In an appeal for Congressman Mike Simpson to reconsider his proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams, the Lewis County commissioners are inviting the southeastern Idaho Republican lawmaker to visit northern Idaho to see first-hand the effect that such a move would have on the region.
“Lewis County is a small rural county in north central Idaho,” the commissioners wrote Monday in a letter addressed to Simpson.
“Statements such as ‘expand their economy into different arenas or give them the opportunity to do that,’ truly are not a realistic option for us,” the commissioners wrote. “We are isolated from other economic opportunities. Agriculture and forestry is our economy.”
The commissioners said they monitored Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s salmon workgroup and “felt it was a positive step toward improving salmon runs. Idahoans were given a platform to voice ideas and concerns.”
The commissioners agreed that Simpson was probably correct in saying that the Endangered Species Act trumps almost everything.
“However, that does not mean dam removal is inevitable, or the only solution to salmon recovery. We believe there are other options and issues to be explored.”
The commissioners’ letter recounts a University of Washington independent study on salmon fatality in freshwater streams on the way to the ocean. The study determined salmon fatality “could not be explained by high temperature” and found that the chemical 6PPD-quinone “was the smoking gun. ... We believe there are probably multiple issues such as this that (affect) salmon survival.”
The commissioners said removing the four lower Snake River dams would not be the end of dam removal. “This will be seen as a major victory to some special interest groups and will encourage further removal in the future. Economic and environmental impacts will not truly be evaluated; removal will always be the goal.
“We fear you are condemning future generations,” the commissioners wrote. “Certainly families and businesses in your district of Idaho will be next. The fact that Hells Canyon dams are (impassable) by salmon and thus extinct in Southern Idaho will become a very popular issue.”
The commissioners said if Simpson would visit north central Idaho, he would get a clearer picture of the impact breaching the dams would have on local communities.
“The negative future long-term environmental and economic impacts are immeasurable and would put the livelihood of our county at extreme risk,” the commissioners wrote. “We vigorously oppose removal of the dams. We appreciate your time and we look forward to future dialog on this important issue.”
The letter is signed by Commission Chairman Greg Johnson, and Commissioners Justin McLeod and Mike Ponozzo.