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SJM 109: Dam Memorial Misses the Mark—2020

Summary: Senate Joint Memorial 109 opposes the idea of breaching dams in the Columbia and Snake River systems.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Dead

Issue Areas: Salmon and Steelhead

Official Legislative Site

Update: SJM 109 was replaced by SJM 110.

Senate Joint Memorial 109, introduced by Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), expresses opposition to the idea of breaching dams in the Columbia and Snake River systems, and opposes efforts to increase flows to benefit salmon and steelhead. Simply put, Senate Joint Memorial 109 misses the mark and undermines productive dialogue.

There’s no doubt, the four Lower Snake River dams (located downstream in Washington State) provide some benefits to Idahoans. The dams provide a navigational channel from Lewiston to the Columbia River which is important for regional grain transportation. And the region’s federal dams provide electricity but at an increasingly high price: power rates for utilities served by the system have risen 30% since 2008, major infrastructure renovations at these dams are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars in the next 15-20 years, and mitigation for the dams requires Idahoans to release additional water downstream. Ultimately, we know that there are more cost-effective ways to provide these same benefits to Idaho citizens.

And, while the dams do provide benefits, the dams also present a significant threat to migrating salmon and steelhead as they make their 900-mile journey from Central Idaho to the Pacific Ocean as juveniles, and when they return as adults. Hatcheries, habitat restoration, operational changes, and fish passage improvements (costing $17 billion spent over the past 20 years) have not improved the condition of Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead runs.

Idaho’s fish runs continue to lag behind recovery efforts in other parts of the Columbia Basin, which have fewer dams between their spawning habitat and the ocean. Strategic dam removal is likely to be a key component of any serious efforts that achieves recovery of anadromous fish.

We support finding solutions that make communities whole. After all, we all benefit from a healthy economy, investments in a clean energy future, and efficient transportation infrastructure. We maintain that we can achieve these goals, while restoring abundant, sustainable, and well-distributed populations of salmon and steelhead populations, not just ESA-delisting.  This lopsided Memorial pits communities against one another and does not help bring parties to the solutions table.