A proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams faces opposition from another group.
The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport Authority board approved a resolution Tuesday voicing its objections to the concept supported by salmon advocates, including the Native American tribes of the Columbia River Basin, environmental organizations and fishing groups.
The transportation hub directly benefits from the dams because of multiday cruises between the Portland, Ore., area, and the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
This year, about 30,000 cruise boat passengers are anticipated to take Lewiston flights getting to or from their excursions on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Those 30,000 passengers are expected to represent about 30% of all commercial passenger volume at the airport, which has forecast total passenger volume this year to be 100,000 on direct Salt Lake City and Denver flights.
The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley is the easternmost port for American Cruise Lines’ Columbia and Snake rivers cruises, according to the resolution.
American Cruise Lines brings “tourists to the (Lewiston-Clarkston Valley), that benefit the airport and the local economy by going to local restaurants, staying (at) local hotels, booking jet boat trips, helicopter tours, winery tours, and flights,” according to the resolution.
All of the airport board’s five members backed the resolution, including Katie Seekins. She was the only board member absent from the meeting, but she sent a statement expressing her support.
“Breaching the Snake River dams is a reckless idea that will not resolve the dwindling salmon population, which is a coastwide issue on dammed and nondammed rivers,” she said.
“It will, however, immediately affect clean-sourced hydropower, flooding control and losing important waterway transportations that would affect barging and recreation that our community relies on,” Seekins said.
Board Chairman Gary Peters had a similar take.
“I have a hard time supporting (a proposal) that was brought to Congress from someone who is not from this community, (for whom) breaching the dams will have no effect on whatsoever,” he said.
Momentum to breach the four lower Snake River dams has been gaining more attention since last year after U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, unveiled a $33.5 billion plan that included mitigation for farmers and others that would be hurt by the end of slack water.
“I also find it hard to get behind any type of reports that are put together from folks on the West Coast that it won’t impact them if they take out the dams,” Peters said.
The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley would be impacted more than any other community along the four lower Snake River dams if they were breached, he said.
“It may save the salmon and it may not, but we do know it would be catastrophic to our community,” Peters said.
It’s hard to believe that it’s going to be possible to get permission for breaching given that road and bridge projects get held up for decades because it’s impossible to get permits issued, he said.
“I would go so far as to say it’s lunacy to (breach) the dams,” Peters said.