The migration of sockeye salmon from their birth in Idaho’s Redfish Lake to the Pacific Ocean ties Oregon, Washington and the Gem State together. But that trek is a brutal one that kills many fish each year, and advocates say their journey is made more difficult by four federally run dams on the Snake River in Washington.
Tuesday night, people on both sides of this debate gathered at a hotel in downtown Boise. A federal judge opened up the process for public review and comment earlier this year, giving the idea of breaching the dams to save the species new relevance.
Zach Waterman of the Sierra Club says the efforts to sustain the salmon with the dams intact is too expensive and needs to change.
“We’ve already spent $15 billion dollars," says Waterman. "That’s more than $900 per sockeye that comes back to Idaho. And it’s simply not working.”
Waterman says the stress put on salmon has reached a new height as ocean and river waters increase in temperature. He says getting a chance to tell the federal government what he thinks should be done couldn’t have come at a better time.
However, it’s not clear how much removing the dams would cost. Opponents say the negative economic impact to communities – including the inland port city of Lewiston – would be significant, and that the dams and the salmon have coexisted well for decades.
Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio