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Know the West

Does dam breaching make cents?

  For years, the Hells Canyon dams in Idaho have been the subject of intense debate: Should we breach them and restore the Snake River, or keep the dams and save the local economy? Now, two reports have come out, representing both sides of the issue. After more than 10 years of research, Idaho Power, which operates the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams, has produced a 25,000-page document to accompany its federal relicensing application. At the same time, RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, has published an 80-page report that concludes that breaching the dams would be more economically advantageous than keeping them. According to RAND, only 1.8 percent of Idaho's power comes from the hydroelectric complex.

The public comment period for relicensing the dams ends Dec. 20. For a copy of the Idaho Power Company's study, or to comment on it, contact Craig Jones at [email protected] or call 208/388-2464. For the RAND report, visit www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1604/.