Tear Down the Dams

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a report in which they recommend destroying four dams on the Snake river in Washington state. These dams provide hydroelectric power to the Pacific Northwest, and also provide water storage for agricultural use and navigation.

I find it interesting how NOAA finds itself in charge of managing the fish populations in the Snake river. Actually, the report was issued by NOAA Fisheries, which I guess is part of the larger NOAA. I would have thought that function belonged to the Fish and Wildlife Service, or perhaps the EPA. NOAA, among other things, monitors the atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and probably elsewhere.

The plan is to remove over 3100 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity on the river, which emits zero CO2 and is controllable and dispatchable, to be replaced with ???.
Solar and wind are not dispatchable like hydro generators are. Do you see how this hurts the credibility of the climate alarmists, who say climate change is an immediate, existential threat? It makes as much sense as shutting down perfectly good nuclear power plants in Germany, but keeping the coal and lignite plants running.


After reading your article I don’t think they are directed to manage the fisheries on the Snake River. What they were directed to do was to see how the dams effect the Salmon Population. That is all they were supposed to do.

Hold on. This has nothing to do with climate. This was a study just on the Salmon Population. The count of Salmon has been coming way down and many people are worried about it. These fish go all the way into Idaho almost to the Montana border. They provide great fishing and jobs for many people in Washington, Idaho and the surrounding states.

If you want to go into climate change and how this will cause problems with that? Well that would seem to be the next step. But in order to understand the big picture you have to have studies done on the smaller things to give everyone a complete picture. So let’s look at all the studies so we can find a complete picture. Thanks for posting this, I really am interested in Salmon and fishing in that region because it can be a lot of fun but I am not sure I would want them to tear down the dams but let’s see what other options we have.



A study with recommendations. One of the recommendations is to destroy four large dams on a major river. NOAA doesn’t have the power to make that happen, but it is what they want.

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If they are trying to get to Idaho, then they must have hatched there. That means their parents must have made the trip from the Pacific to Idaho where they hatched. At least, that is what I understand about the Salmon spawning cycle.

Looking at Google Maps, the four dams in question all appear to have fish ladders installed. Those ladders must be used, if the fish are trying to get back to where they were spawned. Maybe the ladders could be improved in some way, so that more fish can make it upstream? It seems awfully drastic to just insist the entire dam system be torn down. As I stated in the original post, these dams don’t just generate electric power, they also support agriculture and navigation in this eastern Washington area. The dams also appear to have locks, which allow barges to transport agricultural produce (and other products?) from Washington, and perhaps Idaho and Montana, to the coast.

The atmospheric CO2 concentration goes up 2 to 3 ppm every year. Some people think that is a problem. If it is, then we need to stop burning so many fossil fuels. I don’t see us doing enough that is going to have a large effect. Current and past efforts only ensure that fossil fuels continue to be burned here in the US, so the Chinese and Indians certainly don’t see the need cut their use of fossil fuels in a drastic way.

  • Pete
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Right that is there recommendation. So do you think because one study says take down all the dams that is what is going to happen? I would say that is very unlikely.

Right it is very important to the whole area. You ever been through that area? If not you should it’s really beautiful. But you can’t have a discussion and find the logical conclusion without doing the whole study. That is what studies do, they study all options not just the most popular ones. But I know on the Colorado River they put in Dams that really weren’t needed, but now that they are in it probably would be a hardship for the people around them to get them taken out. But I am all for better ways to get the salmon past the Dams but it would really be a shame to have the wild salmon become extinct. If you eat Salmon, Try a farm raised Salmon and then try a Wild caught Salmon. You can really tell the difference.


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About 20 years ago, I drove from Seattle to Spokane. Once I got past the Cascades, the land comparatively seemed quite desolate. But even with the desolation, it does have a certain sublime beauty to it. And with enough irrigation from the Columbia and other rivers, that land can be quite productive for agriculture. I understand they grow a lot of wheat in the region.

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No, I think it quite unlikely the dams will be taken out any time soon. From what I can find on the internet, the 4 dams we are talking about are owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. I would assume any discussion of removal would involve a lot of hearings and meetings with state officials, as well as farmers and other stake holders. Governor Inslee said something about there needing to be adequate alternatives set in place before discussing dam removal. (Although he is not totally against the idea.)

From the NOAA report, there are also other things going on. For instance, the report says changing ocean conditions are also adversely affecting these fish populations. There is no guarantee that even with the dams removed, the salmon populations will return to normal, whatever normal is.

  • Pete
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When you drive west on I-80, most of Idaho is scenic mountains or “Idaho clover,” aka tumble weed. When you get close to the Snake River everything turns green due to irrigation.

Eastern Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountains (and Bend, OR) is desert. Only moisture is from snowfall or irrigation mostly from the Columbia River.

Protecting salmon runs is not new. Fish ladders are common at the dams. Calling for removal of the dams is also not new. Fortunately they rarely succeed in getting them removed.

Except on my maps I-80 doesn’t go through Idaho


Yet it is not just the snake that the salmon go into, it’s all the tributaries also. Look at the Salmon River, it goes right up to the Montana border. We used to fish for Salmon in Salmon Idaho, great place.


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You caught me, Mike. When I was there, I-80 split into 80N and 80S near Salt Lake City. 80N is now I-84. It crosses the Snake River and then follows the Columbia River into Portland.


This issue is a bit complicated. The Army Corps of Engineers owns the dams because they are the lead agency over the navigable waters of the United States. NOAA is the lead agency for maintaining and regulating commercial fisheries in the United States. The various tribes have treaty rights to half the fisheries. Bonneville Power Administration owns all the electrical generation (like turbines) and transmission lines. Then there are various agricultural and transportation interests. So a lot of stake holders.

Back in the day, BPA made boatloads of money selling cheap hydro power to California, especially when the rivers were full in the spring, and using that surplus to subsize local power rates. Those days are over. California is awash in power and wholesale rates have dropped below BPA’s contract rates which has caused financial stress for BPA. When those local contracts expire, there might be trouble. With the recent rise in energy prices BPA is doing a better this year, but prices could drop again.

Over the decades, the Corps and BPA have spent an incredible amount of money on salmon restoration on the lower Snake and have almost no results to show for it. BPA looks at their system as a unit and doesn’t break out performance by dam, but if you include the costs of salmon restoration and low wholesale prices, it is very likely the lower Snake River dams are big money losers, although they reportedly play an important role in load balancing.

It is reasonable, prudent, and necessary for NOAA and other agencies to do these types of studies. There are a number of competing stakeholders here, and to come to a fair solution it is critical to have a clear understanding of the situation.