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Study: Breaching dams would pay off

[lmtribune.com] Analysis says removal of lower Snake River dams would net $8.6 billion; critics call report a ‘slap in the face’ to agricultural economy.

A new economic analysis indicates that the benefits that would be derived from breaching the lower Snake River dams as a means to recover threatened salmon and steelhead populations outweigh the costs.

The “Lower Snake River Dams Economic Tradeoffs of Removal” was compiled by ECONorthwest for the Seatle-based Vulcan Inc., a company founded by Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft. It acknowledges substantive costs associated with breaching Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams.

Those costs included making it more expensive for grain growers to get their crops to market and the loss of power generated at the dams. However, the study says the benefits of reducing the extinction risk for Snake River salmon and steelhead, combined with increases in river-based recreation over reservoir recreation, plus the jolt of spending and jobs that would accompany the work to physically remove the dams, would exceed costs by $8.6 billion.

Photo from U.S. Army Corps Digital Visual Library.

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