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Time for new thinking on the Snake River

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After decades of deadlock, it is time to reframe the debate about salmon recovery and the four lower Snake River dams (HCN, 6/13/05: For salmon, a crucial moment of decision).

We must stop thinking about this issue in terms of "fish versus energy" or "environmentalists versus farmers." There is a solution here — but it will require some major myth-busting, and it will require all of us to step out of our traditional roles.

A clear look at the economics shows we can remove these four outdated dams, restore fish, and replace the dams’ modest benefits for less than the Bush administration was planning on spending on its now-illegal salmon plan.

If we can keep every farmer whole, if we can ensure reliable irrigation, grain transportation and energy — all while restoring the most magnificent runs of salmon on the face of this Earth — who wouldn’t support dam removal?

Nobody wants more rounds of litigation or, God forbid, another spotted owl-style brawl. Let’s do it differently this time. Let’s do this in a way where environmentalists can be advocates for farmers, and farmers can be champions for fish. The lower Snake presents an opportunity for farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, Indian tribes, and a wide variety of businesses and industries to craft a river restoration/economic investment package that benefits communities for generations to come.

Amy Souers Kober
American Rivers
Seattle, Washington

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