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Idaho congressman unveils plan to breach dams, save salmon

Posted at 8:24 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 10:02:37-05

BOISE, Idaho — A Republican congressman is proposing removing four hydroelectric dams in the Northwest as part of a sweeping plan to address the decades-long problem of how to save salmon populations without upending a system that provides power to millions of people.

The $33.5 billion proposal from Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho was announced Saturday. It would breach four dams on the Lower Snake River by the end of the next decade. It would also pay for finding ways to replace the dams’ key roles in energy, agriculture and transportation.

The proposal, while highly controversial, has rallied support from organizations like the Idaho Conservation League.

"Whether it’s through fish, whether it’s through energy development, whether it’s through agricultural prosperity, this is a very comprehensive proposal that is for all of the people of the Northwest, not just any one interest group,” said Justin Hayes of the ICL.

Others argue hydropower generated by these dams should be protected. Idaho congressman Russ Fulcher says the four Lower Snake River dams produce essential carbon-free power and provide flood control, recreation and critical irrigation. He also says the dams provide efficient routes for Idaho exports and the focus should be on solutions that prioritize salmon and human needs.

Idaho News 6 has received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the category of Continuing Coverage for the Saving Idaho's Salmon series.

Below are links to the Saving Idaho's Salmon series: