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Idaho Congressman proposes bold dam removal project on Snake River

The $33.5 billion plan seeks to restore salmon while funding new energy projects and compensating farmers.


The Lower Granite Dam is one of four Snake Rivers dams that would be removed under a new proposal by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

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For decades, court rulings have directed the federal agencies that operate the Columbia and Snake River dams to do more to protect endangered salmon. But that endless cycle of litigation by tribes and environmental groups hasn’t led to salmon recovery. In 2019, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, suggested a controversial idea among area Republicans  — breaching the four lower Snake River Dams to save the fish (“Courts can’t keep Columbia and Snake River salmon from the edge of extinction,” 9-26-19).


On Feb. 6, the Idaho Congressman unveiled a sweeping plan to remove the lower Snake River dams. The $33.5 billion proposal seeks to address the infrastructure and energy costs of dam removal, carving out hundreds of millions of dollars for local communities, farmers, shippers and energy projects to replace the hydroelectric generation from the dams. The bill would also seek to break the litigious cycle that has driven river management by barring Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act lawsuits on the Columbia Basin’s other large dams.

Carl Segerstrom is an assistant editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington. Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor