The Idaho Legislature adopted a resolution to send to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate and to the Northwest congressional delegation noting their opposition to the removal or breaching of dams on the Snake or Columbia rivers and their tributaries.

The Idaho House voted 58-12 on April 8 to adopt Senate Joint Memorial 103, which lists numerous reasons for opposing a breaching of the four lower Snake River dams, as proposed by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) in what is now being called the Columbia Basin Initiative. The Senate previously passed the measure 28-6, with one abstention, in March.

"[B]reaching the four lower Snake River dams is an idealistic, single variable model to Pacific salmon recovery that flies in the face of reality for salmon, is illogical from an environmental perspective, hurts industry and communities, puts politics over science and local jobs, and may neither restore Idaho salmon nor prevent their extinction," the measure states.

It spells out benefits of the dams to the Port of Lewiston, wheat growers, the cruise boat industry, the barging industry, and exporters of forest and mineral products.

The Legislature joins another organized effort to formally oppose Simpson's initiative in recent weeks. A coalition of 45 groups—including Benton and Franklin PUDs, the City of Richland and numerous ports and farming groups—wrote a letter to the Northwest congressional delegation also voicing their opposition to removing the four dams.

"Though certainly well-intentioned, Rep. Simpson's proposal would set the Northwest on a path toward higher emissions, less energy certainty, and a continued narrow focus on four dams with outstanding fish passage," it states.

The letter also says that numerous salmon runs are in crisis, including some that migrate in free-flowing rivers. It notes that dam-breaching advocates often point to the high smolt-to-adult returns in the John Day and Yakima rivers in comparison to Snake River SARs.

"[T]his argument ignores the fact that the Cle Elum River is similarly situated, but has poorer SARs than the Snake River," the letter says. "It also ignores the fact that Yakima and John Day rivers have poorer fall Chinook SARs than the lower Snake River. Finally, it ignores the fact that, with the exception of a few outliers, SARs have declined almost uniformly for the entire Pacific Coast, from Northwest California to Southeast Alaska."

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K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.