Replacing benefits of Snake River dams would cost billions

NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — The benefits provided by four giant hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state can be replaced if the dams are breached to save endangered salmon runs, according to a new report released Thursday.

But it would be expensive.

Finding other ways to provide electricity, irrigation and enabling commerce would cost between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion, said the report commissioned by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The draft report does not make any recommendations on whether the four dams should be breached. A decision on that divisive issue is expected later. Instead, the report allows the public, tribes, river users and other stakeholders to provide input over the next month that will inform that decision.

“We continue to approach the question of breaching with open minds and without a predetermined decision,” Inslee and Murray said in a press release.

“Every community in the Pacific Northwest knows the value and importance of our iconic salmon runs — and every community recognizes the importance of salmon to our economy and cultural heritage,” they said. “We each remain firmly committed to saving our salmon.”

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