U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott has called for a scientific analysis of the federal government’s Northwest salmon recovery effort, saying that most wild stocks remain at dangerously low levels despite the $8 billion spent on their recovery.
In his proposed “Salmon Solutions and Planning Act,” McDermott would also give the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to breach the four Lower Snake River dams.
McDermott, D-Wash., introduced the legislation Friday with 24 co-sponsors. He’s authored similar legislation in the past, but nothing quite as far-reaching on dam removal.
Mike DeCesare, McDermott’s press secretary, said the legislation aims for a dispassionate, science-based review of the cost and benefits of breaching the dams, which can produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle but are blamed for sharp declines in Snake River salmon and steelhead runs. Many environmental groups, and some scientific studies, support their removal.
“We’re trying to get out of the rhetoric and into the science,” DeCesare said.
The legislation comes just weeks before U.S. District Judge James Redden of Portland is expected to rule on the legality of Bush-era salmon recovery plans, which leave the dams intact. Redden has rejected two earlier plans, calling them inadequate.
McDermott’s legislation would provide:
•A National Academy of Sciences analysis of the effectiveness of federal salmon recovery efforts.
•Studies looking at how barge traffic and Snake River irrigators would be affected by the removal of the four dams, and how those impacts could be reduced.
•Options available for replacing electricity from the dams, with a focus on renewable energy sources and conservation.
•Studies on how Lewiston and Clarkston could revitalize their downtown waterfronts if the dams are removed and the water level drops.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., an opponent of dam removal, immediately criticized the bill and said he would fight it in the House Natural Resources Committee, where he is the top Republican.
“Dam removal is an extreme action that would have devastating consequences on our region’s economy,” Hastings said in a statement.
He said dam breaching would lead to thousands of lost jobs and increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
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