Idaho Congressman Simpson calls for “breaching the status quo” to save salmon

Source: Sean O’Leary, NW Energy Coalition, April 24

BOISE, IDAHO — Republican Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho energized a conference audience in Boise on Tuesday by declaring the need for the Northwest to explore the implications of removing four lower Snake River dams in order to restore salmon populations.

Speaking at the 2019 Andrus Center Conference on the campus of Boise State University, Simpson cited the failure of $16 billion in federal spending on mitigation and habitat restoration programs to restore badly depleted salmon populations and told attendees that Northwest communities and policymakers must consider the possibility of dam removal.

Calling salmon “God’s most amazing creatures,” Simpson declared his determination to “stay alive long enough to see healthy salmon populations return to Idaho.”  “We need to do it for our future generations,” he said.

Simpson acknowledged that he is making some people nervous by asking “the what if question”.  But, he insisted stakeholders must come together.  And, he argued, financial challenges facing the Bonneville Power Administration, give the region a reason and an opportunity to do so.

Simpson said he already has his staff exploring how to address some of the challenges dam removal would pose.  He mentioned the irrigation and transportation needs of farmers and also the importance of fixing a situation in which Idaho is sending water down the river and not getting salmon back.  “Idaho is paying all the costs and getting none of the benefits,” he said.

Simpson wasn’t alone in declaring the need for a stakeholder process to ask the “What if?” question.  Earlier in the day, Idaho Governor Brad Little announced that he is forming a committee to examine the question as well.  And he invited neighboring states to do so as well.

That message should particularly resonate in Washington, where the state legislature is now debating whether to include in its new budget $750,000 requested by Governor Jay Inslee for a stakeholder process for the express purpose of examining the social and economic consequences of dam removal.

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