BOISE, Idaho — Back in February, Congressman Mike Simpson announced his $33.5 billion plan to breach four dams on the lower Snake River by the years 2030 and 2031, the unique aspect of this plan took into account the value of the dams to people who rely on the dams.
Former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus championed conservation during his four terms as governor and in 1995 he created the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University.
In the spring of 2019, at a conference at the Andrus Center stakeholders concerned about the future of the salmon came together to look for solutions to this problem.
"At that conference, Mike Simpson said I’m going to get working on this I’m going to bring people together and I’m going to do what I can do restore these fish and protect all the interests," said Rick Johnson of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State. "He recognizes that there is value to the dams."
Simpson's plan attempted to put a dollar figure on the dollars energy companies would lose if the dams were removed, he identified irrigation needs and looked at finding new ways to transport wheat and other materials down the river from Lewiston while compensating farmers for the lost revenue, The Idaho Farm Bureau spoke out against Simpson's plan.
This summer we saw more of the same with low numbers of salmon and steelhead returning to Idaho to spawn, the Spring Chinook run ranked as the third-worst in the last 20 years which limited anglers to one fish a day and a total of three for the season.
In the summer, sockeye salmon were rescued from the river near the dams because the water temperature was too high, this year 44 sockeye's made it back but the Idaho Fish and Game were able to release an additional 1,211 sockeyes into Red Fish and Petit Lakes through the rescue program and their broodstock program at the hatchery.
The Andrus Center held another conference this spring and that gave us an idea of where some of the other politicians in the pacific northwest stood on the issue.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) voiced their support for Republican Mike Simpson's plan while in Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) and Senator Patty Murray did not support the plan but did say they would look at the problem on their own, here is some recent statistics from polling done in Washinton state.
"I think Mike Simpson deserves a lot of credit for opening that door," said Johnson.
When we asked Simpsons if breaching the dams was the answer to save the salmon this was his response.
“I can't promise everybody that this will restore salmon, I believe it will but I can't promise that," said Simpson. "But what I can promise you is if we don't take those dams out these runs in Idaho will go extinct."