This GOP congressman wants to remove 4 dams to save Idaho’s salmon.



These four dams on the Lower Snake River could be removed under a proposal being championed by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. Click or touch the icons to see more info on each dam and t.

Map: NATHANIEL LEVINE  | Sources: U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Rocky Barker has an extensive and super interesting story about US Rep Mike Simpson’s approach for dam removal of some dams on the Lower Snake River.

Numerous parts of interest to TSW readers. It’s interesting that very large sums of money from the feds to all concerns seem to be the key to settling this conflict. I wonder whether that concept is more broadly applicable?

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of East Idaho released the plan after asking more than 300 groups what they would need if the dams came out.

Power marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration from the four controversial dams would be replaced. Shippers and farmers would get funds for alternatives to the barge shipping on the Snake and compensation for closed barge facilities. Lewiston in Idaho and the Tri-Cities in Washington would get billions for economic development.

Farmers across the Pacific Northwest, including those in Idaho’s Magic Valley, would get billions of dollars in incentives for water-quality projects. Farmers in Washington that now pump out of the reservoirs behind the Snake dams would get millions in compensation that they could use for altering their diversions.

The plan would be funded by a federal infrastructure bill.

“If we give the farmers, bargers, ports, the BPA and communities the necessary resources, each sector can develop a certainty and security putting the Northwest and Idaho salmon on a path to sustained viability,” Simpson said in a video news release released Saturday night.

Simpson says his “concept” would ban litigation over the four Columbia River dams for 35 years and increase salmon funding for states and tribes, which would co-manage salmon restoration.

The newly free-flowing river would be protected in a proposed Lower Snake River National Recreation Area.

Two elements of interest..restricting litigation..

Environmental groups would have to give up the tool that has given them the most leverage to force the region to try to save salmon: lawsuits alleging violations of federal environmental-protection laws. The groups are not happy about that, but are willing to give it a try.

“The dams aren’t going to come out without an agreement on certainty,” said David Moryc, associate director at American Rivers, a national group pushing for river restoration. “We’re committed to providing that kind of certainty to get this thing done.”

The details of the litigation moratorium will be critical, said Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest River Partners, which represents electric utilities, shippers and others who have defended the dams. The moratorium would have to include not only the Endangered Species Act but also the Clean Water Act.

Overall, Miller said Simpson has listened to people’s concerns and recognized the value of the four dams.

“It’s a serious plan at a unique time and it deserves to be vetted and heard,” Miller said in an interview.

And how will the power be replaced?

The fund would include $10 billion to replace the power generated by the four dams. Simpson said that could include a mix of solar, wind, nuclear, batteries and managed demand.

BPA would get an additional $4 billion to replace the energy lost from increased spilling of water over the remaining four dams on the Columbia. Spilling water over the dams, away from the power turbines, improves salmon migration.

Another $2 billion would go into grid upgrades that would make the region’s aging transmission system more resilient and efficient.

Simpson’s plan would also raise the cap for BPA to borrow from the federal treasury.

Maybe it’s easier for them to switch over to new power sources because BPA can just built the new facilities themselves (?).

And the politics

Simpson said a bill crafted by the bipartisan Pacific Northwest congressional delegation and the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana could be incorporated into an infrastructure package proposed by President Joe Biden this year, when the delegation has the most clout because of its tenure and committee assignments.

It would be kind of nice to see federal megabucks being spent outside of California and Florida, and of course, also great to get the salmon back.

4 thoughts on “This GOP congressman wants to remove 4 dams to save Idaho’s salmon.”

  1. Interesting that a R Senator from E IDAHO is pushing dam removal in WASHINGTON, and showering aggrieved parties with $billions. Something fishy here?

  2. When life gives you a pandemic, make infrastructure. If they can accept the “plan” (as written into law), then there should be no reason to litigate as long as the plan is followed. They should still be able to litigate whether the plan is being followed (and not just at the end of 35 years). Here’s some background on the dams at the the end of a litigation summary on this blog (that mentions how this affects public lands):

  3. I wasn’t aware of the full scope of the litigation ban being proposed: “A key plank of that proposal is a 35-year moratorium on dam-related lawsuits (for 26 dams) and a 25-year moratorium on agriculture-related lawsuits.” (Apparently including ESA, NEPA and the Clean Water Act claims.) Rep. Simpson: “The goal of my basin-wide watershed partnerships is to give producers and stakeholders who voluntarily participate in watershed partnerships a 25-year time out from litigation under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.” (The pushback has started.)


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