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The new weapon in the war over dam removal: Economics

[] The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the end.

But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of four dams at the center of the fight.

The dams on the Lower Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a growing tab for environmental mitigation.

“The jig is up,” said Daniel Malarkey, a senior fellow at the Sightline Institute, a regional think tank focused on energy, economic and environmental policy. “We had this super-cheap power relative to other resources, and we’ve piled a bunch of extra costs on it.”

The Lower Snake River dams account for 5% to 13% of the Bonneville Power Administration’s power generation. But due to river flow conditions and endangered species requirements for fish, they produce far less than their capacity — and they are most productive at exactly the wrong time.

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