to the ocean.
In the intervening two years, support for dramatic action to save the fish has remained essentially stable while opposition has increased as people apparently have made up their minds on the question.
Any of those actions, critics charge, would have significant financial impact on electricity users, shippers, irrigators and the downstream aluminum industry.
That Boise State poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, also found that while nearly half the people supported drawdowns or dam modification, less than 20 percent of all those surveyed was willing to spend more than $5 a month to save salmon and steelhead.
In fact, it found that a third would not spend a dime of their own money to save the fish and 56 percent would spend no more than $2 a month.
The new poll also showed:
55 percent opposing reintroduction of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Mountains - the same stand Gov. Phil Batt has taken.
77 percent give Batt a favorable rating halfway through his term.
63 percent feel the state is headed in the right direction.