Dooming a dam saves dollars
operator of the Condit Dam in southeastern Washington recently
concluded that what's good for the salmon is also good for the
company's bottom line. On Sept. 22, it agreed to demolish the dam
In 1996, the federal government told dam
operator PacifiCorp that a new license for the dam would require
more than $30 million worth of fish ladders and other protections
for the river's salmon. Since the 85-year-old dam only provides
enough electricity to power 13,000 homes, says spokesman Dave
Kvomme, the renovation "doesn't even come close to penciling out as
an economic resource for our customers." The dam will cost about
$17 million to take down.
thrilled. "I think (the agreement) says it's possible to get
together with dam operators and arrive at solutions that meet
everybody's needs," says Katherine Ransel of American Rivers, a
nonprofit group that for eight years has spearheaded efforts to
remove the dam.
Ransel says the Condit sets an
example for her organization's new goal: to remove four federally
owned dams on the lower Snake River. She's not the only one who
says this could be the first domino to fall. Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt gushed to the Seattle Times that the Condit Dam "has
become the Northwest's epicenter of hope."
part of the agreement with PacifiCorp, the Yakama Nation, which has
historically used the watershed for fishing, will receive over $1
million to reestablish new salmon runs. "It's time to return the
river to the public," says Steve Parker, a fishery biologist for
Yakama Nation. "The public needs the salmon right now more than it
needs the electricity."