On the Snake River, Dam’s Natural Allies Seem to Have a Change of Heart. By Felicity Barringer. New York Times.

Given enough years and enough losses in court, the political support for the four salmon-killing dams on the lower Snake River (in the state of Washington) may be showing cracks.

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One point I’d like to clarify is the contention that these 4 dams’ hydopower provides 5% of the BPAs electricity. The dams were built primarily as navigation dams, not hydropower dams. The generation of electricity is not the number one priority.

Some contend that the constant filling and emptying of the locks has the result of greatly reducing the net amount of hydropower these dams actually deliver. In addition, the demand for electricity in the region is the highest at the time of year the amount of water in the river (and so capacity to generate electricity) is at its lowest. You can’t just look at “installed capacity” of the powerplants and estimate the dams’ electricity contribution.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

One Response to On the Snake River, the Dams' Natural Allies Seem to Have a Change of Heart

  1. avatar Mike Wolf says:

    It’s important to note that the dams are used for navigation, and that the barge system is subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of some 85%!

    The dams are a HUGE waste of money, and only benefit a few farmers and firms such as Potlatch and other lumber/fiber companies.

    Sure…let’s go ahead and keep subisidizing erosive and extractive industries which aren’t sustainable.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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