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Flotilla on Saturday Calls for Removal of Four Wash. Dams

The Lower Monumental Dam, above, is one of four dams that groups want removed in order to improve fish habitats on the Snake River. (Bonneville Power Admin./Flickr)
The Lower Monumental Dam, above, is one of four dams that groups want removed in order to improve fish habitats on the Snake River. (Bonneville Power Admin./Flickr)
September 16, 2016

CLARKSTON, Wash. - Participants in Saturday's "Free the Snake" flotilla say the best way to liberate the lower Snake River and help the fish swimming in it is to get rid of four dams. Fishermen, conservationists, members of the Nez Perce tribe and others have been saying for years that the dams, all of which are located in Washington, should be removed to help restore endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the river.

Attorney Todd True with Earthjustice said the benefits of removing the dams outweigh the costs.

"For many years, the scientific community has been telling us that the best way to bring those salmon back is to remove the four outdated dams on the lower Snake River that contribute very little to the Northwest energy grid, but are a huge impediment to the restoration of salmon to the Snake and into Idaho," he explained.

The Free The Snake flotilla is calling for removing the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams. This summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed fish ladders at two Snake River dams in order to help fish swimming up the river.

In May, a federal judge struck down for the fifth time a federal Biological Opinion on how to manage Columbia Basin dams. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon cited many reasons they should consider removing them, including the impending threat of climate change on wildlife. True said the judge's 149-page ruling revealed the court's frustration with federal agencies.

"This is not the first court that has told the agencies they need to do what one court called a 'major overhaul' of the dam operations," he said. "And so I think, yes, there is some impatience there."

The Bonneville Power Administration has said the four dams help the Northwest meet peak electricity demands at some times of the year. If they were removed, it would be the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA